Last week I began writing about the power of choosing your responses particularly in regard to receiving feedback. This week I will expand by discussing how we have the ability to manage our internal state and how this too is a choice.
People often tell me that managing how we feel or react is outside of their control. There is often an opinion that emotions just wash over us in an uncontrolled and inevitable way.
Is this true?
So let’s start by getting clear what emotional responses comprise of. Firstly there is the purely primal version. This is when our fight or flight response is triggered when an imminent threat of some sort has been perceived.
This kind of response is instinctive and unconscious and often very helpful. It is when our body is mobilised to deal with a physical threat of some sort and we need to take action quickly. It is basically a chemical reaction triggered by an external response.
The chances are this kind of reaction is largely but not completely outside of our control. There are some people who have become de-sensitised to dangerous situations either by choice or as a result of trauma. The system may have become overloaded by constant stressors and so gets switched off. The version here by choice will be people who have deliberately put themselves into dangerous situations for some reason.
Some people may also have reframed their reaction and become adrenaline junkies, this may not be a particularly healthy reframe although I know some would argue with that.
What I’m really talking about today however is a different kind of emotional response. When we react to feedback emotionally we are not responding to a physical threat (in most cases). We are responding to verbal or non-verbal input from someone else.
We may have developed a “knee jerk” response to such feedback that is a form of defence. The trigger is how we process someone else’s words. For people who doubt our ability to manage such a response consider the following.
The telephone rings and you receive some important news. This news could be amazingly good or devastatingly bad. Our response is based on the external stimulus of hearing someone else share some news with us.
If it is possible for an external stimulus to trigger a highly emotional response it follows that it is also possible for us to trigger alternate responses internally.
The first step is to notice when we are reacting in a way we would prefer not to. Fortunately we behave in a predictable and patterned way as a species. If you reflect on your own responses to feedback you will soon start to notice a pattern.
Once you have identified the pattern you can start developing a strategy for reacting differently. Start by recognising the earliest sign that your reaction has started. For many people this will involve one of the following:
- A tension somewhere in the body.
- Negative internal pictures.
- Negative internal self talk.
- A combination of two or all of the above.
The result of the above is a negative feeling of some kind. On a side note here, there really are no negative feelings just unwanted ones. All feelings and emotions have a value. There are times when it is important to feel a feeling in a healthy way. For example, grief is a process that it would be inappropriate to suppress however sometimes people get stuck in grief.
How do we manage these internal states once recognised?
There are many NLP techniques that can help with habitual responses such as SWISH and Anchor collapse. If you are not a trained NLP practitioner you might need some help with these processes. You can make a start with SWISH by downloading my free audio MP3 which takes you through the process with a class.
If you are not ready for that you can start by doing the following. As soon as you start to feel the “knee jerk” reaction building check your body language. You are likely to have taken on a posture that mirrors the emotions you are building.
Take a deep breath and oxygenate your body, shift your posture and take on a more relaxed stance. This is sometimes easier said than done. This is a bit like the dentist telling you to relax!
Borrow a technique from yoga. Notice where the tension is in your body, tighten the muscle group and release several times. This will allow the associated muscle groups to relax so you can maintain a relaxed posture.
You also need to manage your cognitive focus. You will need to develop some internal dialogue that helps you to listen to the feedback in a more relaxed way. For example the phrase I shared in a previous blog:
“This is only data, I can choose what I do with it.”
To begin with you might also need to remove yourself from the situation in order to fully calm yourself before responding to the feedback.
Next week I will share with you what you can do if you have a tendency to burst into tears. There is a solution! I had to do this myself!
I still have places on my hypnotherapy course and for those of you who already have NLP Practitioner under the belt this course can be a great gift for yourself. Even if you do not wish to be a hypnotherapist you can use the workshop as a week of personal therapy. Many people find this course their most transformational.