Engineering The Mind
Working with young people (and their parents) means helping them understand the basics of designing a future self who is calm, confident, enjoying successful relationships, and is thankful for learning some basic secrets of happiness.
This process applies to any age!
“It is impossible to control any goal that requires other people to change.”
Case study: Lonely Lana
Moving schools had been a good decision for 14-year-old Lana but had left her yearning for her old group of pals. But her mind had played tricks on her, recalling the past in a kinder light, yet in truth, she had been quite unhappy with them. The NEW friendship group felt impermeable, and she came to see me asking for help with ‘social exclusion’.
We established that a couple of girls in the group were being really kind and friendly towards her, but this didn’t satisfy Lana and she found herself:
- Dismissive of easily available friendships.
- Keeping her sights fixed on getting attention from the big personalities.
- Negatively mind-reading the new group’s intentions.
- Negatively interpreting the body language of certain group members.
- Feeling awkward and self-conscious
- Fantasising that the old school friendship group was perfect.
We summarised our initial discussion in terms of her:
THOUGHTS – the group was unsure about her and viewed her with suspicion.
FEELINGS – self-conscious, unhappy, and awkward.
BEHAVIOUR – wanting to withdraw from the group.
Delving deeper into her thinking patterns she soon revealed some fundamental beliefs that were triggering her own unhappiness.
Trigger thoughts included:
“Making new friends is hard work and tiring”
“Why don’t they? …. (act the way I want them to act)”
“I have lost my perfect old friends”
These thoughts triggered her ‘feel-bad’ strategy.
She ran this strategy in her mind ‘on-repeat’.
Neural plasticity meant that those self-harming thoughts became automatic – because she had practiced paying attention to them.
Soon into our session, Lana realised that her true (unconscious) friendship goal had been to be the popular one amongst a large group of girls. But she didn’t yet realise that goal was impossible to achieve since it required:
- Exhausting effort to try to change the opinions and behaviours of others.
- The others to prioritise her needs above their natural ordering.
I invited her to understand that it is impossible to control any goal that requires other people to change. Trying to do that had been exhausting and frustrating, wasting energy and leading to disappointment in others and (self) generating feelings of unhappiness.
I wondered if Lana could amend her friendship goal to “I want to feel relaxed and authentic around new people”. That would require her to expect nothing back from them, just to be curious and interested in the evolving relationships.
After all, a goal like this means being in charge of a goal you can actually control!
We worked hypnotically to visualise Lana pitching up at school, looking for fun people to get to know while feeling relaxed, interested, humorous and happy. This imprinted a new neurological template which she could practise (through neural plasticity) until it became her autopilot.
We reframed her thinking so that SHE could reflect on, and positively adjust, her personal thoughts, feelings, and behaviours – it’s an inside job!
I taught her techniques for self-regulating wayward feelings.
We looked through time to visit her future-self. The person who is calm, confident, enjoying a range of successful relationships, and thankful for learning some basic secrets of owning next-generation happiness.
Think this is just about children? Think again!
Do you have your own definition of good mental health? Have you ever thought about this? What are your guiding principles?
According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, good mental health is:
- The ability to learn
- The ability to cope with AND manage change and uncertainty
- The ability to form AND maintain good relationships with others
- The ability to feel, express and manage a range of positive AND negative emotions
In which of these areas do you excel? And which one needs some development? Does this resonate with you?
I’m a big fan of wellbeing personal audits since all of these ‘abilities’ once brought to your conscious awareness, can be trained, and refined. Accountability helps balance the current trend of victimhood.
You probably know how important it is to get clarity about the future you are aiming your brain towards. Aiming your mind and body towards better mental health seems like time well spent, don’t you think?
With that in mind, I’ve adapted the MHF definition into an easy exercise to help you do review your own needs. I suggest you write out your answers as it has a stronger imprint on the sub-conscious mind.
- Is learning new things important for you? Is it easy? What would make it easier?
- How adaptable are you to change and uncertainty? Where in your life, would you like to grow more flexibility and how would the ‘future you’ benefit from doing this?
- Do you easily form new relationships? And how do you nurture longer term relationships? Where could you better connect with others?
- Are you comfortable with your full range of emotions? With which emotions do you need to get more comfortable? Which ones do you want more of and which ones do you need less of?
- Are you being the best you can be so that any time, any place anywhere you shine? Which aspects of your personal growth do you prioritise?
Is your ‘north star’ shining from the constellation called thrive?
“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”
Does that make sense to you?
Where are the ‘problem-repeats’ in your life?
You know it’s often easier to notice those patterns in other people’s lives, but when you cast your your mind back through your timeline, which problems keep repeating?
Did you ever try to change them?
Did you ever find a really good coach to help you harness the superpower of imagineering?
Your future starts in imagination – whether you are imagining what you are going to do later today, tomorrow, or next year – you’re setting your brain’s GPS.
We walked on the moon thanks to someone’s imagination. Yet some people terrorise and limit their future selves with wayward imaginineering! And so it needs to be harnessed and handled with precision. NLP is an amazing tool to help you do this easily.
For now, you could start by imagining what would happen if a mysterious force extinguished ‘problem-repeats’ from your world and breathed new life-energy into your life. What differences shine through? What does not change at all?
Imagination is a super skill, learn to use it with super precision. Isn’t it time to shine?
CLICK HERE to watch John and I discuss many important aspects of communicating to influence with integrity and precision, especially online!
John is President of the Society of NLP.
See more in John’s chapter in this book Inspirations for Thriving Through Chaos
Balance – it’s in our nature.
In 1995 fourteen wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park.
At first deer numbers drastically reduced and then deer behaviour changed as they moved into areas less visible to the wolves.
In the absence of deer foraging, flowers and trees began flourishing, which led to berries, bugs and insects, which in turn attracted more birds. And then beavers returned, building dams that provided habitat for otters, muskrats, and reptiles. Coyote numbers reduced causing proliferation of rabbit and mice, which in turn attracted hawks, red foxes, badgers, and weasels.
And once a ‘balance’ between predator and prey was established, the park’s physical geography had changed as (previously eroded) riverbanks were now stabilised by the new vegetation.
What’s this got to do with NLP?
Have you ever noticed how the mind’s internal environment can house both predator AND prey? And although people come to us seeking ‘balance’ between work, home, and play, learning to ‘balance’ their internal habitat, always positively affects management of the outside world.
What are the mechanisms for restoring the mind’s habitat to flourishing vitality? Solutions start with awareness of possibility and an attitude of willingness to seek ‘balance’.
To do this we must think on purpose! Because thoughts alone either deplete or nourish brain-body chemistry, which in turn can cause erosion OR restoration of sustainable balances within.
Keep feeding thoughts that nurture thriving, that’s all. This alone will starve what no longer needs to exist in that place.
NLP is a system for sustainable inner balance! Do more of it! And if you can’t easily do it for yourself – do it so that others in your social system may thrive. Humanity is in great need of ‘balance’. And nature teaches us all we need to know.
Discover how we can help you balance your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and change your internal geography: HERE