Labels & self-esteem (ii)

The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 4) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

Labels & self-esteem

The deep down feeling that we are worth being loved and valued, comes about through the quality of the relationships we have with the important people in our lives.  While it is impossible to fill these needs for ourselves in a direct way, we can do so indirectly by creating a wholesome climate for the significant others in our lives.  It is an amazing fact that when we help others feel better about themselves, they quite literally can’t help responding in positive ways, which in turn helps us feel better as well.

We can create this wholesome climate by focusing on strengths rather weaknesses, on successes rather than failures. Most of us are expert at finding fault, expecting the worst and dwelling on mistakes.  This can lead us to anticipate failure from others, which creates an atmosphere of tension and mistrust.

Expectation of failure encourages failure.  Just as “Don’t spill the milk” makes it easier to spill the milk, expecting the worst creates increases the possibility of the worst occurring.  Stating things in the positive is therefore of great importance, but going ‘over the top’ even in terms of positivity can have its dangers as well.  If we set up expectations of a positive outcome in someone in an area where the target task or activity is well beyond present capability, the inevitable result is failure, and the result will be a double negative – dealing with he failure itself and dealing with the expectation.

Encouraging someone to do something of which they are clearly incapable (at the moment) is as great a dis-service as  expecting them to fail.  It may be better to focus on the individual skills needed to achieve a particular task, and work our  realistic programme to help acquire them.  For example if someone wants to run a marathon, we may need to encourage them to get fit in manageable stages.  We would not say “You will never run a marathon”.  We may say “I’m sure you do well  next year if you start training now”.

“My father only ever gave me attention when I did something that he approved of.  Because I loved him so much I ended up only doing the things I knew he would like and I hid lots of things about myself from him.  I wanted to be ME and I wanted his love. Because I could’t do both I stopped being me. I wanted to be loved for me.  I wanted to be encouraged and supported in my own hopes and dreams.  He died and I never got what I wanted from him.  Only now, years later, am I beginning to be able to give those things to myself.  If only he had been as happy with me as I was”.

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A common danger is comparing the performance of one person to that of another.  For example, we might be tempted to say “Jones manages to get through that pile of paperwork in one day, so can you.”  Sadly, in the real world these situations occur on a daily basis.  Worse still, very often someone’s performance will be deemed unacceptable on the basis of the perceived performance of another.

In industry, where results are all that matter, people are expendable, and their sense of their own worth is considered irrelevant.  This is a short term view, and situations where people find themselves often unfairly compared to others arise due to management problems.  If people are wisely placed in positions which offer them a realistic chance of success, the increase in their sense of self worth will translate itself into increased productivity, which is the what industry wants in the first place.

 

Praise and Encouragement

Positive labels can be as unhelpful as negative ones.  Praise, like criticism, is a judgement made from outside and imposed on the individual.  It is often used to manipulate behaviour to fit a certain set of external criteria.  The ‘danger’ of constant raise is that it encourages behaviour for external reasons, and discourages  self-referral, or reliance on the self to determine behaviour.  Looking around us, we can see what effect this need for external reward has done to the state of our world.

We all need positive messages about what we do, who we are and what we create.  It is possible to give and receive encouragement without the use of labels.  If we describe behaviour and say what we feel about it, we can give a positive message without the risks involved in labelling.

 Some drawbacks of praising

  1. What you are praising the other person for may not be valued by them at all; it may even be meaningless or annoying to them.
  2. People know that if they can be praised they can also be blamed and, if praise is used a great deal in a relationship, the lack of it can be taken as criticism.
  3. Praise is often used as a form of manipulation to try and get someone to do what you want rather than as a genuine compliment.
  4. Being praised for things that aren’t valuable or important to you can make you feel that the other person doesn’t understand you.
  5.  Being praised can deeply embarrass some people, especially when it is done in front of an audience.
  6.   People can grow to depend on praise and begin to demand it as a way of getting attention and approval.

 

Children know when they have done something well or badly.  You can see and hear their satisfaction when they have achieved what they have set out to do and also their dissatisfaction when they don’t.  As they grow a bit older they learn that if they do certain things they are “good” and approved of and if they do others they are “bad” and disapproved of. Gradually, because the approval of the people who are bringing them up is so important, they begin to lose their own “knowing” and rely upon their grown ups’ judgements of their behaviour.

Often this process through childhood results in us loosing our sense of knowing altogether and we come to rely completely on others to tell us who we are and what we should be doing.  We may completely bury our  “selves” and constantly check to see if others approve of what we are doing or wanting.  As adults may live out our lives doing what we think others want and never know what our own needs are at all.

