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In this episode, we’ll examine how to change the feelings we associate to our negative experiences. So that we can enjoy a more positive experience next time.
We’ll do that by using a technique drawn from NLP, known as Anchoring.
The first part of this adventure into changing our belief systems, was covered in Episode 9 of the podcast. If you haven’t heard it yet, you can FIND IT HERE.
If you have any questions, or comments, please leave them in the comments section below.
Podcast music: Is ‘Sweet Life’ by Twisterium.
Music Link: https://www.twisterium.com
Hello and welcome to episode 10 of the Everyday Confidence podcast from theskillfulmind.com. I’m your host, Steve George. And today we’re going to be talking about, how we can change the negative beliefs we’ve got about ourselves. In the last episode,we talked about how to go about identifying the core beliefs you’ve got about other people. Then, how by changing the questions we ask, we can design a more empowering belief system.
And that works really well in most situations. Because, if you stop your negative pattern of thought as soon as you notice it, it’s then, relatively easy to think of an alternative option.
Now, unfortunately, it gets more difficult when we’re identifying those same negative beliefs in ourselves.
Those beliefs seem to be much more deeply ingrained and so, and so they generally feel much more difficult for us to try and change.
The reason for that, is because it’s easy for us to think that our assumptions about someone we’ve never met could be wrong, because we don’t know them. We don’t know what sort of person they really are. We don’t know how they’ll behave in different situations. We’re just using a generalized view to make an assumption.
But clearly, we know ourselves don’t we? And so, how can the beliefs we’ve got about ourselves possibly be wrong?
Well, our map of our world, just like we spoke about in the previous episode, also applies to OUR OWN emotions, as well as those we’ve got about other people.
We generalize our thoughts about ourselves and then apply them to our current situation. But, when we apply our map to ourselves, it causes much bigger issues. So, let me explain why….
In the last episode, we used the theoretical example of a male driver cutting you off on the street and I asked you to imagine that you had the generalized negative belief, that ‘All men are arrogant’. Then, I asked if it would be possible to belief that that driver was rushing to get somewhere because of an emergency. And if it was, then it’s entirely possible that the driver wasn’t being arrogant, but was just doing whatever he could to get there quickly.
And that scenario isn’t too difficult to imagine, because we don’t know that man, so it’s entirely possible that our immediate thought was wrong. After all, we might have been wrong this single time, but generally, men are still arrogant, right? So, our general belief hasn’t been harmed by this one small deviation from what we see as the ‘truth’.
But, when we look at ourselves, how can we possibly be wrong? After all, we’ve known ourselves forever haven’t we?
So, let’s break down what happens, then we can look at ways to fix it.
Now, negative thoughts directed at ourselves are still generalized. And that’s what causes the biggest issue.
If we were to judge each situation individually, the problem wouldn’t exist. For example.
Imagine that something in your home was broken. and so obviously, now you have two choices…
You can pay a professional to come in and fix it, or you can try to fix it yourself.
So, you decide to try your hand at doing it yourself. But end up breaking it even more.
The logical response would be to think to yourself something along the lines of… “Trying to fix it myself without knowing what I’m doing was stupid”.
Unfortunately, what we tend to think is something like…”I’m so stupid, why didn’t I just get someone who knows what they’re doing to fix it!”.
Can you see the subtle difference in those two thoughts? Let me give you those two thoughts again…. On the face of it, they seem like pretty similar responses…. BUT,
In the first example, the one we should really be using, you’re embedding in your mind that… “trying to fix it yourself was stupid”. And if we’re honest, that’s likely true. If you didn’t know what you were doing, then there has to be a reasonable chance, that you’re going to make it worse by doing it yourself. Even if it’s only by a little bit. So, you’ve admitted to yourself, that on that occasion, doing that one thing, was a stupid thing to do. And everyone does stupid things now and again. No one is perfect all the time. And that’s okay.
But, in the second example, which is the one we’re all guilty of, what you’re actually embedding is..”I’m so stupid”. The trouble is we get carried away in the grip of an emotion, without taking the time to evaluate if that emotion is helping us, or actually making things worse.
So, it’s important to remember, that you’re not your emotions. We all, at some point tell ourselves, things like… “I’m stressed”, or “I’m scared”, or “I’m embarrassed”, etc.
And by using this type of phraseology, you’re what’s called ‘Identifying’ as your feelings. It doesn’t seem like a big thing, but what you’re actually doing is anchoring in your subconscious that Fear, embarrassment, stress, etc. is who you are.
And so whenever you find yourself in a similar situation again, your mind plays that pattern of fear, or embarrassment, etc. before you’ve even tried. So you automatically do the same things you did last time and so you suffer the same effects you did last time.
I’ll give you another example… Let’s say, that a few months ago, you had to present the findings of a report at work. You’d never spoken in public before and you were feeling nervous. Just before you were about to give your presentation, your mouth started to feel dry, your hands started shaking and you could feel the tiny droplets of sweat running down your back. And then the thoughts started coming… “what if I mumble?”, “What if I make a mistake and they all make fun of me?” “All I’ve got to do is read this report, but I’m a wreck!”
