Never Mind Why

image_thumbOften, particularly when things do not go our way, we ask, “Why?” Why did something happen to us, why did someone say something hurtful to us, why a friend was late, why our boss looks so upset and why life is not fair?

If you stop for a second, close your eyes and say to yourself, “Why? Why? Why?” you will quickly feel the misery creeping up on you and your energy sinking. Asking why brings you down. It is because this question is about the past, about something you did not understand and in most cases, you can never truly understand anyway.

The thing is you do not have to understand everything in order to live a productive and happy life. What you really have to do is decide what to do about it. So a better question is, “Now what?”

Sigmund Freud was one of the most important figures in the field of psychology and the creator of Psychoanalysis. For many years, all around the world, psychologists and psychiatrists spent their time trying to discover why their patients thought and behaved the way they did. Treatments were very long, which made them expensive and thus not available to everyone. They were often very painful emotionally, which made people stop them after a while.

Then Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) came along and provided quick ways to recover from issues, boost confidence and otherwise improve people’s emotional state without long and painful treatments. NLP does not dwell on the reasons. Instead, it quickly identifies where the person is, where they want to be, and then “reprograms” their thought patters to achieve that.

Read more about why you should stop asking “Why?”

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My School Horror: Untouchable

Girl looking sadSchool was not one of the best periods in my life. I have become a teacher in hope of making a different in the lives of the many children like I was who are not very good in their studies, have few or no friends and struggle.

It is hard for people to imagine this, but for some kids, school is a big struggle for survival. This struggle is carried with them for years to come, even when those kids become parents themselves. When I talk to my clients about the negative beliefs they have about themselves, I discover that many of them were formed in school, when other kids said nasty things that they had no way of overcoming. I understand this very well, because I was the same. It took me a long time get over it and what really helped me was moving from primary school to middle school.

In 1st Grade, I was not a very popular girl. If there was a hierarchy in class, I was at the bottom of it, with 2 other kids that had their own problems. I loved going to school, because my teacher was the angel for me. She was soft and understanding and always treated me nicely, but the other kids never wanted to play with me.

When I did not come to school, it was very hard for my teacher to get one of the kids to come over and give me the homework (although some kids lived in my neighborhood). In the morning, when we had to stand in pairs in front of the classroom door, I was always left at the end and the child that had to give me his hand did this it in disgust. Although my teacher was very kind to me, I was always alone. Every year, until the end of primary school, when the end of year came and my class gave a performance, I stood at the back, holding a sign or something, by myself.

Was I maybe just not a friendly girl?

Read more about my school horror

My School Horror: Lazy Kids

Asa Butterfield - HugoA few weeks ago, I starting writing about horror stories that happen at school when teachers are not aware of how their actions affect the children and when they do not know what is happening in kids’ lives outside of school. The teacher in today’s story is kind, loves her students and does an amazingly great job under tough circumstances, but despite her best intentions, something went horribly wrong.

While my previous post was about events that happened 38 years ago (you can calculate my age now), this event took place just recently at a school nearby.

Sharon was a 6th Grade teacher and tried very hard to make Josh participate in class activities. Josh was just a lazy kid. He did not do his homework, he was rude and violent towards other kids and was a typical troublemaker. Every day he was absent from school was a great day. She tried giving him tasks, helped him and did all the regular behavior management things to get him interested and engaged, but nothing worked. When she thought she had exhausted all her options, she decided to call his home and tell Josh’s parents about his behavior. His parents said, “Thank you for letting us know. We’ll talk to Josh and make sure he never causes any more trouble at school”.

The following day, Josh came to class and was very quiet. It was a summer day, but he was wearing a long-sleeved jumper. Sharon felt something was wrong with that and asked him to stay with her after class. She asked him about the jumper. At first, he said he was a bit cold in the morning, but eventually, she asked him to take off his shirt, just for a second.

Read more about how to help kids learn better

Anorexia: How to stop worrying

Horribly skinny boyAnorexia is a very debilitating disease. While it looks like there is a physical problem, the real problem is the one we cannot see with our eyes but the one we can see with our heart. As hard as it is to accept, choosing not to eat is a way to deal with difficult emotions.

