I really like that there is a month set aside to think about having a positive attitude. I wonder what ways you have noticed your own attitudes improving this month. I wonder what changes you have been able to create in your inner and outer attitudes by creating shifts in your thinking.
In all of our efforts to be better than we were a while ago, it can be natural to lose perspective on where we are and all that we have accomplished. I was reminded of that last week, when I reminded a client that “not everything is broken.”
Sometimes I will ask a client, “What do you want to change today?” This helps them to get their brain moving in the right direction before we start our hypnosis work. We had worked on confidence, and acceptance, and letting things go, and i wanted to get an idea of what she wanted to focus on next. This client had worked hard to start a business and is now enjoying some success and making some really great professional connections with other highly successful people in her field. When I saw her last, she had started to get a little down on herself.
“I see all these people around me and they have it together, and they are all so busy and doing all these really cool things.”
“That’s awesome!” I say. And she just frowns and slumps deeper in the chair.
“I don’t know if I will ever get there.” she says.
“Well,” I say. “You might not get there, but you will get to where you want to be.”
Comparing Beginnings and Oranges
As we grow, we compare ourselves to the world and people around us to gauge our progress. We look towards others who have what we think are similar circumstances and compare where we are to where they are, and we use that information to form an opinion of how successful we are in meeting our goals. At one point in time this was referred to as “keeping up with the Jones’”
This isn’t just about our adult lives or our financial status. We engage in this comparison in all stages of our development, from infancy to old age. As infants and young children, we look to our older siblings and our parents to learn how to talk, walk, behave, express feelings and needs, and interact with the world around us. As we get older, we try to match our peers as much as possible, wearing the same style clothes, talking in the same slang, and doing our best to fit in. Conformity becomes a survival tool, and we learn conformity by comparison.
I’ll bet you think it stops there. But it doesn’t. We continue to compare ourselves to our peers, and to judge our performance and success against theirs. And what’s wrong with that? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Remember my client from earlier? She had caught herself in a cycle of comparing her beginning to someone else’s middle. What we sometimes forget to notice is where other people are in their lives. We tend to automatically assume that people we like or admire are very similar to us. We rarely stop to consider the things we do not know about them.
This is important, because it is those things that we don’t know about other people that tell the rest of the story. Often, when we compare ourselves to someone and think we fall short, we don’t know enough about that person to get the full picture of where they are and how they got there. They may be struggling with personal or business issues. They may have trouble sleeping, or use unhealthy habits to cope with stress. It’s even possible that they started out from a different place, with more money, more resources, and a different support system.
Also, we sometimes forget that we are only seeing what that person is comfortable sharing with us. Most people aren’t comfortable sharing their flaws, setbacks, and challenges with others. Since we never become aware of their struggles it can be natural to assume that they have breezed through life on a fast track to happiness and neverending success. I promise that this is not the case.
So often we end up putting ourselves down because we think that someone else is doing better than we are, but more to the point, we think that we aren’t doing as well as we should. This begins a cycle of negative thinking and negative self-talk. We already talked about the damage that negative thinking can do, and how important it is to change that pattern of behavior.
Getting Perspective - The Role of Hypnosis
We naturally compare ourselves, and all by itself that isn’t a harmful activity, but when we then take that very unreliable information and begin to doubt and worry and become negative toward ourselves, those negative thoughts and emotions do become harmful, and that has to stop
As luck would have it, the negative thoughts and emotions that result from our misinformed comparisons are a matter of perspective, and perspective is as easy to change as your position is. Look at the surface in front of you, whether it is a desk or a table. Good, and now change your position, either sit down or stand up and notice how what you see in front of you changes.
You can accomplish the same thing by adjusting your position in relation to your thoughts. When we look at something across the room, there is space between us and the object. Therefore, it is easy to see the object from a number of different perspectives, simultaneously. That is not a luxury we have with thoughts and feelings, which are often right on top of us.
For example, let’s say there is a newspaper on the table across the room from us. We can see the headline. We can tell if a section is missing, and we can see if it is a full-size Sunday paper, or the smaller daily edition. However, if that newspaper was sitting on your head you would be able to feel it, but not see it in its entirety. It is just too close. In order to see it clearly and really understand what it is, you need to change the perspective, and you can use that new perspective to take the power and influence out of a negative thought or emotion.
The first idea is to move a negative thought or emotion further away from you by slowing it down. You may have had a negative phrase repeat in your mind, maybe that you don’t deserve something, or that you aren’t good enough, or something else. Usually when you say that to yourself you just hear that voice in your mind. Maybe it is a loud stern voice, maybe it is even screaming or shouting.
What I am going to have you do next is practice changing that negative voice of those self-defeating statements, and put some space between you and the negative thought.
Either out loud or in your mind say your negative phrase, but this time, say it softly and slowly. Say it in a way you don’t normally hear it. Good. Now say it to yourself in the normal way again, and then one more time very slow and quiet.
Did you notice that you responded to that self-talk a little bit differently when you said it slow and quiet?
Try it again, but this time say it even slower. Now say it again even slower. Say it so slow now that it almost doesn’t make sense.
Now when you think this thought, your experience of this thought becomes different than it has been in the past, because you have created some space between yourself and the thought. When you practice this, you find that you can change your perspective on these thoughts by slowing them down and changing the experience of them. This means that you stop reacting negatively.
Another idea is to imagine your negative thoughts are being broadcast directly into your mind from the imaginary radio station, the “Negative News Channel.” Have a little fun with this. You might even find yourself smiling as you learn to hear your negative self-talk through the Negative News Channel!
Go ahead and start thinking of what the Negative News Channel might broadcast. Imagine the theme music and the pitch and tone of the radio announcer’s voice.
It might say something like, “This is NNC, the Negative News Channel, broadcasting 24/7 and 365 days a year. Today I am fat, I am ugly, and I am a bad person.”
Go ahead, identify some of your own negative thoughts and hear them through the voice of the NNC. “I am stuck in this situation. I am never doing anything right and I am going to screw up the future.”
Go ahead and hear it again. It sounds absurd, doesn’t it? This enables you to recognize that those thoughts are just thoughts. Not only can you change their impact on you and the way they make you feel, you can eliminate the cycle of negative thinking by changing your perspective.∎
Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (802) 566-0464.