The emotion you felt and the thoughts that you had, when you stood up to speak are now anchored in your mind. So, the next time you stand up to speak, whether that’s in the same situation at another time, or even when you stand up to give the father-of-the bride speech at your daughter’s wedding, those same thoughts, feelings and emotions will play out again. So your hands will shake, you’ll start to sweat and the same pattern of negative thought will play in your mind, ending in the same result.
And worse, now it’s happened a couple of times, that pattern becomes our belief. So it’s more likely to happen every time. Does that make sense?
Okay, there are countless ways of interrupting your patterns and creating new ones, but the two ways I’ve found to be most successful we’ll go over next.
So, now it’s time for you to take some action.
Now, the simplest way to reduce the effects of the pattern, is when you find yourself in a situation that starts one of those patterns running, let’s say the ’embarrassment’ pattern, practice recognizing the fact that it’s only an emotion and tell yourself “I’m feeling the emotion of… embarrassment (or, fear, uncertainty)”, what ever that pattern might be at the time. Now, it won’t necessarily stop the pattern from running in the future, but by naming it and telling yourself that you’re feeling the emotion of whatever it happens to be, it will stop you running that particular pattern this time.
That small change, makes a huge difference to your ability to see your way though the situation and act in a way that gives you the confidence to deal with it effectively.
Now, over time, this one thing could often be enough to stop that particular pattern running. As long as you do it every time. But, the problem with it, is you need to remember to interrupt the pattern, while you’re running it. And sometimes, that’s not such an easy thing to do.
So, the best way, is to create a replacement anchor that you can run, whenever you’re about to be in that situation in the future. And then that’ll start a different pattern running instead. So, how do you do that?
Well let’s say that for the last couple of years, you’ve been desperate to leave your current job and find something that makes you want to get out of bed and go to work in the morning. But, you’re hopeless at interviews. You’re mind goes blank, you tend to say some stupid things, you visibly sweat and you’re just generally uncomfortable.
So, what’s happening in this situation, is you’re running your ‘uncomfortable at interviews’ pattern. It’s the pattern you always run when you’re in a position of having to sit in front of someone you don’t know and answer questions you know you’re going to forget the answers to. And it runs exactly the same way every time.
What you need to do, is anchor a more empowering pattern, that you can run whenever you find yourself in a similar situation. So, firstly, you need to get yourself somewhere quiet. Then, close your eyes and think back to a time when something you did was truly successful. Something where the elation you felt was exciting, or made you feel strong, or unbeatable, for example. Now I don’t know what that might be for you. Maybe it was when you saw your new baby for the first time. Perhaps it was when you aced a particularly difficult test. Maybe it was when you proposed and they said yes. Maybe it was even the time you learned to ride a bike, or drive a car. It doesn’t matter what it was, as long as it was exciting for you, or made you feel powerful for example.
Now go back to that time in your mind and completely relive the experience. Visualize the moment it happened, re-live the smells, sights and sounds of that moment. Feel the emotions you felt the first time around. Remember the feelings you were having at that time — relive everything as though is was happening again right now.
Then, when you’re at the pinnacle of that memory. When you’re remembering the sounds, smells and sights and you’re feeling the same emotions, having the same thoughts…. anchor those feelings by doing something unusual, like pinching the back of your hand, or use three fingers and tap the side of your head, or clap 4 times, it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s just something that your mind can anchor to those feelings. And it’ll be more powerful, the more times you can do it. So, for example, maybe an hour later, go through the process again, or even do it with a different memory that produces the same sort of feelings and emotions. The only rule, is that whatever you decide to do to anchor those feelings and emotions, must be exactly the same, every time you want to boost that anchor.
So, If for example you clapped three times to anchor the first memory and three times for the second memory, but the second time your hands weren’t in exactly the same position, you’ll have anchored a second set of emotions, rather than boosting the first set. Does that make sense?
So using actions like pinching the back of your hand, or pulling your index finger for example, are easier to repeat exactly. Then, when you next have to perform a task that you’re nervous about, release that ‘excitement pattern’ by pulling your finger, or pinching the back of your hand, whatever it was for you.
And, you can do the same thing if you want to be able to run for example, a calm and collected pattern for when you need to give a speech. Just Go back and relive a time when you were feeling completely calm and collected in the past, re-feel those same emotions, exactly the same as before, then choose a different anchor for those feelings, maybe pulling your little finger. Again the more often you boost the anchor, the more powerful it’ll be for you.
So, just before we finish today, I’ve got a couple of things for you to remember about our thoughts and emotions:
And they are…
Firstly, feelings are just messages. they make you aware of information that’s coming into your nervous system. It’s up to you, to decide how you want to act on that message.
Secondly, all emotions are valuable. Fear for example was designed to keep us safe. Guilt’s there to remind us that we’ve gone against one of our values. Every emotion has a positive purpose, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. But, by seeing your emotions as a message, you’re better able to determine the best course of action.
And lastly, emotions are a part of you. They are there to guide you in your decision making, so learn to use THEM, rather than letting THEM use you.
That’s it for this episode. You can find the show notes over at theskillfulmind.com/podcast/10 — I hope you found this helpful and As usual if you’ve got any comments or questions you can leave those on that podcast page as well.
So, remember to keep taking action every day and I’ll speak to you soon. Bye for now.