“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where you’ll go. Oh the places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss
In a recent blog, I talked about a few basic concepts that, if you apply them to your life, you might be able to fire your therapist! At the very least, you’ll make much more positive progress in whatever personal growth you desire. Those concepts I discussed last time were: 1) Have respect for other people’s reality, 2) Remember that people are not their behaviors, and 3) Recognize that everyone is doing the best they can based on their current resources.
Those concepts are just three of the presuppositions at the basis of the Neuro Linguistic-Programming (NLP) I teach. NLP was developed in the 1970’s by people who studied the very best practices of the very best therapists. NLP’s presuppositions are a part of those best practices.
Does it make sense that if you adopted the basic concepts of great therapists – the people who are highly skilled and consistently effective at helping others create meaningful and lasting change – you could become more effective in making the personal changes you wish to make?
Makes sense to me too. So I’d like to offer you a few more of the basics that, if understood and applied, can help you dissolve and resolve many of the issues in your life – with or without therapy:
#1 The map is not the territory. The words we use are not the event or item they represent. In other words, the way we see reality is not reality itself. It is merely our internal representation or map, which is never completely accurate. And when we respond in life, we’re not responding to something “real.” We’re responding to that internal map and all of its inaccuracies.
We can get a sense of our internal map by the language we use. As Mark Twain once said, “A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” The adjectives we use say nothing about reality itself but they say a heck of a lot about how we perceive – and therefore, respond – to it.
For example, what if your internal map describes life as “hard” and earning a living as a “grind,” that it’s a “dog eat dog world” where you have to “fight to survive”? Based on that map, how would you navigate life? Odds are that you would major in struggle and minor in distrust. Because life is “so difficult,” you may not allow yourself to succeed and you certainly wouldn’t allow yourself to enjoy the journey.
In NLP, we specifically address this internal representation, this map. The object is not to have it become “more realistic.” Rather it’s to recodify your internal representation to one that gets you where you want to go. Imagine having an internal map that says: “Life supports me. Earning a living is fun and fulfilling. People are basically good and helpful. It’s natural to prosper and thrive.” What if you truly experienced the world that way? How would you behave and feel?
Some of you may be saying, “But Matt, that isn’t realistic.” Really? According to whom? Have you ever wondered why so many children of great actors, artists or writers also become successful in those careers? They undoubtedly work hard to make it. But, unlike most people, these kids start from an internal reality that says, “Yeah. I can do this. Look at all these people around me who have done it. No big deal.”
The power of knowing that “your map is not the territory” is that it can free you to choose another map, one that supports you rather than sabotaging you.
#2 You are in charge of your mind and therefore your results. We all are.
Your current results are not because of your lonely childhood or the parents who never understood you. Your current results are not based on the girlfriend who betrayed you or the friend who died. Your current results are not due to your medical condition or your lack of education.
Your current results are due to you and the decisions you have made in response to life’s “stuff” (“stuff” is a highly sophisticated psychological term I learned during my PhD program).
You and your unconscious mind have made a lot of decisions through the years, many of them before the age of 7. It is these decisions that produce your current results. The good news is that now you can use that same mind to make different decisions and produce different results.
An example: You’re 5 years old. If you stare at your grandmother when she’s yelling at you, she gets ticked off and slaps you thinking you’re being defiant. Your decision: “When someone is angry, look away. Don’t make eye contact. If possible, leave the room.”
For a 5-year-old, that might have been a good decision. As a 40-year-old, probably not. Not making eye contact and leaving the room at any sign of conflict can ruin your career and undermine your relationships. As a 40-year-old, you can change that reaction (and the poor results it brings) by working with your unconscious mind to install a new decision, one that is more empowering, into your unconscious mind.
But here’s the deal: It’s not about Grandma. Grandma did not force you to make the decision you made and Grandma certainly is not in control of you now – unless you choose to allow her to be. Time to release Grandma and reclaim your life.
Try these concepts out with the 3 I shared last time. When you try them on, do they make the changes you’re working on seem easier? More possible?
I’ll end with another favorite Dr. Seuss quote:
“It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is what it will become.”