Recently we’ve been talking about NLP and how we can control our emotions so they don’t control us, and how we can find peak states from which to perform in our lives. Yet I also want you to know that you can consciously choose to turn toward a negative emotion for the purpose of learning from it.
First let’s explore why all emotions are necessary, then look at some examples of how to do this, then we’ll end with how to know the right time to do so.
The long line of survivors
We come from a long line of survivors. Since before humans were even human, the genetic code you currently carry was in existence, being passed from one generation to the next.
Through each line of evolution, the beings before you managed to survive past puberty against all the odds stacked against them. They used their instincts, intuition and thinking minds to make it through war, famine, illness and natural dangers. Once they had made it, they were able to reproduce and pass on what they used to survive.
They passed on their DNA to create you and me. In that DNA is everything they relied on to survive. There is the instinct, the intuition and a whole rage of emotions that guided them on their journey. There was fear anger, rage and cunning to protect from danger and learn to fight or flee. There was lust and love to reproduce and create the clans that would keep themselves and the young safe. There was loneliness so they would know to stick together. Energy, creativity, enthusiasm and joy so that they would have a strong will to live to the fullest.
All emotions are necessary
All of these emotions are necessary to us now, even the ones we tend to call bad. If they weren’t, they would not have been passed on. However uncomfortable they are, we need fear and anger and shame. We need disappointment and frustration. We even need denial. We need them because they teach us the way through life.
Usually we turn away from the so-called negative emotions because they aren’t enjoyable to feel. We may also have ideas about how we are supposed to act and be: like strong, courageous or kind, so we hide whatever isn’t that because we want to feel accepted.
There is another way to look at our negative emotions that can be truly powerful and transformative. This new way is to understand that negative emotions are a path to learning.
Negative emotions are a path to learning
What this means is that when we feel so-called negative emotions arise, we can turn toward the feeling and ask, what is this feeling trying to tell me? What is the lesson in this experience?
A good example of this is if you are feeling lonely. We often try to squish feelings of loneliness because they aren’t sexy by current societal standards. This has led to our current epidemic of isolation, anxiety and depression. If we were to sit back and acknowledge: is this simply a survival lesson that as humans we are happier together, what would we find?
There could be multiple lessons to learn from this, such as how can I increase my connections with other humans? How can I listen better, interact more freely? Perhaps the lesson is how to feel more comfortable in your own skin so you are not worried about rejection. Or perhaps you could learn better boundaries so that you can be in relationship without exhaustion. The lesson could even be about how to be more comfortable alone. The point is, you will never have access to that lesson if you don’t accept and turn toward the emotion.
There are other lessons you could learn from negative emotions, such as
– expecting better from friendships after you’ve felt disappointed
– how you can value yourself more after feeling low self-worth
– how you can de-stress when you’re feeling run-down
– realising that perhaps you’re not always right when feeling frustrated after argument
– asking what is holding you back when feeling confused or after a failure
Can I do this alone?
If this sounds difficult, you’re right. It is. I recommend that if the emotion is pervasive or overwhelming (such as depression) we do this process with the support with a therapist and the loved one’s around us.
Let’s take depression (which is a more concrete expression of sadness) as an example of how and when we might seek help. I often equate depression to an injury, like a broken leg. Looked at it this way we can see what we need to heal
If we’ve broken a leg we need to
1. Set it straight, which equates to setting yourself straight. This means reflecting on what’s happening and realising it’s time to do something about it.
2. Put support around it, which equates to seeking help: finding a therapist, talking to your loved ones, and making a plan that you stick to
3. Rest it, which equates to withdrawing from some social commitments, relinquishing responsibilities, relaxing, resting and nourishing yourself (this includes kindness and tenderness to yourself.)
4. Use a crutch if and when you need to function, this equates to medications or other techniques that help you function, but that you wouldn’t use until you’ve tried the other 3
With the right structure for healing around us we will be able to look toward the lesson in even the most uncomfortable emotions. If we can’t, then we won’t reap the benefit of learning, growing and enriching our lives.
When is the right time?
I believe in a balanced approach to life. There is a metronome between performing and rest. As much as we need to get out there and go for it, we also need reflection, grief, and quiet. Turning toward the negative emotion (with or without therapy) is for those times in your life when you wish to learn lessons, be introspective, or understand yourself and humanity. It is in introspection where we look into the nature of our life and the world.
As we have talked about over the last two weeks controlling emotions and finding peak states are for those time when we are feeling resilient, energetic and desiring performance. Whether we do this alone or with a coach, it is for those time when we want to improve our life and feel equipped to do so. NLP skills are all about getting results, bouncing back from difficulty, and controlling emotions so you can perform in peak state.
