My son, Will, is a very creative, imaginative young boy. His mind runs wild with daydreams. I feel that this will be a major asset when he becomes an adult. It is part of his greatness. His creativity and unbridled imagination have a lot of power.
In many ways Will is very different from me. As a parent I am conscious of not moulding him into something he is not, and instead celebrating and encouraging his strengths.
Of late, Will’s imagination has caused him some distress during the night hours. He has been complaining about being scared. He is not scared of anything that is real. He is scared of the things he conjures up inside his head. He knows these things aren’t real and yet they still scare him. His mind, like yours and mine, is a very powerful piece of machinery.
Trying to explain away a child’s fears very rarely works. Just because we adults understand what’s what doesn’t mean that makes any sense for the child in question. Taking a logical stance to help Will was never going to be the answer. Instead I decided to teach him a new game.
The game we played was based on a technique I learned while studying NLP. I started by asking Will what he saw in his head when he was scared. He told me he saw spiders. I then asked him a few more questions about the characteristics of the image he saw. I asked about colour, depth, size, and movement. Next, I asked him to picture something that made him feel happy and safe. He struggled. So, I suggested a few animals he likes. He chose one. And we discussed the qualities of the new image. Then the game began.
When Will complained that the spiders were scaring him, I asked him to move that image out of his head and replace it with the other image. He did this a few times. The spiders kept coming back, and each time he moved them away and instead focused on the more positive image. We made the game fun.
Will learned how to change what happens inside his own head. More importantly, he learned that he is in control. Now when he gets scared he knows how to change his thoughts. It’s powerful stuff for a seven year old to grasp. I wish I’d played this game as a youngster.
The power of our own minds is almost unlimited. And most of us have no idea how much control we have over our thoughts, emotions and reactions to external stimuli. If a seven year old can change his thinking, what can a more mature brain accomplish? It’s a big question.
The key underpinning premise of NLP is that we are each in control of our own worlds. No one can make us think or feel anything. Our responses are completely up to us. We choose what happens inside our heads. Far from being daunting, this is one of the most empowering revelations I’ve ever had. I am in control. You are in control. The way we move through the world largely depends on how we choose to process and perceive the world around us.
Do you want to play a game? Next time you get down on yourself consider the image in your head. Analyse it. Then replace it with a more positive image. It might take some practice. You should notice one of two things. Either your mood changes as soon as you change the internal image, or you learn that you are in control and whilst your mood might not improve immediately you know that you can make a change whenever you choose to.
If you can change what you see in your head whenever you want to, what else can you control? Think about it. Can you take control of your reactive emotions? Can you defeat your bad habits? Can you stop procrastinating?
Will is using this new game of his to help in other areas of his life too. At seven he knows more about his brain than I did when I was thirty.