May 25, 2011

What’s On Your Mind?

Last week I shared with you about the importance of “right speech" and how language has the power to not only inspire and comfort but to actually shift your character and beliefs about who you are. This is the first “add in” that I share with clients.

The next step in transforming your experience – the next “add in” – also drawn from Buddhism (excerpt below from The Religions of Man) but found in other theories such as cognitive behavioral therapy is that of right mindfulness:

“All we are is the result of what we have thought.”

Or, as I like to say, “What you think, you create.”

Now, if we are shaping who we are and as a result what we experience by what we think, then we darn well better be mindful about what thoughts are taking root!

We all have patterns of thought that have been created and reinforced by experiences. The trouble is that these thoughts, while they may have been useful as a way to cope or protect us in the moment, become ill-suited for our current experience. For example, a boy who is abused may develop the belief that he is at the mercy of the demands of others. This belief is quite true in relation to the abuser. However, this false belief continues to run in the background even as an adult, and so he is often fearful of being at the mercy of others and so pushes back whenever others make requests of him. His thought – “I’m at the mercy of others” – is causing him to respond to and interact with others in very particular ways.

Once you identify these sorts of false beliefs (thoughts) that are driving your words and behaviors/experiences – how do you then challenge these false beliefs (in the cognitive behavioral world, they would be called “negative schema”)?

By practicing right mindfulness!

The tricky thing about how our brain works is that it likes how things are already wired! After enough time, certain thoughts being “lit up” in response to certain situations becomes an automatic process. So, rewiring the brain can be a difficult process when the focus is only on mindfulness. However, when we bring in the power of language and actually say out loud the new thought that we want to take root, we increase the likelihood of creating new connections and severing the old ones. Thus, by combining right speech with right mindfulness – we have a powerful combination that can give a one-two punch to the false beliefs and negative statements that are keeping us from living powerful lives.

One of my clients struggled with the reoccurring false belief that she was stupid. The slightest mistake would trigger this false belief and off she went into a whirlpool of harsh thoughts and resulting negative behaviors (e.g. depression, guilt, shutting down). Rather than focus on the behaviors, we started with her words. She began by saying every morning out loud, “I am intelligent and capable.” At first this felt awkward and silly. In fact, her mind was doing what it should do – it was fighting back against this intrusion that threatened to change the status quo wiring. Over time, she got this down into her so deeply that, when she made a mistake, she took it as an indication that she needed to learn more, ask questions, get help, etc. rather than that she as a person was fundamentally stupid. As a result, she began experiencing life, herself, and others in brand new ways!

If she can do it, you can, too! Don’t allow false beliefs to be in charge. Use the practices of right speech and right mindfulness to challenge false beliefs and break free of old patterns of thought and behavior.

Last week, I encouraged you to write down what it is you’d like to know and believe about others or who you are and to read this card out loud to yourself every day (carry it with you, glance at it often). For example, “I am valuable. I am capable. I am enjoying life. There are people who can be trusted.”

This week, spend some time noticing the thoughts that travel through your mind as you go about the day and jot them down. Pay particular attention in moments when you feel challenged, ignored, scared, insecure .. what is that little voice inside saying? After you’ve discovered a false belief – return to the practice of right speech to begin challenging and transforming the thought to be something that is powerful rather than destructive.

This can be tough work and hard to swallow when we begin to notice how many false beliefs are running on a loop in the background. Be encouraged, though! Knowing and acknowledging is a step in the right direction!

If you’d like to learn more about how coaching can support you in identifying and challenging your false beliefs, I encourage you to schedule a free 30 minute Discovery Session!

P.S. I'm still running my "4 Free Sessions" deal for all new clients. If we decide to work together, your first four sessions are free - no strings attached! This offer will be ending August 1st – so don’t miss this opportunity to sign up or share coaching with someone you know.

May 18, 2011

What's That You Say!?

Recently, I wrote about the importance of focusing on what you’d like to “add in” or “get back” that was lost as a result of trauma/abuse. Today, I want to hone in on one very particular thing that I work with all of my clients to add in – right speech.

This concept as conceived in Buddhism (excerpt below from The Religions of Man), can also be found in cognitive behavioral theory and rational emotive theory. I just like the way it’s conveyed in the Buddhist text:

“Right speech. We begin now to reach down and take hold of the switches that control our lives. Language is the first. Language does two things: it furnishes both an indication of our character and a lever for shifting it.