The idea that praise may be just another form of labelling may seem a strange contradiction, because we have been taught that praise is ‘good’.  After all, it can’t be bad to say nice things to people, can it?  But, as with many things that started out as good ideas, the act of praising has become misused and misunderstood.

Praise is usually an evaluation of another person and their qualities and abilities; it does not show what you are really thinking and feeling.  The next time you have the urge to praise, stop yourself and ask yourself why. What is your real intention?  Do you really want to say something nice to that person?  Do you want to manipulate them into doing something?  Are you doing it to avoid acknowledging something else that is going on (e.g. jealousy, guilt)?

 

So what do we do instead?

Rather than using praise that judges, try using praise that describes.  So, instead of saying things like: “You are wonderful, good, lovely, brilliant or whatever (which tell the person nothing about why you think so), be explicit about what it is you like and how it makes you feel.

Here are some examples:-

 1.   I really like the way you help me wash up.

 2.   When you rub my neck like that I feel really cared for.

 3.   That cooker you have just cleaned looks spotless.

4.   I am really happy with the earrings you bought me.

Descriptive praise usually includes the following:-

  • An accurate description of the work, behaviour or accomplishment of the other.
  • How you feel about or value what you have described.
  •  And, if there is one, the positive effect that the behaviour has had on you.

 

Changing from judging to describing takes time to learn because praising in the old way is such a habit in our society.  Be patient with yourself while you are learning this new skill.

 

Praising in this new way quite often brings to the surface thoughts and feelings that never get expressed when the other kind of praise is used.  It lets the other person know more about you and the positive effect that they and their behaviour have on you.

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 A 35-year-old doctor, with blonde hair, glasses and two children, spent six months training to run the New York Marathon. The great day arrived and he finished 999th out of 1000. He returned to the hospital on Monday to be asked by his fellow doctors where he came in the race, so he told them “Ah! You only beat one person,” they exclaimed. “But that doesn’t matter, I was best in my class,” he replied. They couldn’t understand. “What class was that?” they asked.  He explained:- “That was the class for 35-year-old doctors with blonde hair, glasses and two children.  I did my best.  I can’t compare myself with other people because then I am always going to lose – and I will probably get ulcers into the bargain.  I gave 100 per cent and that is all I can ever do.  I can only try to be the best person, runner and doctor that I can be”.

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 Defences

 Many adults and children have built large defensive walls around themselves and they ward off positive comments that they receive saying things like: “Oh, it’s nothing” or “I didn’t do anything really”.  These people are pushing away the very thing that they most need, positive attention, because they don’t trust or are embarrassed by the form in which the comments are made.

If someone responds that way to something you say, try repeating what you originally said in a descriptive rather than a judging way.  This may break through their defensive wall, because it is hard for them to dismiss as “nothing” something you have said about how  feel.  They may be able to accept and take in your words and then they may really glow!

Remember to use your voice, your body, and your heart, when you do it.

We feel good when others express their good feelings about us, and when we can accept our self-worth, we don’t ever need others to tell us that we are okay or to compare our achievements to theirs.

 

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com

 

 

Labels & self-esteem development

The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 3) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

Regarding labels & self-esteem development, labels are a shorthand way of commenting on a person’s behaviour. Instead of describing what we have done, it is all too easy for someone to invent a name for it and hang it around our necks. More often than not the label is a direct criticism and hurts our feelings. It also tells us nothing about what they want changed. And worst of all, if we hear the label enough we may end up taking it on board for good, becoming just what they don’t want.

“What was that you called me?”  

We all put labels on our own and other people’s behaviour. We describe someone as clever,  stupid,  polite, spoilt, rude, selfish, etc. It is very easy for us to get so used to hearing and using these terms that we can bandy them about with out thinking any more whether they still apply. Some labels were applied a long time ago, and in very specific circumstances, which changed, but the labels stuck. We must therefore question whether we are really saying that these words apply to someone, or is there another reason – perhaps something about ourselves?

And what do words like these really mean in the first place? Different people mean different things when they use words like “clever” or “clumsy”.  Many of these labels originate in childhood, and when we are young, they create a particular way of thinking about ourselves.

It makes far more sense to describe the actual behaviour, rather than labelling the person. That means talking only in terms of what we can see, hear and feel. There are several good reasons for this.

Firstly, we  often use labels by way of telling someone off without actually clafifying the nature of unacceptable behaviour. This makes it difficult for anyone to stop doing what-   ever they are doing.  If we describe behaviour we are supplying the information necessary to effect change.

Secondly, often using a label comes across as a criticism and results in feelings of hurt and resentful. With feelings like that around, it becomes difficult to be co-operative or to have any desire to change anything.. A simple description of the facts is easier to listen to and accept.

