The Art of Letting Go: Negative Self-Talk

Cartoon about confidencePeople think in words. Every thought, feeling and idea we have, we give it a name. Naming (or labeling) is a very easy way to experience the world. Think of the color pallet. If you work with computers, you know that when choosing a color, it is not good enough to say “red”, because there are many shades of red, but in our life as humans and not computers, whenever we talk about scarlet, burgundy, ruby, magenta, maroon, coral or rose, we simply say “red”. Life is so much easier that way.

Words can be empowering or limiting. They can be our protectors, our guardian angels, or our demons, our tormentors. People who value words very much and find their power may wonder, “How can words be limiting?”

I think they are limiting for two reasons: they cannot describe the whole range of human experiences they make it difficult to recognize change.

When making a choice about letting go of some of our habits, letting go of the power we give words is highly important and can provide a lot of comfort and peace of mind. Think about it this way: using words to describe an experience is like trying to fit a giant into a space large enough for a grain of sand.

One of the ways in which words can limit us is negative self-talk.

Read more about how to let go of negative self-talk

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The Art of Letting Go: Painful Past

Fairy taleFrom the moment we are born, time is a great challenge for us. We learn to read the clock around the age of 6 or 7 and we build our life around the time, but we never have a good understanding of time. Although we all have the same amount of time, we treat it differently.

The movie In Time is a wonderful masterpiece about our relationship with time. The movie Tuck Everlasting is another wonderful attempt, examining life without the limitation of time. The concept of time is so interesting for me that I have dedicated a whole book to our existence in this puzzle of past, present and future. In this book, I do not claim to understand time, just to explore it. I think that time can be a servant or a master and that we can be trapped in time or freed by it.

One of the biggest miseries of life is to be trapped in a time we no longer have control over – the past. Many of my clients come to coaching to understand this and to free themselves from the pain of the past. If you have had a chance to read the previous chapter about blame and justification, you probably understand the limitations of living in the past and allowing the past to limit. Whenever we have a bad experience and we use the past to justify it, we keep ourselves stuck.

Read more about how to leave the past behind

The Art of Letting Go: Trapped by Labels

Human stereotype wordsCreating labels is another function we use in order to help us survive this world. Humans use labeling to manage the complexity of our environment.

Think about schooling. We send all the kids within a date range to 1st Grade when the difference in age between them is much higher than that between the youngest child in 2nd Grade and the oldest child in 1st Grade (could be just one or two days). We have built a whole education system on that huge range of 365 days, in which kids were born at different times of the day, have different family structures, live with a different number of other people in the same house, come from different socio-economic backgrounds and have different interests. Still, we categorize them all as 1st Graders.

Labeling is part of our day-to-day life. We do it for our own sake and not necessarily for the sake of those we label.

If you take 1,000 random people and put them next to each other, you will not find two that have the exact same skin color or the exact same hobbies. Yet, we often label people by skin color or say they all love drawing, although their skin is different in shade and texture and some love drawing animals, some prefer to draw plants and each person uses a different technique.

In 1930, Linguist Benjamin Whorf came up with the “linguistic relativity hypothesis”. According to him, the words we use not only describe what we see, but actually determine what we see.

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The Art of Letting Go: Fear

Girl hiding behind balloonIn the next chapters of The Art of Letting Go, I will present a list of attachments. Letting them go is guaranteed to make your life easier and happier. Each example will include some activities and I promise that paying attention and doing the exercises will produce results. Also, I will add some inspirational quotes about each kind of attachment. You can use these quotes to remind yourself it is best to get these attachments out of your system, because they only bring disappointment, sadness and grief. So acknowledge them and let them go!

Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out
– Karl Augustus Menninger

Fear is a belief that something will turn out badly in the future. When people are afraid, they go in their mind to the future and imagine a negative outcome. Many people are attached to their beliefs because they think that being afraid of something will reduce the chances of it happening or even guarantee it will not happen. In a sense, they are trying to control the future. In fact, nobody can do that. We were not born fortunetellers and maybe for a reason. There is no need to try and do it in our mind, so just let go of the desire to do it.

Being afraid is only natural. We have instincts that trigger fear to protect us from danger. Unfortunately, while those instincts were meant to protect us from threats to our survival, many of us today consider discomfort and stress as dangerous enough to trigger a “fight or flight” response. When we are afraid, we react as if we are in danger and our reaction is not proportional. After all, we will not die if things do not turn out the way we want them to or when someone is not happy with what we are doing.

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From the Life Coaching Deck: Troublemaker

Girl with labels projected onto herIan’s parents came for coaching about 5 years ago. Ian’s mom, Lou, booked the sessions as a last resort before she divorced his dad. About two months ago, she sent me an email and said, “Hi Ronit, Dave and I renewed our vows last year on an overseas trip. I want you to see Ian. He’s in trouble at school”.

Kids’ coaching is not something that most parents understand, but Lou and Dave, after making a huge change in their own life through coaching, did not need to ask what it was. When I called Lou and asked what she needed and why she wanted Ian to come and see me, she said, “Ronit, I’m not sure how you do what you do, but I need you to do it for Ian. He’s a great kid, but he’s in trouble at school and it’s affecting his self-esteem. It breaks my heart to see him like that. I’ve tried different things, but he is still in trouble. I’m sure if he spends some time with you, he’ll gain some confidence, just like we did”.

