Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Challenging childhood beliefs - a gift to you for 2015.

This is the December Wellbeing column from the York Press. It was published before Christmas, so for today, the last day of 2014, I am change the word 'Christmas' in the first paragraph to 'New Year 2015.'

I'm greatly encouraged by York Press asking me to write more columns for them in 2015.

I'm also starting to write a new book on Monday January 5th for a summer publication date.

Neither of those last two sentences could have been written, if I still held on to beliefs from my childhood.

I would like to give you a gift this New Year 2015. Just for you.

Sometimes in practice, I would ask the client the following question, “ When you were a child, did you believe in Father Christmas?” Usually, the answer was, “ Yes.”

Then I would ask if they still believe in Father Christmas? Of course, the answer was, “No.”

The discussion would move on to fairies, a man in the moon, how babies are born and the variety of stories we were once told, but don’t believe in anymore. Though I would sometimes add, that of course fairies do exist!  I have a lost sock fairy, biscuit fairy, car keys fairy and a remote control fairy. You may have your own too.

When we were young children, we generally believed what our ‘olders and betters’, told us. Sometimes there were good and fun reasons to be told something, such as Father Christmas.
Sometimes we were told things that weren’t fun. Scary and frightening things. These could include personal comments.
However, when we grow up, the evidence we see, hear and read can change our minds. If we are emotionally healthy, we leave behind the childhood beliefs, if they aren’t helpful to us. We take on new beliefs – we grow up emotionally. Children who were evacuated in the war, had labels with their names on. Emotionally immature adults can still be wearing labels given to them as children. Is that you? It’s time to tear up those labels.
This is my gift. If you still hold some negative beliefs from childhood, leading to some unhelpful adult choices, here’s a tool to challenge them. 
Ask yourself these questions. 
  1. Did you ever believe in the tooth fairy? 
  2. If so, who told you it existed? 
  3. Do you believe in the tooth fairy now? 
  4. How old were you when you learned the truth about the tooth fairy? 
  5. What evidence made you change your mind? 
Now change some words: remove ‘the tooth fairy’ from the above sentences and replace them with your own limiting beliefs. Some examples…you were… unloved, unwanted, friendless, hopeless, stupid, a failure, no good, useless or any other negative descriptions attributed to you? (Basically, words or deeds that you believed, and left you with a feeling that you were not good enough in some way.) 
Some further questions, if you still have those negative beliefs.

6. Did that person really know you? 

7. What was the context? Look at the whole picture. Look at the other people in the picture.

8. Do you think the comments/stories/labels are still relevant today? 

 9. If you do, why? What is the evidence? Facts, not imagined.

10. Could you put away those childhood memories of negativity and recall times when there is evidence to show that these statements are now inaccurate? 

11. If not, why not?  This New Year, treat yourself. Throw away the old, stale beliefs and open up some new helpful ones in my gift. 
I wish you a Hopeful and Positive New Year.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Taking control when plans fail

This is the column that I wrote for the York Press in November.

So far this week, I have one friend who went into hospital unexpectedly, one friend's flight was diverted due to bad weather, my daughter is poorly and there's problematic snowfall in a resort that a niece is visiting. The news isn't providing much joy either. 

I read this quote from Eisenhower today, " In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible."

I wish you all well for the next week, plans, no plans and serendipity.

John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” 

Are you making plans for Christmas and perhaps 2015?

I wonder how many plans work out exactly how we thought they would? We have expectations. When these expectations are dashed, sometimes smashed into smithereens, it’s how we manage and take control of our reactions, that will help us and others affected by our behaviour. These emotional reactions range from mild disappointment, irritation, frustration, anger to life-changing, perhaps catatrosphic consequenses. 

The sooner we can come to terms with changed plans, the easier it will be. At first we may lose control, but then we can gain control. Blaming others instantly removes any self-control we may have. Continuing to blame others over a period of years can cause great unhappiness.

We all know people who appear unable to manage deviation to their plans. They are more likely to say, “such and such has ruined my day, event, life…” I suggest that we can all say that something has “changed our our lives.” because it will have done. But ruined? Only if we allow it. Changed plans can often bring new opportunities.

Another statement often heard is, “I knew that would happen.” That’s an interesting one, because it signifies that we have been mentally rehearsing a negative outcome.  A pessimist may say, ‘if I imagine the worst, then it’s a pleasant surprise when it works out okay.” My mother was one such person. As an optimist, I would tell her that I’d enjoyed imagining the best, whether it worked out or not.

I’m writing this in a quiet moment while running an information stand at a large conference.  I have a bird’s eye view of what happens when people’s plans go awry. It doesn’t always bring the best out of people. Similar behaviours can be observed at railway stations, airports and in shops. As the emotional arousal level rises in the brain, so there is a corresponding lessening of logical thinking. In situations of high emotional arousal, there is little or no access to the logical brain. We can’t think straight. Hence the term, being ‘unbalanced’. It’s why IQ (Intellengence quotient) is different from EQ (Emotional Intelligence).

Using positive visualisation of a forthcoming event can be useful, but never foolproof. I imagined postive outcomes to some major, joyful, future events last year. A sudden, major illness in the family led to a cancellation of all plans and major uncertainity on a daily basis. As well as managing the family situation, I had to manage my personal shattered dreams. It was a difficult time. I could so easily say that the family illness ruined everything, but I didn’t. Changed my plans and expectations? Certainly. Ruin them? That was in my control, so no, it didn’t.

The Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, was writing about the subject two thousand years ago.
“It not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”