Where do you find yourself in tough times ? What is your emotional home ? Is it anger?Anxiety? Blame? Fear? Guilt? Hatred? Sadness? Stress? Worry? Jealousy? Pessimism? Most of these happen to us all at some stage and quite often we are totally unaware ofwhere we picked them up. Even though we don’t want them in our lives, many of us getcomfortable with them, so I call them ‘mental comfort zones’. So let’s take a look at how wefell into these zones. Then we can see how we can get out of them.
If you were going on a long trip, chances are you’d plan where you were going and how youwould get to your final destination. When you set off on your journey through life you don’thave a slightest idea where you are heading. When you were very young a lot of decisionswere made for you; what you ate, where you went, which school you attended, whom youspent time with and what you wore. As you grew older, outside influences remained high andthe decisions became more important: what you studied, what career you chose, what kindof partner you looked for and what morals and values you lived by. Many of us weren’t askedwhat we wanted. Even though others thought they were acting in our best interests, ourchoices were often taken away and decisions thrust upon us. It’s no wonder many of usended up heading in the wrong direction.
When we are growing up we are often thrown into situations with little or no instruction andwe don’t realize that we have choices, so we mimic those around us, usually our families. Atsuch a young age, we haven’t begun to filter the information that we receive; we don’tanalyse or question others. As young children we don’t know about right and wrong, good orbad, or inappropriate versus appropriate behaviour. We accept what we see as normal andthink that that’s the way we’re supposed to act. And so we learn when to feel angry, sad,worried, jealous or afraid.
In an art class, 30 children are asked to draw a bowl of fruit. They are all looking at it fromdifferent angles, and with their varying degrees of talent and individual styles they produce30 different works of art. But aren’t they all looking at the same thing?
How can two people watch the same film and have totally different experiences of it? Howcan two people be sitting in the same traffic jam yet one be calm and the other uptight? Ourindividual experience is subjective and not necessarily like the objective reality that’s outthere. Everything external to us, whether it’s a bowl of fruit, a film or a traffic jam, remains thesame and it’s our interpretations that differ. We see things differently according to the filterswe have in our minds – our values, beliefs, prior experiences and morals. When we wereyoung children, though, we didn’t understand that each person had their own interpretationsof life, so we took on the values, opinions and beliefs of those we trusted and admired – ourparents, siblings, teachers, best friends and favourite TV personalities, pop stars and sportsidols.
Copying is actually a very effective and efficient way of learning. After all, if you do exactly assomeone else does, you’ve got a pretty high chance of getting it right – assuming they’redoing it ‘right’! But aren’t there some things you have copied that don’t do you any favours?Are there any opinions, values, beliefs and negative habits that you think you’d be better offwithout? It’s likely that what you were told as a child has shaped your life, but many of the messages you received may no longer be useful to you and maybe weren’t even useful atthe time.
Let me give you a common example. Do you always eat what’s on your plate? Many of usdo because we were told as children that there were starving people in Africa and we shouldbe grateful for what we had. So many people learn to clear their plates and override thebody’s natural instinct to stop when they’ve had enough, that has played a large role in theobesity epidemic.
Through my experience of working with people, I have learned that any life change requirescommitment and enthusiasm to be successful. Some people are wary about makingchanges because of what they might find out about themselves or because it might be hardwork, and these concerns are only to be expected. One of the first things I do to put myclients at ease is to help them appreciate that it’s okay to have imperfections and insecurities- as you now know, we all pick them up just through growing up. But we can all change. It’strue that any process of change contains an element of the unknown, but the unknown canbe exciting and liberating too.< Back