Ian was one of the most beautiful 11-year-old boys I had ever seen. In his first session, I went over some assessments to figure out what was making him get in trouble at school. Although he could read high-level books, thought math was easy and schoolwork was not a challenge at all, his grade average was “B”. Not that I think everyone needs to get an “A”, but all my assessments showed he was an “A” student, maybe even one of those smart kids that find school so boring they stir up some trouble to get some attention and make things a bit more interesting.

Read more about why kids get in trouble at school

What Does the Future Hold for Our Kids?

Hey Matthew song posterIf I gave every parent a peek into the future, most parents would want to know what would become of their children. We dedicate a lot of time, effort and love to get them to a good place and even a glimpse 10 minutes into the future could really help us direct our actions.

Eden had to raise a virtual child in a computer program for a course in psychology. I thought it was great fun. The rumors were that some of the virtual kids in the program had died or had gotten into lots of trouble before they had reached the age of 18, which was the end of the “parenting game”. Eden’s daughter was gorgeous, happy and successful.

I told Eden that her real daughter would be even better, because the choices the program allowed her to choose from were limited to 4 options, when in reality, you typically have many more options.

As Eden “played” the game, I started thinking it was a good learning tool for parents – not 100% realistic and I would not let any computer program or statistical research help me raise my child – but I really thought it was interesting to know how different parenting styles result in different behaviors in children. In a way, I thought the game was the closest thing to predicting your child’s future.

Read more about how to help your kids have a bright future

How to Keep an Open Mind

The wheel of lifeAs soon as you start any personal development, you bump into the term “beliefs”. These are thought patterns that are set in our mind, mental shortcuts we use to make decisions quickly. The catch is that by not questioning our beliefs, we no longer have an open mind about everything and sometimes, keeping an open mind is just what we need.

Imagine you are learning to drive. Every little task requires mental effort and after driving around for half an hour, you get out of the car feeling exhausted. Over time and with practice, however, you get the hang of it and then you just go where you want to go.

Now, imagine you have been driving on the right side of the road for 10 or 15 years and you move to a country where driving is done on the left side of the road. Continuing to believe in your training and to assume that everyone drives on the right side of the road can be fatal.

Life is the same. As babies, we have to figure everything out, often with enormous effort, until we know it and start doing it as a matter of course. When we grown up, the circumstances change – we go to school, we grow in size, we move to another environment, we become adults, we have children, we grow old. Holding on to beliefs from our first years of life may not be fatal, but it can seriously complicate our life.

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Misdiagnosing Learning Difficulties in the Early Years

Book: Frames of Mind - Howard GardnerTeachers and educators (myself included) believe in the power of our vision to make a difference in the lives of students. We think that if we start early, we will guarantee their success in the future. The risky part in education is reducing our evaluation methods to using statistics and making false assumptions about what is normal and what is not.

The official introduction of those assumptions occurred in 1904, when the psychologist Alfred Binet was asked by the French government to develop a test that would identify students with learning difficulties that required special help at school. The original request meant to cater better for students who needed help, but it gave birth to the test that later distorted education systems everywhere – the IQ Test.

The Education System Sees the Future

Based on the IQ test, students were positioned in a single, permanent place on the famous “bell curve” and that determined their potential for life. Shortly after its creation, the IQ test turned into the “crystal ball” of the education system. Children took the test and their future was decided. The IQ test took over the education system. Instead of being a helping teachers teach and helping students learn, it turned into an evaluation system that focused on formal scores and taught kids to pass tests.

Read more about diagnosing learning difficulties incorrectly in kindergarten

Anorexia: Love Your Body

Model smiling with diet symbolsWomen with Anorexia have issues with their body image and a feeling of helplessness and inability to control their life. The combination of these challenges makes them seek control in any way and not eating seems to them a great way to gain control.

Society around us obviously contributes a lot to the negative body image and self image girls have during childhood, through their teenage years and later on into adulthood. The image of an anorexic teen girl can be misleading. There are also many women are anorexic who need help.

One way of healing is learning to love your body.

Loving your body is giving yourself the permission to feel good physically and it must be done slowly, with love and with patience. If you are a parent or someone who wants to help an anorexic person, just saying, “You need to love your body”, will not make the required difference.

The best idea is to help the anorexic person search for good things – positive thoughts, encouragements, small bits of progress and every little achievement – to help change their perception of their life’s reality.

Read more about loving your body and curing anorexia

Accepting vs. Expecting Bad Luck

clip_image004_thumb[3]It has been a little while since I last wrote a post (OK, a long while). Sorry for the extended hiatus. I was recently accepted into an honors degree in Psychology and in order to graduate before I am old and grey, I took on some extra subjects. A lot of study and not a lot of sleep going on, but in any case, I have been bursting with ideas for posts. I thought I would put in a quick one for your reading pleasure. The topic: accepting vs. expecting bad luck.

A friend of mine, Ashleigh, has been having a bit of a hard time. Things have been going a little pear shaped and getting a bit too much for her. Unfortunately for my friend, this is somewhat of a recurring theme in her life. In any case, we chatted one night about life, love and the universe, and Ashleigh decided to justify her predicament by saying that bad periods in life should be expected. Things HAVE to go wrong at some point and we should not be surprised when they do.

Well, I do not know about that. I would be the first person to concede that life is a rollercoaster (especially my life!). It has its ups and downs, and you cannot truly appreciate the good things if nothing bad ever happens. But there is a huge difference between accepting bad things and expecting them.

Read more about how to have more good luck