A fascinating TED Talk by Brene Brown about The Power of Vulnerability
The problem is not the problem, how we cope with the problem is the problem
– Virginia Satir
Reflecting on the good things in our lives or cultivating a sense of gratitude is advice as old as the hills and the sages who lived in them. There is now good evidence that cultivating gratitude has a large number of mental (and physical) health benefits.
In one study more than 400 volunteers took part in the following exercise:
Three good things in life: Participants were asked to write down three things that went well that day and their causes every night for a week. In addition they were asked to provide a causal explanation for each thing.
After just one week of doing these exercises they were followed up for six months. Those who ‘counted their blessings’ in this way for just one week became happier and less depressed and stayed that way for at least six-months after the experiment.
In the first EFT Café of 2011 Andy Hunt how to use EFT to deepen your experience of gratitude. This workshop goes way beyond a simple gratitude list using EFT to tap into the deep good feelings that lie beneath the things you are grateful for.
The EFT Café meets on Wednesday January 5th, 2011 between 7pm and 9pm at St Oswald’s Hospice Teaching Centre, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne.
The fee is just £10.
You will need some practical experience of EFT to attend this workshop.
- February 9th – Permission To Feel Good – While growing up we probably all received messages about what it was appropriate to feel and do: “Don’t speak out”.” Don’t be too enthusiastic”. “Don’t be too demonstrative”. In adulthood we may want to undo those restrictions so that we can have access to a greater range of possibilities. In this EFT Café you can learn a process to relax those restrictions to your human potential.
- March 9th – Softening The Resistance – If you have resistance to getting things done you’ll know that achieving your goals can be a real challenge. In this EFT Café you will learn a process to soften the resistance to going for your goals so that you can just get on with want to do.
Image courtesy of vistamommy
Disclaimer: In a series of articles I’m going to talk about how I think ‘people’ go about making, or avoiding, change in their lives. I realise that the word ‘people’ is a huge generalisation because we are all unique (just like everyone else). But I hope you will forgive me for casting my net wide if you recognise yourself in these articles then you are one of the ‘people’ … just as I am.
People would rather rearrange the universe than change themselves.
If you have a stone in your shoe the solution to the problem is quite easy: stop, take off your shoe, take out the stone, put your shoe back on – problem solved. Making a simple change in your environment will solve the problem. It couldn’t be easier.
However some problems are not so straightforward: For example: if your partner unreasonably criticises you (again) and you feel bad, resentful, guilty and so forth. What are you going to do?
You could have them bumped off! – This is Mafia style self-help. It’s been done before, but it’s a drastic solution with all sorts of complications. Prisons are full of people who have tried this approach and may be regretting it.
Even if your critical partner were to be removed from the scene, the chances are that you are still very susceptible to criticism. Somebody else could come along and say the same kind of thing and you are back in the same predicament.
Needless to say, I don’t recommend this as a good approach to problem solving.
You could hope that they are going to change – This is the stance of battered wives and husbands. “If I hope hard enough, pray long enough, the other person will change and then everything will be alright and we will live happily ever after”. Sadly this approach doesn’t seem to work well either.
You could ask, beg or demand that they change – This is the response that gets lots of couples to Relate or into arguments. By cajoling or demanding the hope is that they will stop their bad habits and give you a break.
All these attempts have something in common: they are an attempt to change the circumstance so that you will be comfortable. If you could just organise the universe in just the right way everything will be alright and you will be happy. Even better – you won’t have to change in any way.
The big bonus to this way of thinking (and one of the reasons it’s so prevalent in my opinion) is that it lets you off the hook. You can blame everyone and everything else for your difficulty. All your problems become their fault and it’s their responsibility to change so that you can be happy. Even if experience shows you there is ‘not a cat in Hell’s chance’ of them obliging you.
“The problem is not the problem, how we respond to the problem is the problem.”
Life is full of situations, experiences and predicaments that challenge us. If you think about out a bad situation, it is not a situation that is bad, it is that we are in a situation that we respond badly to. * It’s quite possible that in a similar situation someone else would handle the predicament with skill and ease, it’s just that we are not that someone else.
If we start to think about situations in this way there are two parts to each problem.
The situation: The circumstances the problem – what is going on, who is doing or saying things that challenge us.
- Is often out of our control
- Is often complex, involving other people who have their own ideas about what’s going on and what should happen.
- Difficult to change.
The response: This is our response to this situation: the thoughts, feelings, actions and ideas we have when we are in this predicament.
The response is:
- Often complex, involving our history, temperament, disposition etc.
- Possible to influence or change completely if you know what to do.
- Much easier to change than the reality that surrounds us.