Thirdly, labels have a nasty habit of becoming true. If we use the same labels for long enough, everyone concerned can come to believe them. We become so used to being called clumsy or stupid that we adjust our expectations of ourselves to accommodate what we take to be a revised evaluation of ourselves.

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Say what you want  

If you say to a person “Don’t drop it!” they have to make a picture or get a sense in their head of dropping it, just so that they can avoid doing so. While they are making that picture they are half-way towards dropping it, probably helped by the anxiety in your voice! It is much more helpful to say what it is you do want to happen, for example “hold on tight to it.” Or if we say to our child “Don’t spill the milk”, they have to imagine spilt milk – and milk, once imagined spilt, is all the easier to spill. We could consider describing the behaviour we do want.  This can be quite difficult, because we all tend to know what we don’t want but have greater difficulty in defining what we do want! Even when we have worked out the behaviour behind the label, it is still very easy to say “Don’t leave things lying around” rather than “Do put things away.”   Making the change to stating what we want rather than what we do not want takes extra thought and attention, but with care we can break a long-standing habit.  Instead of  “Don’t spill the milk” we could say “Hold the milk steady”. Here are some more examples:-

“Don’t interrupt me!” could be “Please let me finish speaking!”

“Don’t wake me when you come in.” could be “Be quiet when you come in.”

“Don’t make any mistakes with these figures” could be “Take extra care with these figures”.  

“Don’t be late for the meeting” could be “Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the meeting”.

Different people,  Different experiences  

Our experience of life is uniquely our own.  This means that our perspective will be unique to us as well.  This is because much of the way we experience our lives originated in childhood.  We came to understand and make sense of our world according to many different factors.  As adults we forget that these differences exist, and therefore expect that all people see, hear, taste smell and feel life in the same way as we do.  In the process of growing up, we come to imbue words with subtle and sometimes slightly different meanings.  Understanding this is vitally important when dealing with children.  Children have a totally different frame of reference to adults, and tend to take words at their literal meaning.  If we are not careful, this can result in serious problems in communication.  

It is not only with adults that errors in communication can arise.  We sometimes use words that are loaded with meaning for us, and wonder why others don’t respond in the way we would have responded.  For example, sally’s mother used he word `fine’ in a slightly disapproving sense. When she said Sally looked fine, it really meant that she didn’t like the way Sally was dressed, was refraining from being critical.  Sally grew to hate the word.  Years later, when she was married, her husband couldn’t understand why she got upset when he said  that she looked `fine’.    

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 The development of self esteem  

So much of what happens in our lives depends on how we feel about ourselves – on our  sense of our own worth, or what we call `self-esteem’.   Much of the development of self esteem takes place during childhood, but each and every encounter we have in our lives can influence our self esteem in a positive or negative way.

It is from our family that we first learnt whether we were loveable or not, so what we do and say to our children has a significant effect on their developing self-esteem. It is therefore vitally important to be aware of how we talk to our children.

But it is not only children who are affected by the way they are treated. At any point in our lives, the attitude of the significant people around us has an effect on how we feel about ourselves. Self esteem is not static, so although childhood influences are important, they are not all that matters. Below is a list of some of the areas in which positive messages can be given, helping us feel better about ourselves:

1. Being

We need to feel we have a right to be here and that we are loveable just because we exist.   We get this message when we know that we are loved, tat we are important, and that people like our company.

2. Doing

We  need to know that others think we are capable of succeeding in our lives.   We get positive messages to this effect directly: “you did that well!” “I really liked the way you did ……………” “I love the way you do …………….” and so on.

3. Thinking

We need to have a sense of our own capability on a mental level.  This is very often broken down when our views and opinions are not sought, of if they are sought, they are disregarded as useless without being given any consideration.  This is a common in the workplace these days.

4. Feeling

All human beings need to know that they have a right to show their feelings.  Our society has made it unfashionable for whole groups to be real about their feelings.  Men are traditionally not allowed to express emotion in any way other than through violence or aggression.  The British people as a whole are famed for their `stiff upper lip’.  It is important to find acceptable ways to share our feelings with other people rather than bottle them up inside.

5. Learning who we are

Being strong and capable means just that – it does not mean that we somehow reach a state in which we have no needs.  No matter how independent, powerful or accomplished we become, we still need love, support and care.

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We need to learn that it is all right to ask in a straightforward way for what we want. We don’t have to pretend to be sick, sad or angry to get what we need. It is all right to express honestly what we are feeling.

Quite often we expect others to know quite intuitively what we want, especially in close family relationships, but also at work or in friendship relationships. When we become aware of the nature of our expectation we are able to do something about it.  We need to cultivate the awareness that separates us from those around us, so that we can see he dynamics of our relationships more clearly.

We need to know who we are in order to get what we want or need.