Most eating disorders are the same. Eating (too much) or not eating (at all) is the solution to worry, to fear, to shame, to confusion, to failure and to guilt, and gradually, the simplest strategy seems to be to shut down the desire for food.

I do not know if you have ever fasted for fun, for health or for weight loss. There is a point when you no longer feel hungry at all. I think it is important for people to feel this point to understand that we can eat or not eat at will. To survive, we really do not need much food, so someone who chooses not to eat, really does not feel hungry, but still has those emotions that he or she tries to keep away. If you want to help a person who has anorexia, remember that focusing on the food is (again) working on the symptom and not the problem.

The best solution to anorexia is increasing the emotional intelligence. The first step is to recognize the feelings and the second step is to manage the feelings.

Today, I will focus on tips to mange worrying.

Worry is a feeling of fear from a possible bad future. People go to the future inside their head and imagine something bad, then come back to the present carrying the fear of this possibility. If it seems to you not to be real, it is because it is not. We all do this in some form, but some people have a problem distinguishing between their imaginary future and the present and those people do not just worry. They have what we call an anxiety attack.

Here are 10 tips to address worry or, in its severe form, anxiety, that may be a trigger to choosing not to eat. These are good for anyone, whether they have anorexia or not, and can help you help another person too.

Read more about how to stop worrying and recover from anorexia

School Horrors: My Torn Notebook

Scared little girlThis week, I had the opportunity to discuss school horrors with 3 of my clients. One of them was a 45-year-old man who could not handle school because he had to “toughen up” at the age of 4 when his father left home. Another one was a 13-year-old girl who was about to start 8th Grade with a 3rd Grade reading abilities and was convinced she was stupid. The third one was a 48-year-old woman who was told all her life she was stupid, never succeeded in her schooling and thought it was an obstacle to finding a job. All three of them described school as a period of horror when they were scared to be there and when teaching was about pumping information without considering their life’s circumstances – teaching out of context.

During coaching, I usually share some of my personal experience with my clients, so it was very natural for me to share one of my horror stories from school. Unfortunately, I have had too many. When I tell them, I re-live them in my mind and have clear memories of them. I remember the names, the places, the settings and the feelings I have had. I shared these stories because I wanted my clients to consider that in spite the horrors of our childhood, we can all make it. In spite of our parents not protecting us, we can make it. In spite of our teachers not teaching us with the right context in mind, we can be very successful. And happy.

All of them just looked at me quietly for a while. One of them started crying (and it was not the 13-year-old). Another one said, “Ronit, you are making this up”. The third one said, “It’s impossible! You look like you’ve been successful all your life”. Then, all of them left their sessions believing they can make it too.

Gal said I should write it down so more people will be inspired, more parents will be involved in their kids’ schooling and more teachers will teach within their students’ context, so here I am sharing with you my first horror story from school.

Read more about school horror stories

I See You

Piano player on dark stagePressure is an isolating feeling. People under pressure see themselves as if they were under attach and their top priority is to survive, if only emotionally. So they focus on their own feelings, regard most interactions with suspicion and withdraw into a “safe space” as much as they can.

The problem with pressure is that it also damages our ability to reason and function severely. It interferes with remembering things, with being creating and with our perception of what goes on around us. We see the world through narrow slits in a thick armor, we see everything tinted bright red, we hear everything pitchy and sharp and very little makes sense.

Intense pressure can even make us feel like there is no hope and nobody to help us. It is as if we are invisible.

A long time ago, I saw a movie, I think it was Ordinary People, where a mother walked over to her teenage son, touched him gently and said, “I see you”. That line stuck with me and I have used the idea in it many times with the people I love.

I think the “I see you” method works well because the other person is using an invisible shield that is very effective at blocking direct methods, like advice, jokes and uninvited help. It works especially well with teenagers, who see many things as threats to their identity and independence.

Read more about how to support your kids

State of the Union

clip_image003_thumbAs a parent, a life coach, a business consultant and a former corporate employee and manager, I have become increasingly concerned about morals. Until recently, I read or heard about people doing things that seem obviously wrong to do, and wondered how they could bring themselves to do them.

Now, I believe I know some of the reasons. Better yet, perhaps these reasons can lead us all towards a solution.

