Each of us are born with an extraordinary mind. As babies we brim with self-confidence and potential, but our experience and learnings influence us as we grow and mature. If you are wondering how your life got to a point where you are deeply unhappy, this is all down to what your mind believes.
Here are three ways to take back control.
Banish negative thoughts
Humans are hard-wired for danger. This negativity bias served the evolution of humans thousands of years ago, helping us respond to imminent threats, like a dangerous animal. We’re not in that kind of danger anymore, but our brain still operates primally, reacting disproportionately and more than often swerving to the negative.
We all know that when negative thoughts and emotions come up, they like a juggernaut tearing down a highway. You’re not going to stop them with an emergency handbrake maneuver. Or can we? There is a way of rewiring our instinctive negative bias.
Exercise: Jim Kwik, memory expert, teaches clients how to attach words or concepts to a place in your house or even your body for quick recall. He calls negative thoughts ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts). To kill the ANTs, he has a simple technique. Close your eyes and visualize for a moment every time you have a negative thought, ants are crawling out your nose! By attaching a visual picture, it is easy to banish thoughts that aren’t serving you immediately from your mind.
Chose what you make familiar and unfamiliar
Humans embrace the familiar. Think about all the familiar things you do every day: your routines, what you eat, how you travel to work, what you do for relaxation or exercise, the type of people you attract.
Take self-care as an example. If you have been raised in a family where your mother never practiced self-care (read: she was probably task-focused, budgeted for essential items only, and rarely went shopping for clothes or out to dinner—let alone away
—with friends). Sound familiar? What your mother may have (inadvertently) imprinted is a belief there is more value in working yourself to the bone and that self-care is for the rich or indulgent or irresponsible. Should you feel guilty to taking time out to take care of yourself? Of course not, but it is an “unfamiliar” feeling.
Charles Duhigg in his bestselling book, The Power of Habit, writes: “All habits—no matter how big or small—have three components, accordingly to neurological studies. There’s a cue—a trigger for a particular behaviour; a routine, which is the behaviour itself; and a reward, which is how your brain decides whether to remember a habit for the future.”
Exercise: Take a moment to think about a behaviour that you or your child may be struggling with. Think of something that has become habitual. Then consider for a moment what the reward is? And don’t rule out negative attention. Children affected by developmental trauma are quite content with this sort of attention as it cements their belief that “I am not enough.” Now you know what to do, remove the reward and see what happens.
Exercise: Pick one thing to make familiar this week for you or your child–you can start small if that’s more comfortable—eating an apple instead of an unhealthy snack. Also pick one thing to make unfamiliar this week—it may be making alcohol unfamiliar simply by leaving it off your shopping list or not responding with anger to your child’s tantrum.
Swap emotion for logic
Best-selling author of I am Enough Marisa Peer says if the brain must choose between emotion and logic, emotion will always win. Logic is what tells you what you should or should not be doing: “I shouldn’t eat this chocolate cake because I will put on weight.” Emotion tells you: “This cake tastes so good because it reminds me of the comfort I felt as baby.”
How many of you have been to a tall building and have stood on one of those glass plates and looked down and felt scared? Logic tells you are perfectly safe, but emotion makes your stomach churn and you leap off.
Peer recommends that we carefully look at the words we tell ourselves and others (admit it, it’s almost usually emotional). Then then swap the emotion for logic. For example:
- “I can’t cope” (emotion) with “I have phenomenal coping skills” (logic).
- “I’m tired” (emotion) with “I prefer to be feeling energic, but I can still get through the day in a manageable fashion” (logic).
- “I messed up, everything is going wrong” (emotion) to “I can learn from this and find some success in the day” (logic).
Exercise: EFT expert, Nick Ortner, recommends tapping when reframing comments to change the emotion. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, then repeat your logical (positive) affirmations while tapping.
Don’t forget: You’re enough!
When you are not enough, you truly believe you deserve what you get. But when you start to say, “I am enough,” then you can more easily say when something is not okay.
© Felicia Stewart, 2019