Using coaching and NLP methods you can actually perform at 100%, but in my opinion this is not sustainable: at some point you will crash. This is part of the metronome, or balance, of life. We need to know when is the right time to perform and when to sit back and rest.
I like to explain it this way: Coaching and NLP are for when we feel resilient, even if life is difficult or needs improvement. Therapy is also for those times when we are lacking resiliency, having breakdowns or feeling overwhelmed. In these times we can really have the support to embrace what we are feeling, allow it to be as it is, and learn from the lesson
NLP began in California in the 1970’s, founded by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, and has developed ever since. These two researches wanted to explore how we could model excellence, so they learned how some the best communicators in the world got their results. They then packaged what they learned as ‘NLP’ or neurolinguistic programming.
NLP is most often called the study of subjective experience or the owners manual for the brain. I have found myself particularly stumped at how to properly explain what NLP is to those who haven’t yet studied it. This is likely because NLP is a practical experience and not so much a theory. Even so, I have been asked so many times about what it is and why I offer it as a training, so I am now attempting to put it into words.
Let’s start with a brief rundown of its many benefits and then we will go into some more specific areas of why and how this works. NLP will help you to
The greatest takeaway I have seen from NLP is how it improves your communication with others. This has brilliant effects on your personal life as you learn to express your needs effectively and speak your truth.
Yet in order to do this we have to address and enhance your communication with self. This requires us to understand how we already communicate with ourselves, and to increase our awareness of this process. When we are able to communicate with ourselves fully, we can actually choose our own programming to gain the most functionality and benefit.
Here’s what I mean:
Your internal programming
Each of us has an existing programming and a preferred internal language. This is due to many factors of our genetics and upbringing that we won’t go into here. You can think about it as an operating system like your phone or laptop. There are Apples and Samsungs and although they are quite different each works well in its own right. Some people prefer one over the other. Your operating system is the same.
In the 4 day NLP training that I offer I will teach you to recognise your internal programming and language: whether you are auditory, visual or kinaesthetic; whether you are general vs specific or logic vs abstract. We will break down your internal system so you can understand how you really work.
Once we know this about you, you’ll be able to have a clear understanding of what your programming is and therefore how we can get the maximum results you want to have for your life. This may be as simple as understanding how you can be happier, feel more alive, or communicate your needs more effectively to your spouse. It can also relate to work, daily routines or any other aspect of your day to day existence. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Your internal programming determines how you personally experience an event, which is what we call subjective experience. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Each experience we have is data rich. But as we take in an event in time, we run it through our own filters to understand what we are seeing. George Miller explained that there are approximately two billion bits of info coming at us per moment in chunks of data, yet we only process seven, plus or minus two at a time. This means that in order to take in our experience we are constantly in a process of deleting, distorting and generalising the real experience.
In order to share this experience with others we have to again delete, distort and generalise because of the limitations of language. Therefore we experience and share a watered down version of life.
Here’s the important part: HOW we delete, distort and generalise our experience depends upon our current state. I like to explain this ideas of state using the metaphor of coloured glasses. You still with me?
Let’s say you are in a sad state because you recently experienced loss of a loved on. Then it’s like you are wearing sad coloured glasses. This means you look around the world and everything looks depressing. Why? Because the sad glasses are deleting everything that doesn’t fit into the sad-lens. All those 2 billion bits of data are getting deleted, distorted and generalised down to fit the picture you have going on.
Your best friend may be sitting next to you taking in the same sunset on the beach, but she is wearing lust glasses. She is deleting anything out that’s not gooey and delicious because her experience right now is of new love. Same scene, different internal experience. You could then both go home and describe alternate watered down experiences coloured but your glasses. Hers would be one of love, yours of sadness, even though you shared the exact same sunset.
If we are wearing anger glasses, then everything looks infuriating, like a pair of shoes that lie out of place by the front door. The shoes are simply shoes. But if we look at them with angry glasses, then they become the F-ing shoes that the kids always leave out for you to trip over. The kids come home and see the shoes, but now they’re just shoes.
In this way, the event itself is not what we responding to: ie the sunset or the shoes. We are responding to the state we are in at the time.
In the 4 day NLP training we teach you how to identify different states. We then learn about “resource states” which are the states that are the most effective for what you want to do; ie what state do you need to exercise in? To parent, work or study?
We teach you to identify, access and lock in these resource states. We teach you to put on the right glasses. In this way you learn how to control your emotions or states, in such a way that they no longer control you.
NLP is a beautiful way to understand yourself, to learn the way your brain functions and to get yourself back in control of life. I hope this article has given you a richer understanding of what this training can do for you. Contact me if you would like to learn more book in to our next 4 day INLPTA training.