This is an amazingly powerful statement and foreshadows the current trend of “positive affirmations.” However, beyond the importance of just hearing and saying good things to ourselves, language has the ability to actually shift our character and experiences.

When we think about transforming an aspect of our lives, we often focus on what we are doing and want to stop. Now remember from the last post, it’s important to turn your attention away from “stop behaviors” and towards those you want to “start.” This week, we go a bit deeper and consider that the true place to begin transformation is by noticing what we say and shifting our language. We need to start new habits around what we say – as opposed to focusing on what we do.

It doesn’t take long for us to identify the negative words we are saying about ourselves or others. Just record yourself talking for 10 minutes and you’ll have plenty of content to work with! Once you identify these patterns of negative speech – how do you then challenge and transform these patterns?

By practicing right speech!

So now, it’s time to check in on what you’ve been declaring about who you are! Take some time to answer this question:

What have I been saying about myself? What negative statements do I make about myself or others? For example, “I am worthless. I am incompetent. I am never going to succeed. I can’t trust anyone.”

Now, on a notecard, write down what it is you’d like to know and believe about others or who you are. Read this card out loud to yourself every day (carry it with you, glance at it often). For example, “I am valuable. I am capable. I am enjoying life. There are people who can be trusted.”

Just a reminder here: I’m not interested in you just feeling good about yourself or having warm, fuzzy feelings. I’m interested in you wielding the power of language to actually shift your character and beliefs about who you are, so that you can live a powerful life free from the negative statements that hold you back.

Oh, and just in case you don’t believe me, check out this video and take a few notes from this little girl – she’s in the know!

…and check back next week – I’ll be talking about the next step in transforming your experience – right mindfulness!

If you’d like some support in identifying your negative statements and creating a plan to challenge them, I encourage you to schedule a free 30 minute Discovery Session so you can learn more about how coaching can support you.

P.S. I'm still running my "4 Free Sessions" deal for all new clients. If we decide to work together, your first four sessions are free - no strings attached!

May 4, 2011

What's to Gain by Knowing What Was Lost?

As I work with clients recovering from trauma/abuse, the common thread that ties each client to the other is the desire to stop certain thoughts or behaviors. Clients are often focused on what they want to “cut out” rather than what they want to “add in” when they initially start coaching.

Whenever we experience trauma/abuse, however, two things are occurring. We are both gaining and losing. We gain irrational beliefs, pain, anger, distrust … but we also lose a relationship, security, freedom, energy, joy …

As you begin a journey of recovery, I encourage you to first spend time reflecting on what it is you would like to “get back” that was lost as a result of the trauma/abuse. Knowing what you want to “add in” will get you much further along than focusing on what it is you want to “cut out.”

Why is that? Starting a behavior is much easier than stopping a behavior! If we think of a behavior or thought as something we have to “stop,” we struggle more. I think being told or telling ourselves to “stop” just triggers our inner two year olds, and we stubbornly refuse to cooperate.

For example, one client wanted to stop feeling extreme anger every time her boyfriend failed her in some way. As we worked together, we discovered that one of the things she’d lost as a result of childhood abuse was the ability to trust that she could depend on others. We shifted away from talking about how to stop being angry and instead focused on what she would need to start thinking or doing in order to trust others. She learned some new communication skills. She started looking for times when the boyfriend came through rather than focusing only on the mistakes (which, as it turned out, were actually few and far between but previously seemed to be occurring frequently because this is where her focus was). She also started to challenge the belief that others would always let her down. After about two months, she was able to respond to being let down or disappointment in a healthy way minus the excessive anger.

As I was thinking about this topic, I came across this acronym for people who want to stop smoking:

S = Set a quit date.
T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you'll face while quitting.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.

START! While the outcome is to end the behavior of smoking, the path to getting there is to start – to focus on what needs to be added in rather than what needs to be cut out. By doing so, you will gain momentum, perspective, and the motivation needed to experience real transformation. Love it!

If you’d like to explore what you’ve lost as a result of trauma/abuse and get started on a road to recovery, I encourage you to schedule a free 30 minute discovery session so you can learn more about how coaching can support you.

P.S. I'm still running my "4 Free Sessions" deal for all new clients. If we decide to work together, your first four sessions are free - no strings attached!

Sign up for my free guide so you can stop spinning your wheels and instead navigate your way through each stage of recovery with ease and clarity. Get the support you need today

GET YOUR COPY