6. Learning to do things our own way

Often one of the most pervasive lessons we learned in childhood was the lesson of obedience.  Hopefully as we grew older, we learned to temper our blind obedience with discrimination.  This is the theory of it. Looking around in the world however, and with lessons such as the one taught by Hitler in the second world war, or some of the modern-day civil wars in various parts of the world, we can see that theory does not always manifest in reality.  We may protest wildly that we would never get caught in a situation like that – perhaps not exactly like that, but if we are honest, there are probably many instances in which we follow what other say without thinking for ourselves.

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The power of the advertising industry is an example of this phenomenon.  Again all we can do is cultivate an awareness in ourselves of the reasons we do things.  If we spend most of our time doing things others want us to do, then we need to look at what is happening inside ourselves quite carefully.  The converse is also true.  If we spend our lives doing the opposite of what others want us to do, then it is possible that we are `reacting’ to attempted control, but still not doing what we need to do ourselves.

If we deal with children, we need to give them positive messages which encourage them to think for themselves, and work out what they want to do or believe. They need to learn from an early age to trust their feelings to help them know what to do.  The world has seen the tragic consequences of this failing in this lesson.

7. Sexuality

Often our feelings of sexuality are tied up in the needs and expectations of others at an early age.  We may learn that our worth depends on our ability to perform sexually, or we may learn that our sexuality is dirty and sinful, depending on the influences to which we were exposed.  Religion and society has many good reasons for manipulation this part of our lives. While we wouldn’t suggest that the development of a sense of morality is undesirable, we would say that it is difficult to obtain a balance in these matters, and that often we are a victim of the conditioning we received when we were young.  The feelings we develop regarding our sexuality from childhood often persists well into adulthood, reducing our ability to feel or think clearly as self determining adults.

We also need to learn to discriminate between our sexuality and our need for love and comfort, because these can easily become confused and intertwined.

8. Independence

The development of independence is very much an issue of relevance to parents.  Parents know that helping heir children achieve independence can be one of the most difficult things to do.  As parents we may have needs of our own that get in he way of helping our children along this path, or we may simply not know what sort of messages we need to give to our children.  How we give them these messages depends very much on the type of person we are and the sort of language we use.

Even if we are not parents, the issue of independence is probably still of great relevance to us.  If we didn’t get the help we needed as children through the phases we have been discussing, it is likely that our sense of our ability to live an independent life may be stunted or warped. Often marriage or partner relationships engender patterns of dependency based on earlier parent-child relationships.  We may either experience ourselves as dependent on others, or we may have powerful needs for others to be dependent on us.  Both these patterns stem from the messages we received in childhood.  To raise our awareness of these issues in our lives, it is helpful to consider the nature of our feelings around these issues.  If we think about our relationship either with someone we depend on, on who depends on us, we can try to identify things that bring up strong feelings. They may be messages that you missed out on as a child and now have a chance to catch up on.

If we didn’t get the things we needed at the right time when we were children, we continually get chances to make up that lack as we go on through our life.   Clearly the issue of independence is very much an issue of the level of self esteem.  We need others to depend on us, because that proves that we are `good’.  It also in fact proves that we are actually exist.  It may also legitimise us in our own eyes, for if someone else needs us, then there must be a reason for our lives after all.

There are two principle beliefs we need for high self-esteem

  • the belief that I am loveable simply because I exist.
  • the belief that I am worthwhile, that I have something to give & to offer others.

The deep down feeling that we are worth being loved and valued, comes about through the quality of the relationships we have with the important people in our lives.  While it is impossible to fill these needs for ourselves in a direct way, we can do so indirectly by creating a wholesome climate for the significant others in our lives.  It is an amazing fact that when we help others feel better about themselves, they quite literally can’t help responding in positive ways, which in turn helps us feel better as well….

…..

The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 3) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com

Feelings 2: Self-esteem

The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 2) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

Self-Esteem

There is one quality above all others that determines how individuals respond to circumstances in their lives – that quality is self-esteem. Self-esteem is how a person feels about himself or herself; how much he likes being him, how much she feels good about just being alive.

The level of self-esteem of those around you is clearly not your `responsibility’ – but we would be surprised if we knew to what extent our words and actions affect the ways those around us see themselves.  When it comes to children, our responsibility increases dramatically.

When thinking about the your effect on those around you, and the extent to which you can exert a positive influence, the first and most important place to start is looking at your own self-esteem. Do you have `a quiet sense of self-respect, a feeling of self-worth’ – are you glad that you are you?

Everything good that you wish for those around you, you deserve for yourself.  Are you giving yourself those things, or do you think that you are not important, or that your needs can wait? How you treat yourself  is a model for how others will treat you.

