Getting 'stuff' in perspective!
Most of us will have re-played a conversation, argument or niggling situation over and over in our minds to try to make sense of it, to separate right from wrong or to sort out who was to blame! Or it may be a situation where you wish you had responded differently. Whichever, it's an emotional and uncomfortable cycle to be stuck in.
I have good news: there's no need to be stuck in that cycle!
Here are some NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) exercises to try at home:
***The first two involve revisiting the memory and getting right inside it again. If the memory is severely distressing it may be better to have professional supervision. You are the best judge of that.***
Take yourself back into the memory as if you are there again (this is called associating with the memory). Once you are back inside the memory, freeze-frame it and then step out of it - perhaps through a doorway - (dissociating) and look at the situation from your safe spot.
If emotions are still jangling, take another step away and turn the image black and white. Watch yourself watching yourself. Take another, and another (and another...) step if necessary. Each time you get further from the action, you should feel more distanced and more calm. I had to step back three or four times the first time I tried it. If you find the ‘watching yourself watching yourself’ scenario difficult to get your head around, imagine you’re a fly on the wall or a bird overhead. What this exercise will give you is distance from the memory and an opportunity to look objectively at whatever happened. Look at the body language and see if there's anything to learn or discover. Shower compassion where it's needed. See how that feels.
Wishing you had done or said something different?
Well, we’ve all done that! It would be wonderful if we could rewind a situation and play it again the way we prefer. Now, that’s not such a crazy idea…
I discovered the power of this next exercise when I was gnashing my teeth over my reaction to a situation in which I had been ‘caught on the hop’ and didn’t feel I had shown my very best side. Luckily, I was in the middle of my NLP course and it just happened that we were learning the very thing to help!
Take yourself back into the memory and change your reaction or whatever it is that is niggling at you. Visualise things happening the way you feel they should have done - change what you said or did - and allow yourself to feel the positive feelings that brings. Smile and feel happy within the memory. Step back out of the memory.
I admit to having felt slightly sceptical about that one, but it worked! I stopped agonising over it and the ‘new memory’ replaced, or at least softened, the memory I had been feeling slightly ashamed of. Niggle gone. Gnashing over. Trip to dentist averted!
You might think this sounds like enabling someone to lie to themself. The point is, that if you already feel bad, you've learned your lesson from what happened - there's no reason to suffer long-term. The learning from this exercise is to resolve to react differently should a similar situation arise in the future and to be able to leave the niggling memory in the past, where it belongs.
What else can I do to gain perspective?
Another way to gain perspective is to give a situation that’s bothering you a score on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being 'not important in 'the great scheme of things'.
Ask yourself how much this situation affects your life.
Does it truly matter?
Still high up on the scale? Add in some thinking such as:
"Is this really worth the time and energy I am giving it?"
"What about this situation is bugging me so much?"
"What positive steps can I take to lay this niggle to rest?"
Ask yourself what you would advise a good friend to do in your situation.
If it's a relationship issue of some sort, pretend whoever you're having the issue with is there in the room with you and speak your truth to them, calmly and clearly - in your head or aloud. Let them answer you. See how that feels. (There is a fabulous, very effective exercise called The Meta Mirror that does this in detail.)
Whichever method suits you best, give it a go – or ask for some help. It's got to better than festering!
Thanks so much for reading. I hope it's been useful.