By Sonya Yeh Spencer and Mark Spencer, ITA Certified New Code and Classic Code NLP Trainers and Change Agents
Do you have a pattern of “holding on to the past” rather than “adapt to life”? This “holding on to the past” pattern can cause quite a bit of suffering mentally, physically and spiritually, and you might or might not be aware of it. However, once you become aware of it, can in fact be used as a tool to help you embrace your new situation and create joys in life.
So, if you are ready to let go of the past, then read on…
Humans like consistencies in life, and once we are settled into a predictable routine, change often comes with pain, frustration, a feeling of loss and distress. This is normal, but we want to move smoothly and quickly away from that pain and to embrace what the new situation might bring. Transition, may that be ending of a relationship, jobs or career progression, surviving after a disaster, kids leaving home or any changes in life require us to adapt our behavior and adjust our emotion in someway, I call it life adaptation.
Some people suffer more from dealing with change more than others. The thing is, the more that we are resistant to change, the more we become fearful and the more we limit our experiences in life. Imagine an ever tightening circle or ball. In the end, there will be no room to move, no freedom and for me personally, life would be hard to bear. Making the necessary transition/adaptation can be hard, it requires a lot of effort and often requires great courage. Before we learn about ways in which we can make “life adaptation” easier and smoother, it pays to understand why it can be hard for most people, myself included.
Understanding why we hold on to the old
So, why do we hold on to the old much easier than embracing the new? It is often found that unconsciously, predictability may mean safety so we naturally prefer doing what we already familiar with. On the other hand, things that are not familiar to us, we often see them as threatening and we naturally want to avoid them. From client cases, I have also observed that, while people try to avoid making the change, they also avoid thinking about what might happen in detail. Without thinking about the potential outcomes or imagining the future is like traveling to a foreign place without a map. It is hard to navigate our way around the new situation with an old map that is not applicable in the new context. While we might want to make that change, but if we cannot see where it might lead us, it will create uncertainty and a sense of fear. In addition, there might also be unresolved emotions or yet to be achieved expectations. Things that are not resolved emotionally tend to occupy much of our brain’s processes. As we are trying to resolve or making sense of the emotion, it brings us back to thinking about the past more often than we like. As a summary, on a very high level, the things we are familiar with we often feel safe and we tend to hold on to those familiar things.
Resolving the past and embracing the new is like building a new home …
If we can understand the mental processes that are at play, life can be much easier and that is what NLP offers. Different people experience life adaptation differently, and there might also be personal contexts that require us to approach it in alternate ways, the steps presented here are based on NLP’s understanding of brain processing principles. The basic principle can be explained using the building of your next house as an analogy.
Imagine you want to build a new house based on what you have learned from your current house, what worked and what is not working, which you should avoid in the future. You then want to look at this new piece of land, its orientation, views, direction of the breeze, and the sun to work out in general, how you might position the house and the different zones for the car, garden, play spaces and entertainment areas. You might then work out the layout of the house and mentally walk it through over and over to ensure the flow is right and it suits your needs. Maybe at this stage, you are ready to engage an architect or draftsman to create a plan so you can communicate with your builders. You then start to work on the finer details like the fittings, the types of kitchen benches, flooring etc…
Letting go of the past and embracing the new works similar to this analogy, in that, you can bring what you have learned from the past and create a mental vision of the new future so you can step into the new with a sense of direction. Then every step of the way, you can make refinements.
Life Adaptation in 6 Steps
As with any approach to resolve personal issues, some situations might require additional actions, but in general the following steps, developed based on an NLP approach, can be used to deal with a multitude of situations. The overall principle is in using special NLP cognitive processes to redirect your focus and help your brain to learn new patterns to adapt to new situations.
- Acknowledge your feelings about making the change: It is important that you understand what is your emotion trying to communicate with you, and this is the first step in doing so. The key to this step is to direct your conscious attention to your emotion. Every emotion, when you consider carefully, often comes after a specific thought that you might or might not be aware of. The content of your thought holds the key to understand your thought process that is either helping or hindering you. You can choose to place one of your hands on the part of the body where the emotion seems/feels to have come from and say “Thank you for bring this feeling X to my attention, I know you are trying to tell me something that is important”.
- What does the emotion mean? This second step is really accessing our unconscious considerations behind the emotion. Ask: “What is it that you are attempting to do for me or communicate with me?” then, thank your emotion for bringing this message to you.
- Bring out the positives from the past experience: Every experience teaches us something. This step can help us learn quickly and take advantage of such learning in a very deliberate fashion. Ask yourself “What have I gained from this experience?” or “What positive events would not have happened if I did not have this experience (the job I am leaving; the relationship I am changing; years of staying at home with my children etc…)”.
- Creating Closure: By creating a sense of closure, you are telling your unconscious and your brain that this is finished and focus on the future or the next goal. Some people experience a sense of closure after step 3. If that is the case for you, just double check by asking “Is there anything else that I need to understand before I can have full closure?” If the answer is “yes” then continue with step 4, if the answer is “no” then repeat step 1 – 3. Once you have established that there is nothing else that you need to gain additional insight for, and you are yet to have closure, then this is the step for you. Ask: “What does it feel like to have closure on this issue and able to focus on the future?” Just sit with the feeling until it feel familiar to you. Then ask “By having this sense of closure, what would it enable me to do specifically” and list all the actions on a piece of paper. Finally ask “What do I need to do to close this chapter of my past?” This last question is worded in a very specific way, so do not change the wording. Some people get a feeling of doing a ritual, some say something to themselves, and some reported that they did not exactly know what to do but felt a shift inside of them. Often times if you have successfully redirected your brain to focus on the future, it will show in your new behaviour pattern and emotion.
- Focus on the future: Now you have gained the closure, we need to direct our attention to the future specifically. Ask yourself: “What opportunities does this new situation offer me that is unique?”, “When I fully realise these opportunities, what might be the consequences (positive and less positive aspects)” and finally “Which opportunity would I like to focus on first?”
- Building your initial plan: By now you have dealt with the past and have a specific focus on the future, it is time to help your brain to understand the concrete steps to draw upon the necessary mental resources to help you. So, visualize the first five big future steps you can take. Once you can visualise these first five steps, with each step, visualise the entire process from initiating to finishing each of the steps. Ask yourself “What resources do I need for each step?”, “What do I need to do to implement it better?” and “How will I know when to move onto the next step?” If you do the end to end process for each step, you can get quite a good idea about what needs to be done and what to expect.
By now, the future must already seem much more real and that is a way of checking if your brain is now on board with you.
More details about this process
The above process is what we have developed for ourselves and clients. At times for different situations and clients, it requires different adaptions. We are not able to explain to you all the intricate details for such adaption as it really requires you to have specific NLP knowledge and insight into many of the NLP techniques. If you are interested, our next NLP immersion training is due to start in January 2016