How you treat yourself will also affect how you do your job,  and take care of those around you. The more you look after yourself, the better and happier you will feel, and the more energy you will have perform those tasks you must perform. It is a little like making sure you keep your car battery topped up. If it is too low and your next door neighbour needs a jump start, you will not be able to help.  Or to put it another way, only if you keep filling up your own cup will there be anything in it for others  to drink.

Some ways to develop your own self esteem

Being nice to yourself

We all need what psychologist Eric Berne called `strokes’.  A stroke is a unit of attention, and it can be negative or positive.  A smile or a loving touch are loving strokes, an angry frown or sharp slap are negative strokes.

The worst thing for all people (and animals) is not to be getting any strokes at all – in other words to be ignored or to feel left out.  Even negative strokes are better than no strokes at all!

Many adults are so busy stroking their children, their partner, the hamster, the house, the boss, that they forget about getting strokes for themselves.  They end up tired and depressed and wonder what on earth is wrong with them. Somewhere along the line they start ignoring themselves and feeling that they are not important, and everybody else follows suit.  No one is an endless reservoir of energy. In order to keep giving out love, care and attention, we all need to get something back for ourselves, and being adults, the responsibility for that lies firmly in our own laps.

There are two main ways to get strokes:

1. Stroking yourself

This means treating yourself with love, care and attention, and is usually to do with very simple things.

  • It means giving yourself something just for you, just because you enjoy it. Also giving yourself time to rest when you know that you are tired.
  • It means caring for your body, wearing things that you like, having space for yourself that is warm and comforting.
  • It means cooking and eating what you like, with time to enjoy it.
  • It means making sure that you have something that you love to do, just for yourself. It may be painting, walking in the country, reading adventure novels, being with a close friend.  The important thing is that it is for you, not for anyone else.

Make a list of the things you really like to do, even things that seem impossible at the moment.  If you have been ignoring yourself for a long time this may prove difficult at first but that is all the more reason to do it. You are in real need of strokes if you have forgotten what it is you like to do.

However much we would like others to take care of us, it is ultimately our own responsibility to see that we get the love, care, attention and fun that we need.

The place to start is by giving to yourself, and thereby signalling to the world that you are an important human being and you deserve nice things!

 

2.  Getting strokes from others

We are hampered in our attempts to get what we want from others by some strong but false messages. These say things like:

  • If you loved me you would know what I want!
  • It isn’t the same if  I have to ask for it!
  • “I want” doesn’t get!

People are not mind readers. If they are not told what it is you like them to give you, they will get it all wrong, apart from a few lucky guesses!

Many people get strokes from others that they either don’t value or don’t like. Again, it is your responsibility to let others know exactly what it is you want them to do or  say.

Doing this can bring up fears of rejection but, if you are asking from the stand-point of being a valuable person who has a right to get his or her needs met, the likelihood of your being rejected is small. Asking in a straightforward way for what you want doesn’t mean that you will always get it but it is honest and clear and encourages others to respond in the same way to you.

Think about the following things:-

  • What forms of attention do you value from others?
  • What would you like them to say to you?
  • How would you like them to comfort you?
  • What things about you would you like them to take notice of?
  • What sort of things do you like to be given as presents?
  • How do you like to be touched and made love to?

Do you get these things?

 

Affirmations – saying nice things to yourself

Have you got a little voice inside your head? One that chatters on endlessly about what you should or shouldn’t do, like some miniature critic who lives somewhere inside your grey matter?  I do – and we have yet to meet anybody that didn’t.

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We could call this voice the tape recorder and affirmations are the tapes to put in it, tapes that say positive things about you.

If you have to have a voice inside your head it might as well be saying nice things to you!

What we say to ourselves is important because both our conscious and unconscious minds listen to what we are saying and act upon it. If you are telling yourself that you are fat, stupid and ugly, unconsciously you will be working away at being just that!

Remember what we said about labels as self fulfilling. You already have all the material you will ever need for your affirmations.  At the moment they are in the form of negative statements that you say to yourself.  All you have to do is reverse their message in a way that is meaningful to you.  You will know if your affirmations are meaningful by your reaction to them.  If they are difficult for you to say, if you get “funny feelings” like tingling, warmth, tears or if you suddenly  “feel better” or lighter, then the affirmation is doing its work. It is changing how you feel  and think about yourself at a very deep level.

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The negative statements in our head are not true but they are very powerful. If we try to fight them or to argue with them we just reinforce them.  Just let them be and build yourself some positive ones. Use them to help yourself instead of pulling yourself down.

If affirmations appeal to you, they work. Try it and see!

If saying affirmations seems strange or odd to you, don’t you also think it is odd to have a voice telling you how awful you are all the time?