Almost invariably, you turn on the news or read the papers and find out about somebody who was caught scheming, embezzling or downright cheating. These people seem to have no regard for other people’s wellbeing, possessions or money. Sometimes, people are killed over what seems like a minor conflict, because the killer values something else – their wallet, their leather jacket or their girlfriend – over their life.

In response to Ronit’s posts on bullying, many readers have shared stories of workplace bullies who abuse their position, physical size or some weakness of their co-workers in ways that hurt them and ruins morale and productivity. Do these people follow a different value system to the rest of us? Given the rise of bullying, probably not.

So what is going on in the world? Has everybody gone mad? Is there nobody who still does the right things?

In his great book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely presents a conflict between two modes of living: the “social norm” and the “market norm”.

Read more about how to make the world a better place

How to Manage Difficult People: A Holistic Approach

Man crouching and holding his headWe all have “need tanks” and they are full or empty due to the circumstances in our life. We can direct some of the events that influence us, but we cannot direct all of them. We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can control what we do about it and learn to keep our balance.

If you lose your job, your certainty tank is emptied all of a sudden. If you divorce, your love and connection tank goes down so quickly your life will be hard for a while. If you have a new job and you need to work exactly at the same times of the day and you need to accumulate lots of working days until you can have a holiday, then your variety level is at risk. If you have just joined a sewing club, where everyone there is so advanced you need to catch up, then your significance may suffer.

Personal development is a very good way to learn to fill our tanks. We learn to balance ourselves by discovering who we are, how we think, how we function and what makes us happy and successful. It is very important to know that the balance is different from one person to another. What one sees balance might feel out of balance for another. When we consider needs, they also contradict each other sometimes.

Conflicting needs

Our four needs are in constant conflict with each other and require each person to balance them based on his or her definition of balance.

Read more about how to help a difficult person

How to Manage Difficult People Using "Why?" and "What?"

clip_image008_thumbDifficult behavior is always a sign that there is an unfulfilled need. Most of the time, everybody focuses on the desires the difficult people express and not on their needs, while the difficult people are so stuck on what they want that they are not at all in a position to fulfill their own needs.

That can be changed by you helping them find what they need and by helping them get it.

The following technique was developed by observing 2- and 3-year-old kids. At the age of 2, they start with the question phase. Here is a typical discussion I have had with my own children and many kids I have worked with.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a card game?”

“What’s a card game?”

“It’s a pack of cards with things printed on them that we use to play a matching game”.

“What’s a matching game?”

“It’s a game where you have two cards that look exactly the same and you have to find them out of all the cards”.

“Why do we have to play a matching game?”

“It’s good for our brain. We learn to recognize things that are the same and others that are different”.

“Why is it good for our brain?”

And this conversation can go on forever if I could manage answering questions forever. The trick is always to answer calmly. It is a game, a very healthy game, and children learn a lot from it. You could say that this type of questioning is difficult behavior, but I think it is your reaction that makes it a learning experience or a difficult behavior. If you answer calmly, it is a learning experience. If you answer with anger, it becomes a difficult behavior.

Read more about how to manage difficult behavior

How to Manage Difficult People: Helping a Difficult Person

Alphabet of emotionsAs you have seen in the previous post, every difficult behavior can be mapped to an unfulfilled need that the “difficult person” cannot find other ways to fulfill. Each need is a strong belief that they must have something, they cannot live without it and they can only get it by “being difficult”.

Now that you understand the missing feeling that difficult people are searching for, you are probably asking yourself, “What do I do to give it to them?”

One of the biggest challenges of helping and supporting difficult people is the fear that giving them what they want will make them think their obnoxious behavior is a good strategy of getting what they want and it will only make things worse. I have heard this claim millions of times when working with children – “If a child is behaving in a bad way and you give him what he wants, he learns that this is a legitimate way to get what he wants”.

Well, that is not the case.

Focus on needs, not desires

There is a big difference between giving children what they say they want and giving them what they need. Much like difficult people, children do not know that they behave the way the do to fulfill a need. If they knew, they would give themselves that thing without the difficult behavior.

If you focus on giving them what they need, then after a while, when the need is fulfilled, they will calm down and ease their demands. I am not saying, “Give them what they want”, I am saying, “Give them what they really need”. Give them what they are missing, because they do not know how to give it to themselves and may not even know what it is.

Read more about how to help difficult people