Note to Self: Life Is Easier Than You Think
by Julie Clayton
NLP Marin Master Practitioner graduate & freelance editor and writer in Portland, Oregon
By now most of us have at least had an introduction to the operating principles of the “law of attraction.” Essentially, the premise of this “law” is that there are only two kinds of information in this universe: energy and matter. If something is not one, it is the other, and each influences the other. At a personal level, the most useful aspect of this premise relates to the quality of our life experience: our thoughts are energy and as such, they influence our matter, a.k.a. our reality or experience. If we want another experience, a better experience, then all we need to do is change our thoughts and we will attract a different matter/experience. In theory, this sounds fine, however it occurs to me that asking someone to change their thoughts can be like asking them to shift into third gear when they’ve never driven a stick shift.
At NLP Marin, we work with the change model known as neuro-linguistic programming, and the process generally begins with some basic questions. As expected, the first question asked is, “What do you want?’ or, “What is it that you would like?” If the client were to reply, “I want to change my thoughts,” we would then work with the client to “chunk down” this desire. In other words, we work with the client to articulate their want as a manageable size—not to change their wish, but to put it into a relevant context so that we can introduce more immediate resources toward achieving their want.
So, how does one “chunk down” thoughts? It’s really quite simple, however, first we have to understand that our thoughts are a conglomerate of the senses. We humans experience the world primarily through images, sounds and feelings, or in NLP terminology, the V’s, A’s, and K’s (visual, auditory and kinesthetic senses). Our conscious mind works primarily with language, however it is our unconscious mind that communicates in images, symbols and feelings. In addition, the unconscious mind takes things literally and does not process negatives. It also is primarily concerned with our health and well being—our survival. The conscious mind is what makes meaning from these images and symbols, and gives expression to that meaning through language and behavior.
As an example, if I were wanting to control my eating binges I might say to myself, “I don’t want to be a pig, so I’ll just eat half of that cake.” Unfortunately, the unconscious mind will quite happily make a picture of self as pig, eating cake.” Period. If I am unhappy in my work and I continually say to myself, “ This is such a pain in the neck,” my unconscious mind will very obligingly generate a feeling of pain in my neck. So, the process of understanding the structure of thoughts filters through the ranks of brain hierarchy and culminates in conscious awareness, with thoughts and actions that we broadly term as “experience.”
In order to change our thoughts then, it can be much more amenable to begin by chunking down and changing our words. Naturally, when we change our words, we will also affect our imagery and feelings—and that is the ultimate goal. However, keeping things simple is the key. All that is required is to change our words is imagination. What might happen if I were instead to say to myself, “It’s easy for me to choose foods that support my health?” Imagine that you have the inner resources available right now to choose your words so that they support you in your highest good, and you do!
If you feel that life is constantly a struggle, chances are good that you have an internal dialogue that sounds something like, “Life is hard…no one gets a free lunch…I never get a break…” and so on. Imagine that you can turn those negative words into positive ones and you’ll immediately put some high energy into your life. To begin with, an internal rewrite might sound something like, “ Life’s not easy.” (Remembering that the unconscious doesn’t process negatives, so the unconscious only hears, “Life’s easy.”) Eventually, you can work your way up to, “Life is great!”
The challenge to changing our words lies in our beliefs and identity. Our system has developed some highly effective and useful ways of ensuring that our identity remains stabilized, regardless of how much we say we want something different. Neuro-linguistic programming calls this the “ecology.” In other words, all of the “parts” function together (although sometimes not very harmoniously it seems) to preserve the overall environment.
Practitioners of neuro-linguistic programming are trained in the art of “talking” to the various parts, via the senses, so that more resource and choices are available to the client. And, although there are numerous skills that NLP practitioners use, the art of changing our words in NLP-speak is called “reframing.” Reframing literally wakes up both the conscious and unconscious minds by evoking a different set of V’s, A’s, or K’s.
Try it for yourself. Notice how you feel and what pictures you make when you say to yourself, “I’m sick.” Now try, “I’m not feeling well.” Now try looking up and saying, “I’m feeling better all the time.” It’s a different experience each time, isn’t it? Of course, reframing can be much more sophisticated than that, and one can become quite the word connoisseur. However, why not keep things easy, at least to begin with?
So, the next time you want something different in your life, imagine that it’s already yours. Then say the words and notice the feeling that comes with it. And, like the shampoo bottle directions say: wash, rinse, repeat.