The enemy within is probably the biggest any of us will ever have to fight.

Visualisation

The unconscious self not only listens to what you say, it also notices the thoughts and pictures, or images, that you have.

Some of us can see very clear pictures in our mind’s eye and some of us don’t.  This is just the different ways in which brains can work but if you can think about something and somehow “experience it”, in whatever way you do it, then you can do what we call “visualise”.

Think about pink snow ………..

The first kitchen you ever remember seeing …….

A large stone with a bright light in the centre of it………

There you visualised those things in whatever way was right for you!

Trust your own way and don’t worry if it’s not like anyone else’s. It’s yours and it works!

Now we can use the process of visualisation to help us build our self-esteem.

To visualise for this purpose means to close your eyes and imagine yourself or others as you want them to be.

Imagine your family is happy and at peace.  Imagine yourself being as you would like to be.

When Carol gets tired and worried, because her baby always seems to be so upset, she closes her eyes and allows herself to imagine a Carol who is a warm, caring, capable mother, a Carol who knows, deep inside, that she has every right to be the mother of this child, who has every right to be tired and will give herself the rest she needs.

When John worries about his presentation to the managing director, he closes his eyes and  visualises himself as a calm but alert person who can communicate in a clear, concise way, as a man with something important to say, and who deserves to be listened to.

What we think and say to ourselves matters.  Use the skills of affirmations and visualisations to help yourself build a more positive self image. Also teach these ideas to your children. They will take to them very easily because, unlike adults, they tend to believe that what they think can change reality.

The child within us

Even when we are adults, there is a child tucked away inside. Learning to take care of the child within us is of major importance. Some people can do this easily, especially if they had affectionate, caring parents.  Others have to really work at it, especially if they didn’t get enough love, direction and attention for themselves when they were young.

The child in you is often more active when you are feeling hungry, sick, worried, tired, hurt or afraid.  The child in you then feels a need for something – food, sleep, comfort, encouragement, love and so forth.  If these needs are not met, then you feel worse.  Whereas if they are met you usually not only feel better but are able to cope better.

One way to care for your inner child is to care for or nurture yourself.  Treat yourself to your favourite things: a special food, a new book, a walk in the sunshine or the rain, a meal without the children, a visit to your friend. Give yourself the things you really enjoy and deserve because you are a person too.

Another form of nurturing is to give yourself the things that are good for you: fresh air, some form of exercise that feels right for you, proper care and attention when you don’t feel so good.

Nurturing also involves giving yourself comfort: cool, clean sheets, a snuggle in a favourite blanket or arm chair, a hot bath and comfortable clothing, peace and quiet or your favourite music.  It can also include talking to yourself to give yourself comfort, reassurance and encouragement.

Your inner child may like playing and having fun: running on the grass, playing catch, laughing at a silly joke. Recapture your childlike fun, however that expressed itself!  It’s also possible to have fun alone: a walk in the woods, paddling in a stream, feeling the warm sun on your face, drawing, dancing to music.  Children are able to enjoy themselves alone and that ability still lies within us as adults, however deeply buried.  Recognising and fulfilling your inner child’s needs leads you towards becoming a happier, more secure person, and that in turn makes you more able to meet your responsibilities towards others.  Everyone benefits when you are nicer to yourself and more accepting of yourself and your needs.

If you are aware of not doing enough to look after yourself and your inner child, it might be useful to think about what stops you or what is getting in the way? What steps would you have to take to start nurturing yourself more?  You will have opportunities in your “Peace of Mind” group to learn what other people are beginning to do for themselves and how you can too.

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In case you missed this at the top!  The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 2) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com

 

About feelings …

The material in this series of 24 x blogs with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

Feelings 

Feelings can be uncomfortable. This is true of the feelings we have ourselves as well as the ones other people show us.  We often find feelings difficult to cope with because we were not allowed to show them when we were little.  Keeping  feelings locked away is not healthy –  it is much better to be able to show them in ways that don’t hurt others. It is also often valuable to help others express their feelings too – especially those closest to us, like our familes.

Feeling good about ourselves

We can’t help anyone else feel good about themselves if we don’t feel good about ourselves.  We need to like who we are and what we do.

We can help ourselves by making sure that we do things we enjoy and that make us feel good.  Those close  to us can also do nice things for us and help us, but we can’t expect them to mind read, so telling them what we like and want is important.

Another way we can improve the way we think about ourselves is by replacing the voice in our heads that tells us off with a voice that says encouraging things, and by imagining ourselves strong and competent.

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We never grow up 

Part of making sure we feel good about ourselves is looking after the child that is always inside us. However grown up we may be, there is always a young part somewhere inside that needs to be loved and to come out to play again.

