Getting 'stuff' in perspective - a tool for life!
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, however – there is no need to be stuck in that cycle!
Since training as a life coach, I have learned how to make peace with memories and lay them to rest using neuro-linguistic programming - which is not as complicated as it sounds!
One method I have used on myself involves taking yourself back into the memory as if you are there again (this is called associating with the memory), freeze-framing it and then stepping out of it - as if through a doorway - (which is called dissociating) and looking at the situation as though you're just someone looking on.
By stepping out of the memory you will be able to see it more clearly and with less emotion - but if emotions are still raging, take another step back and observe yourself watching yourself. Take another, and another (and another...) step back if necessary. Each time you get further from the action, you should feel more distanced and calmer about it. I had to step back three or four times the first time I tried it. I ended up feeling compassion for myself as it was clear to me, having distanced myself from the emotions attached to the memory, that I hadn’t done anything wrong. If you find the ‘watching yourself watching yourself’ scenario difficult to get your head around, imagine you’re an onlooker instead.
That's just one way - and of course, if you try this and find it difficult (or if you are thinking "Huh?"), a life coach or NLP practitioner can take you through a process like this (there are various other ways to gain perspective) with great results.
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 studies and it just happened that we were learning the very thing to help!
Having taken myself back into the memory, I changed my reaction. I visualised myself responding in the way I would have liked and allowed myself to feel the positive feelings which that brought me. I then stepped 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 the memory I had been feeling slightly ashamed of. Niggle gone. Gnashing over. Trip to dentist averted!
Of course, the learning from this exercise is to resolve to react differently should a similar situation arise in the future. I had already done that, but it was a relief to be able to feel better about what had happened that time and to be able to leave the niggling memory in the past, where it belonged.
Some people will find doing these sorts of exercises come to them quite easily, but, again, a life coach or NLP practitioner can talk you through wonderful NLP exercises like this and help you to make a really positive change.
What else can I do to gain perspective?
One 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'. How much does this situation affect 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 to rest?"
Ask yourself what you would advise a good friend to do in your situation.
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.
My favourite (as detailed above): Go back into the memory (you will be good at this by now!) and change what happened. Make yourself or the other person respond differently. You'll be surprised how that can make you feel better!
Whichever method suits you best, give it a go – or ask for some help. It's got to better than festering!