You may not realize that your thoughts are accompanied by images, and that changing those images can change your experience. Say your spouse tells you, “My brother invited us to dinner tomorrow night.” Within seconds of hearing this, you feel irritated. Here’s a possible pattern for your internal experience: In response to your spouse’s declaration, you automatically get a picture or mental image of your brother-in-law making a disapproving face (something you frequently see when you’re in his presence). Outside your conscious awareness, the mental image of the face may trigger you hearing mentally the sound of his disapproving voice. This prompts in you the thought that dinner will be unpleasant, and in turn you become irritable. This all happens very quickly; it’s an automated pattern that takes no effort from you. The connections among the elements have been activated so many times that it just happens (buried under all of this might be all of the times that your own brother disapproved of you.)
Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) seeks to overwrite this sort of pattern so that you can have a more resourceful reaction to news of going to dinner at your in-law’s house. What if, when you notice irritation arising in you at being invited to dinner, you purposely make a picture in your mind of times when your brother-in-law did show approval towards you? (If you can’t think of an instance of this, you can think of the face of someone else approving of you.) What follows from the new image are good feelings and resourceful states of being. When you’re feeling better about dinner with your relative, you can think of ways to make the evening pleasant. NLP is about writing your own code to undo unhappy or unproductive internal realities, and external behaviors, and activate better-feeling and more beneficial actions.
So, use this trick with all the unpleasant people you’ll be with over the holidays, and see what happens. Think, Seeing certain people at the holidays is an opportunity for me to experiment with my inner state. Changing the image of your brother-in-law in your mind won’t change him of course, but it will allow you to be more open to relating to him, which may lead, if not to a better relationship, at least to a better holiday experience.
You're reading the Bad Thoughts Blog, which maintains that feeling good is as simple as thinking a better thought. I'm Debbie Covino, hypnotherapist, coach, speaker, author, and creator of the All Day Hypnosis© series, available at www.hypnotic-wellbeing.com
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