Accepting the way others feel

Many people find it hard to cope with feelings – their own as well as those of other people.  Often when we are near someone getting very upset or angry, or perhaps even being very joyful, we feel uncomfortable or awkward. Sometimes another person showing their feelings triggers similar emotions that we usually manage to keep locked away inside ourselves – often feelings that it was not all right to show when we were little. Our discomfort NOW may be related to the discomfort we felt then, when we learned to deny or `put away’ the way we felt.

Keeping our feelings locked away is not only uncomfortable, it is also not very useful.  At best it  makes it more difficult for us to relate to what is going on around us, and at worst, we can be so out of touch with our feelings that we don’t even recognise what is going on inside us.

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It is important to acknowledge the feelings those around us – those they express as well as those they try to hide.  By listening to those around us, and when we  acknowledge their feelings, we send out a message that says `you are important’. We make them feel the way we would like to feel ourselves.

When dealing with children, it is even more vitally important to acknowledge the reality of their feelings, because the way they are treated in the present affects not only how they feel here and now, but also lay down patterns of response for their later adulthood.  If we deny children’s feelings, and criticise them for showing them, not only may it teach them to bury their feelings, it will also affect the way they think about themselves.  If you acknowledge a child’s pains, worries, fears and tempers, you are acknowledging them and their right to feel. If you deny them and their right to feel, you will make it difficult for them to feel good about themselves.

Most children, and many adults find it difficult to express their feelings appropriately.  In these cases we can help them recognise the way they feel by saying it the way it looks to us – for example: “You look upset”, “You seem sad”, “Boy, you sound angry.”

Destructive feelings pose a slightly more difficult problem.  Feelings need to be expressed, and not denied – but sometimes creative solutions are needed, for instance: “You sound really frustrated. It’s okay to show it, and I think it’s unfair to take it out on us. How about going and shouting somewhere else?”

Or:  “I can see that you’re very angry, and I’m sure you must have a good reason to feel that way, but perhaps if you went for a little walk outside you’ll come up with a more constructive way of resolving this issue.”

When we were forced to deny our feelings as children, we never learned positive or alternative ways of coping with them, and this pattern can persist into adulthood. The emotions our parents had difficulty allowing us to express usually become the emotions we struggle to deal with in others. Examples of these situations:

  • A father who is frightened of his own anger may have difficulty dealing with his child’s temper.
  • A mother who was never allowed to run, tumble or climb freely, may have difficulty in accepting her child’s physical energy.

Manipulation of Emotions

The patterns of response we have as adults were probably taught to us by our parents while we were children.  For example,  a dislike  of insects probably came from the reaction of a parent or a significant other in our lives when we were young.

We watched others react in a certain way, and because of our love and respect for that person, we `believed’ their reaction, and adopted it as our own.  Some of these patterns were very subtle, while others may have been quite overt, and in the form of clear messages.

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There are two things to be learned from this.  In the first place, if we have children, or deal with children in any way, we can cultivate an awareness of the way we influence their feelings, and the way they express their feelings.  We can consciously `allow’ them to have their own feelings, and not `give’ them ones they don’t have.

Secondly, by gaining an awareness that our original patterns of response were learned in the first place, we discover that we are able to change the ones we don’t particularly want or like, and we can keep the ones we do like.  We become aware of the powerful fact that we have the freedom to choose, in many cases, how we feel about things.

Accepting your own emotions

As you start to get into the habit of accepting other people’s feelings, it is also important to become more accepting of your own. Just as we suggested  you acknowledge  the feelings of others, you could usefully do the same with your own at times.

Saying “I’m fed up” or “I feel great”, even without any explanation is a good way to let others know what is going on. It will not only get you more in touch with yourself, but send the message that it’s okay to say how you feel, and those around you will begin to feel more comfortable about being honest about the way they feel. 

Labels and expressing feelings

Some people tend to label other people’s behaviour because they don’t find it easy to express their own feelings instead. They might say : “You are rotten” when they really mean “I really feel hurt by what you’ve just done.” So when they try to stop using labels and just describe behaviour they feel frustrated.

When Jim’s secretary didn’t type an important letter he needed desperately, he bravely controlled his exterme irritation and said “You still haven’t typed the letter” instead of shouting and calling her ‘stupid’ as he would have liked to have done.  But he found that he grew even more angry and frustrated.  He hadn’t been able to express or give vent to the way he felt either by labelling the secretary or by saying how he felt …

He would probably have felt better if his response had been:

“That was an extremely important letter, and the delay at getting it in the post may havwe serious consequences for the business.  I feel very frustrated and angry at the moment!”

A sad but very true thing about labels is that they tend to be self-fulfilling.  If you tell someone often enough that they are stupid, they will doubtless become stupid before too long.

