Before we begin this week’s post I want to give a preview on the blogs I will be writing about living in the “now”. As I sat down to write this blog I was distracted by something out the window. When I looked I saw a fox visiting my bird table area.
As we continue this series in the Positive Psychology realm I want to pause for a moment to talk about how to handle intruding memories from the past. This may sound paradoxical when talking about positive psychology however sometime we have to re-set our mind in order to move forward.
Most people are familiar with the concept of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and you may even know that this can involve “flashbacks” and bad dreams. What many people are less aware of is the idea of Post Traumatic Growth.
When people experience PTG instead of the disabling impact of PTSD they find a way to make meaning from their experience. This appears to help them move on and become stronger as a result of their experience.
NB: If you suspect you are experience PTSD please seek some professional support.
For people who are stuck negative memories with or without trauma the route to moving forward is the same. They need to find a way to make meaning from their past so they can move on.
In NLP we often work with the pre-supposition that a person hangs onto an old memory, behaviour or feeling for a reason. For example, if someone has been hurt in a certain situation they may hold onto that memory and keep re-visiting it in order to avoid experiencing the same hurt in the future.
NLP has a number of specific processes that can allow the individual to process this past event in a way that allows them to make meaning, preserve the learning and reduce the emotional content. The result will be to move the prominence of the memory so that it become faded and less clear while retaining the knowledge of the event.
Recent research has suggested another way to do this that you can do for yourself. It has been observed that when people write things down about a past negative event it can help them dissociate from the feelings.
Using this research and combining with NLP concepts here is an exercise you could use if you need it.
- Write down the event as a story with themselves in the leading role but written as if observed from afar.
- Write down what the “star” of the story learnt from the experience including important learnings about protecting themselves and staying safe. Perhaps about decision making or reaching out for help.
- If there are other people involved in the story write letters to each of them expressing any important emotions or opinions. Now burn the letters! This is important it is part of the letting go.
- Re-write the story with a different, more positive ending where either the “star” did something different or an appropriate co-star entered the scene to “save them”.
- Now go and do something just for fun that you really enjoy preferably with people you care about.
If you decide to use this technique yourself or with others do let me know how you get on.
For anyone wanting to know how to get help from an NLP Practitioner contact me direct or if you are in the UK go to www.anlp.org where you can find people via the directory.
Next week I will write more about increasing positive recall.