By December 13, 2011 72 Comments Read More →

Don’t Think About The Tigers!

I am always fascinated by the way we use our thoughts and our language — both are extremely powerful tools, both have equally as much power to help us as to hinder us, depending on the way we use them. In the vast majority of cases, people have little idea of just how much control they actually do have over their experiences — and even less understanding about how to do something to positively influence how they’re feeling. And you know the strangest thing? Most people are so acutely aware of what they don’t want that they’ve forgotten what it is they do want — which is why so many remain stuck.

Not so long ago I was working with a lady who’d had some pretty rough experiences. She’d already told me that she felt unloved, unsupported and useless. The interesting thing about the session is what happened when I asked her to imagine her ideal life, when she could be do and have the things she said she wanted. She started off well, listing things like a loving relationship and a happy home, but in order to describe it better she explained the things she didn’t want:

“I really don’t want to stay in this job — it makes me feel as if I don’t matter” ”¦hmmm”¦ “I don’t like my house either, it’s too small, too untidy and I feel uncomfortable there” ”¦.okay”¦. “My family is certainly not the way I’d like them to be! They judge me all the time, they make me feel useless — sometimes I wonder if they even notice me at all!”

And of course she went straight back in to describing in great detail how rotten she felt and how terrible her life was — even though she’d already told me earlier about the things that were wrong! Whenever this happens my inner smile grows wider, because I know beyond question that my coaching session is going to be a success. I know that I’m going to be able to help the person I’m with, and that in turn makes me happy.

So ok, you may be thinking, what’s that all about then? And what’s my point?

Internal Google

My point is this. The human brain works somewhat like a computer search engine. It is, if you like, our internal Google, and is extremely obedient to every instruction we give it. Our brain cannot differentiate between positive or negative. Good or bad. Do or do not. It just does. It has to find a reference in order to make sense of any situation or instruction it’s given, and our thoughts become our experiences. So explaining the things we don’t want or telling someone not to do something, has exactly the opposite effect.

For example, have you ever witnessed this kind of interaction between a mother and child? The child is carefully walking across the room balancing a cup of juice. The mother, aware of the dangers, says “Don’t drop that!”  The child looks up, loses concentration and”¦ drops it.

As another example, how about I give you this direct instruction: Don’t think about the tigers. Do NOT think about the tigers. OK? Absolutely under no circumstance are you to think about the tigers — particularly not the pink tigers wearing bowler hats and wellington boots!

Now — what have you got in your head? I’ll bet you’ve got tigers of some sort. Some of you may even have pictures of pink tigers in hats and boots. And yet… what was my original instruction? It was to NOT think about tigers — but you did! You thought about exactly the things I asked you not to think about – because your own internal Google had to find a reference in order to make sense of what I was saying.

It’s like the mother and child scenario — by telling the child not to drop the drink, guess what? The drink is dropped — because that’s what the child’s internal Google search engine found in response to the mother’s instructions.

You Can Choose

None of this is rocket science — some of the best things in life are usually incredibly simple. The thing is, though, I’ve discovered that very few people actually grasp the fact that although they may be striving towards something positive, because they’re so clear about what they don’t like about their life, they’re unconsciously keeping themselves stuck in the very place they say they don’t like!

When I first learned about this idea many years ago, I was surprised about how tricky it was for me to actually list the things I’d like to have in my life without slipping in to the trap of describing the things I didn’t like. This was the kind of dialogue that went on in my head:

“I’d like a home in the country, where my son is away from the London fumes because it makes him sick”

Can you see what I was doing? I was instructing my thoughts to bring up the images of my son being sick — and thereby messing with my dream to live in the countryside. Doh! So I’d change it:

“I’d like a home in the country where my son is healthy and happy” — and once I was clear on that, I’d make it even stronger by turning it into an affirmation:

“My son and I are living in a beautiful home in the country, and we are healthy and happy”

For a long time I would have internal tussles as I gradually learned to train my thoughts to concentrate on the things I chose to bring in to my life. And guess what happened? As my thoughts became clearer, and my internal Google kept searching out the good stuff — I automatically felt happier. Yes, even before I achieved the things that at that time were just a dream. And because I felt happier, I was more open to positive opportunities and more able to take action as a result. Incidentally, we moved to a beautiful home in the country less than six months after I started monitoring my thoughts.

You’ve heard the phrase “be careful what you wish for””¦? Well, so far as I’m concerned, every thought we have, every word we utter, is a wish — and a confirmation that this is indeed the wish we have chosen. So that’s why I so consciously do my best to choose exactly what I say and what I think.

Because I am certain that our thoughts really do influence our reality — and no matter what has happened, or who is trying to control us, nothing and nobody can ever control our thoughts. For me, it was the conscious freedom of my thoughts that helped me to heal my pain, and it’s that same conscious thinking that now continue to help me create the life of my dreams.

Hey, I don’t get it right all the time — far from it. And I also have my gloomy times as you already know. The thing is, though, by remembering about the tigers, I can pull myself back on track and get my thoughts and feelings back in gear. And you know what? It works.

As for that lady I talked about at the beginning of this article? Well, once I’d explained about the tigers and we’d done a couple of exercises together, she was totally able to imagine the life of her dreams in absolute detail. As she described it to me, her face lit up and her entire body lifted. She left the session looking younger and taller – and since then she’s reported back about some amazingly positive shifts she’s already experienced.

So my Lovefraud friends, until next week, just remember”¦ don’t think about the good stuff”¦ do NOT think about the good stuff! Certainly don’t even consider all the wonderful things that are coming to you right now”¦

You see? It does work doesn’t it?


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72 Comments on "Don’t Think About The Tigers!"

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Thank you. I’ve been trying to think of what else to say, but can’t quite get the words together. Just thank you. I wish a peaceful holiday season for you as well.

The fact that we are made to be part of some type of social community might be what I’m getting at. If we don’t have any validation outside of ourselves, then we are sorely lacking a major fundamental human need. This can not be replaced by good thoughts, prayers, plans, faith or actions if we are alone.

Quite a few of us have been isolated from our previous community either through direct actions by the abuser and/or betrayal and abandonment by the rest of our previous friends/family, which shows the need to build a new one. By virtue of what some of us have been through, we’ve also been broken apart to a level that makes it very difficult/impossible to connect to others that have not been through this. And that is even after getting over the hurdle to try to reach out and sort-of trust again.

Just to contradict myself a bit, I am feeling a bit better tonight. I’ve spent some time tonight with (hopefully) a ‘new’ friend (it’s been over 3 months of regular meetings including her) talking about some of the stuff. Even though she doesn’t have kids, she’s shown quite a bit of empathy and has helped me out through listening to me. She’s also been through some similar things, she’s just better than me at hiding it. I have a bit of hope now.

Although it does not negate the pain of being without my kids during this time, maybe it buffers the pain for a little bit. I’m busy with traveling to see my grandmother tomorrow (pray that she doesn’t start accusing me of stuff or rejecting me again, she’s a bit delusional, elderly and sick) – maybe that will help keep my mind off my pain for a while as well – at least until I call my children.

Dare I hope again?

Dare to hope that pain will be gone. I exist now without feelings. Calm and quiet. Confident. I know – there is nothing wrong with me, my feelings or my actions. The feeling of shame, guilt and inadequacy is gone. The feeling of defected self, the shame of not trying hard enough, like Mr Frankl. I did all I can do. The rest does not depend on me. I believe in miracles – because I am the one.

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