The act of labelling does offer some relief to the one doing the labelling.  That is because labels are usually negative, and expressed in anger. Being able to label or name something  can therefore have the effect of relieving some of the stress, anger or tension in the person who feels wronged, but it invariably creates great distress in the other party.

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The most desirable outcome is for the angered or upset party to express how they feel without labelling or causing distress to anyone else.  At first this may seem quite difficult, but the dividends in terms of improved relationships makes the effort at creativity worthwhile.

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There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com

The material in this series of 12 x blogs with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

Please listen to this anti-war protest song from Don McLean

On the centenary of the start of the 1914-18 war please listen to this anti-war protest song from Don McLean
Don McLean
“The Grave”

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colours,
And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone.
He’s gone.

When the wars of our nation did beckon,
A man barely twenty did answer the calling.
Proud of the trust that he placed in our nation,
He’s gone,
But Eternity knows him, and it knows what we’ve done.

And the rain fell like pearls on the leaves of the flowers
Leaving brown, muddy clay where the earth had been dry.
And deep in the trench he waited for hours,
As he held to his rifle and prayed not to die.

But the silence of night was shattered by fire
As guns and grenades blasted sharp through the air.
And one after another his comrades were slaughtered.
In morgue of Marines, alone standing there.

He crouched ever lower, ever lower with fear.
“They can’t let me die! They can’t let me die here!
I’ll cover myself with the mud and the earth.
I’ll cover myself! I know I’m not brave!
The earth! the earth! the earth is my grave.”

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colours,
And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone.
He’s gone.

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com

More on altered awareness …

As pure science gained in power and popularity, so we began to move away from belief in the usefulness, or even the existence of an altered state of mind.  Studies that were conducted were basically flawed from the start, because it is impossible to experience a mind state in the physical sense, and the debate began, attempting to locate the mind in the physical brain.  Ancient practises of meditation were discredited as belonging to heathen religions and research such as there was into the scientific basis for altered awareness hung on the fringes or respectability.

And in spite of huge advances in scientific study, in the minds of many this is still a fairly basic belief.  Let us now, with the aid of some layman’s science, attempt to explain what has been discovered about ‘altered awareness’.

EEG (or electroencephalograph) readings have shown four basic types of brainwave pattern in the human brain.

eeg

These are patterns of electric discharge by the neurones in the brain.  Over many studies they have found that certain waves are most often associated with certain activities.  Alpha and Beta waves occur mainly during waking, and Theta and Delta waves occur during sleep.  Beta waves are the fastest, and show up as short spiky squiggles on the graph.  Delta waves are the slowest, and occur during deep, unconscious sleep, or unconsciousness.  Between these two extremes lie Alpha and Theta waves.  Of the two, Theta waves are slower, and are found during sleep.  Alpha waves occur during the threshold period between ordinary wakefulness and regular sleep.  When practising altered awareness, the EEG measures Alpha waves, and the slower the wave, the deeper the state of mental relaxation – or usually the ‘more pleasant’ the experience of altered awareness is reported to be on a subjective level.

brainwaves

Other changes occur to the physiology when in this state that have been proved to be most beneficial, and of the order of increasing the body’s ability to deal with external stresses.  One of the key elements of altered state awareness, which will be discussed further in a moment, is an alteration in breathing rate.  Now without going into an unnecessary lesson on the biological structure of nerves and the nervous system, it is enough to state that as breathing becomes slower, there is less exchange of gasses in the lungs, and the level of carbon dioxide in the blood stream increases.  Nerve impulses are transmitted along a series of nerve fibres, which are long stringy fibres running through the body, and massed in the brain.  There are little gaps between the fibres, and these gaps are filled with chemical substances called neurotransmitters.  A nerve impulse is a change in the small electrical polarity of the outside of the nerve relative to the inside of the nerve cell.  When a nerve impulse starts – in other words, when this wave of polarity change starts along the length of a nerve – it cannot stop until it reaches the end of the nerve.  This is where the little gaps between the nerve fibres come in.  If there were no gaps, it would be impossible to have relief from pain for example, because the transmission of the pain impulse would race along these nerves and be experienced as pain at the other end.  When the change in polarity reaches the gap between nerves, it has to hop across, literally on the back of the chemical carriers.  If for some reason the body (or the doctor, via the introduction of a chemical) does not want the nerve impulse to be transmitted, it changes the nature of the chemical in the gap.  Some chemicals act as inhibitors of the nerve impulse, while others act as transmitters.

At the risk of simplifying to absurdity what is a vastly complex chemical process, we can say that a change in the gas levels in the blood – in this case increased carbon dioxide – sets up a chain of messages that results in nerve impulses being blocked or retarded…

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com