When you are faced with a predicament does your response help or hinder you?
If the situation is a problem for you then the chances are that your response leaves you feeling:
- … add your favourite dis-empowered response here
How would it be if your response to a situation was more resourceful?
If, in the same circumstances you felt
- … add your favourite empowered response here
If you were to respond in these ways you are much more likely to get an outcome that satisfies you and would feel that you had done the best you could with the situation, even if it didn’t turn out the way that you wanted.
The ‘big problem’ with this alternative way of thinking, which is why it is less common, is that you have to take responsibility for your actions and reactions. Your responses become your responsibility.
Taking responsibility for our responses is an important step on the way out of being the victim of circumstances.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.
As a little thought experiment, think of a situation that gives you some difficulty.
- Describe the problem – the who, what, where and when of the situation.
- Describe your current reaction to this situation – what makes it a problem for you?
- Describe the kind of response you would prefer to have in this situation
- How would that response work out for you?
You may not be able to make these changes easily with your current resources. To develop the skills of responding you could take an learn EFT, take an NLP training or if your difficulties are deep and long-standing you could see a competent therapist to help you make these changes.
*This is not to say that there aren’t some really bad situations to find yourself in – bereaved, injured, assaulted, abused and so forth – these are indeed painful predicaments. However bad they are you, as an adult, still have the possibility to respond to them in a resourceful way.
If you read Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl you will see an heroic example of someone deciding to choose how to respond in the most dire conditions imaginable.Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks
Sometimes it can be very hard work to be brought together with relatives and acquaintances that we don’t see from one year to the next.
They are the way they are and we react the way we react. Changing the way they are would be quite a challenge. They have had a lifetime’s practice at being themselves. But our responses, because they are ours, are much easier to change … if you know what to do.
It’s easy to believe that our difficulties are because of what they say and do. It’s their fault. If only they didn’t say or do those things it would be fine. It’s not just about what they do. Think for a moment about someone who you find difficult to be with. Do you get the same reactions if they were there in person? You probably get at least a hint of the feelings that you get when they are there in person.
That’s because you have a representation of that person in your head, a collection of ideas, images and memories that you use to think about them when they are not there.
It has to be this way, if you didn’t have a representation of people how would you be able to think about them when they aren’t there? When you are buying a surprise present for someone you have to have an idea of what they like and how they are going to respond if you are to stand a chance of making a good choice.
If our representations of people trigger happy feelings there is not usually a problem. If our representations of someone triggers difficult feelings then just thinking about them is a problem.
We tend to react to our ideas of people rather than the people themselves. We react to what we think they are like rather than what they are really like. It’s much easier for us to relate to our ideas about someone than the person themselves.
This is unfortunate, because they are doing the same thing with us!
So ‘Uncle Bob’ thinks you are a wet, wishy washy liberal and you think Uncle Bob is a blinkered fascist. Battle lines are drawn and when the familial bonds wear thin battle starts and both of you suffer. It does’t have to be that way. You don’t have to wait for Uncle Bob to see the light and start reading The Guardian and campaigning for gay rights to feel differently about him.
You can change the way that you react to Uncle Bob, respond in a different way and save yourself a great deal of suffering.
How to update your reactions to other people.
- Reduce the reactions to other people. If the thought of the person causes you to cringe or be annoyed then you can change the way you react. Use your technique of choice to reduce the effect of those triggers.
- Reducing your reactions lets you become a more dispassionate observer of the other person. Once our main reactions are changed it’s possible to change the way that you view the other person. If we step out of our own point of view and look on with a more compassionate detachment, it’s possible to see things differently.
- If appropriate it’s possible to step into the other person’s point of view, see the world from their eyes (even more sobering, see yourself through their eyes). Seeing the world through their eyes can help you update your opinions and ideas about them.
With less reactivity and an updated understanding of the other person it’s possible to respond in much more resourceful ways to them, which in turn will make it much easier to be with them.
Will you like them? will you find new respect and admiration for Uncle Bob and his disagreeable ideas Maybe, maybe not, but you will find him a lot easier to be with. A little peace and understanding for you in this time of peace and understanding.
To learn an EFT based approach to this process come to the EFT Café on Wednesday 8th December at St Oswald’s Hospice Teaching Centre in Gosforth between 7pm and 9pm cost just £10.Image courtesy of somegeekintn
This is a video clip of the Bill O’Hanlon workshop in Newcastle that prompted me to write the article Why Don’t You Just Get On With It?
Bill O’Hanlon will be back in Newcastle on May 21st & 22nd 2011 to present Keeping Your Soul Alive – an antidote to compassion fatigue.
Visit www.KeepingYourSoulAlive.com to find out more and sign up.