Posts Tagged ‘stress / pressure’
Our brains are full of neurons – synaptic connections that link our life experiences to our emotions. Think of them as wires. Some are conscious and some are subconscious. The Be Happy in LIFE program takes people though the process of noticing their wires, evaluating them, choosing good wires and changing wires on the way to happiness.
Every client who takes a journey with us reaches their happiness goal. We bring the knowledge and all it takes is a bit of courage. I will share the knowledge with you here and all you need to do is gather some courage to make lasting changes.
So, how do we change our wires?
The key is to choose what you want to think.
Last time we talked about the snake brain. Even though our brain has 3 parts, each with different functions, the primitive snake brain is far superior when we are stressed. It has two main functions: (1) food (yummy, yummy!) and (2) protecting us from danger with a fight or flight response. Meanwhile, the puppy brain stores information as emotions and uses them to navigate us. For example, on a conscious level, we would label all kinds of anger with the same five letters: a.n.g.e.r. The puppy brain is able to distinguish between “I was slightly angry”, “I was angry”, “I was very angry” and “I was soooooooo angry”. In the brain, the feeling is stored along with its intensity.
Whenever something happens to us, the puppy brain searches our emotion bank for similar feelings we experienced in the past. This helps it decide how to translate the new information.
Even though our company slogan is that happiness is a choice, a lot of people tell me they have things in their lives that make them unhappy and they did not choose them. This is true! I have things like that too. While we might not always be able to choose to have things that make us happy, we all have the choice to decide what to do with the things we have.
I think the question of choice is very sensitive. Mainly because lots of our thoughts, feelings and beliefs are formed in the subconscious mind, the part of the brain that is hidden from us and seems like a complete mystery. Our minds are like an iceberg. The conscious mind is just the tiny tip sticking out of the water, while the subconscious is the massive body underneath that is in charge of 90% of our actions. How can we choose to control something we have no access to?
All we need to do is change our perception of our subconscious. It is actually within our control to change. We have a lot of access to our brains. In fact, we access our subconscious every second but we do it so fast and naturally that we do not even notice. Slowing down and noticing what is happening to us, can help greatly make good and happy choices.
In my last post, I Learned it From the Best we talked about how influential parenting is for a child’s future. In the long term, some things parents do are positive and some are negative. But which ones are positive? Which parenting styles are good for your children? In this post, I want to go into detail about the importance of consistency – the value of giving consistent rewards, punishments, attention and praise.
In early childhood, parenting in general gives children a toolkit of skills and beliefs they can take with them. It helps them deal with the challenges that life puts in their paths. If parents give their child positive, useful tools, then they are well equipped for the future. Things like praise and attention give confidence. On the other hand, parents who give their children bad habits and poor attitudes are setting them up for struggle. Addictive behaviors and poor eating habits are examples of unhelpful tools.
When my clients come to the Be Happy in LIFE program and I ask them, “What do you want?” they are confused by my question. They could easily tell what everyone else wants. Their wife, husband, mother, father, boss, children. But they do not really know what they want. Often times, all they want is for something someone else wants to stop. I tell my clients that when you don’t have a definition of who you are, it is easy for people to offer their definitions, regardless of whether they suit your or not. If you are confident in who you are, your self-concept will not change because of something someone says to you. For example, if a friend comes up to you and says, “You are not a good friend because you didn’t come to my wedding”, you might think to yourself that you did not come to the wedding because you were being a good son and your mum was in hospital. Your definition of yourself as a good friend would remain, despite your friends feeling. Conversely, if you do not have a good definition of yourself, you will probably accept it as “fact” that you are just not a very good friend, because your friend said so.
Every person has an image of perfection that they wish to achieve. It is an image of the perfect person, someone who is all knowing, smart, healthy, wealthy, loving and successful. There is no other person on earth who is exactly like you and has managed to find the perfect balance of all those things we want in life. Despite knowing this, we create an image of the perfect person by picking and choosing attributes form different people. Our perfect person is the miss universe beauty queen, who is a perfect mother, a great chef, a celebrity, with a PHD in something brainy, with bucket loads of money like the Queen of England and the spirit and dedication of Mother Teresa. Although I think it is good to be inspired by others, when we lose ourselves in the quest for this perfection, we chase our tails endlessly and never reach our final goal.
As I wrote before in the letting go series, attachments bring us comfort and stability, but once we make an attachment part of our identity, change becomes an enemy. Do not get me wrong, attachment is important. It is when we panic, see change as a threat and go into “fight or flight” mode (subconsciously) that things get out of control.
Some people are very terrified of change. They can manage the devil they know and although they complain about it, they do not have the skills, courage and strength to do anything different.
Fear of change creates many conflicts in relationships, even when we talk about our relationship with ourselves. It is always a conflict between one side’s attachment and the other side’s comfort zone. Whether you are on the side that wants the other to change or you are the one being asked to change, you have an attachment. The person who wants the other to change is attached to an outcome in their mind and the person who is being asked to change is attached to what they are currently doing, thinking or feeling. The desire to change someone else in this format creates a lose-lose situation. Fear of change limits movement and the desire to change limits peace of mind.
Every person wants to have a crystal ball to predict the future. I know I do. You have to be a complete Buddhist with a different definition of time in order to see life as a single point in time that the only guarantee is that it exists in experiencing the “now”.
Although everyone would like to see a piece of the future in order to give them strength in the present, the difference between people is how much energy they spend in order to be able to predict the future. Most people would like to be able to tell the future, at least a bit, but some people are tortured by the desire to control the future by analyzing the past in order to improve the prediction of the future. I call them “the fortunetellers”.
In coaching, I meet some fortunetellers. I meet amazing people who are tortured by anxiety and are very unhappy. These people struggle with their decision making and find it hard to make decisions. If the average person takes an hour to make a decision, they need 5-10 hours to make the same decision. So they are pretty much time wasters and, being very smart people, they know time is precious, but they constantly feel they do not have enough time. In worse cases, when making a decision, they repeatedly second-guess themselves with “Was this the right/best choice? What if I checked another school/product? Did I check the back label?” Or they keep searching for the product they already bought, just to make sure they have made a good choice.
Our life works so that we are born into living up to others’ expectations. It starts with fitting into our parents’ expectations and then goes through 12-15 years of living up to our teachers’ expectations and nothing at all focuses on living up to our own expectations. In fact, as I recall from my early years, adults said to me over and over again that life was not about what I expected while they did everything in their power to make me fit their expectations.
There are several problems with living life that way and the common thing between them is that they are motivated by the fear of not matching others’ expectations.
Let go of living up to others’ expectations by speaking your mind, by listening to your gut feelings and by aligning your beliefs, values and rules to match them. Use your feelings as a guide. I am not suggesting that you live in the world on your own to minimize external influences, but whatever comes from the outside, ask yourself, “Does this match my feelings? Does this match what I believe? Does it feel right to me?”
Humans are not very predictable creatures. Their behavior is governed by their emotions and instincts and the problem is that their emotions change and most of their behaviors are subconscious, so they cannot be fully understood by others.
This inability to predict how others will react makes people a bit anxious about their relationships and to overcome this feeling, they try to control the world around them. They try to control situations, events and other people’s behaviors, words and actions in a desperate attempt to control the outcome.
The desire to control the outcome means you have an attachment to the outcome. Stating your desired outcome to others puts pressure on them to achieve it and usually means you are feeling out of control. Many parents fall into that trap in their parenting style. They make their mind up to “help” their kids reach an outcome and they do everything they can to achieve it.
Wanting things to happen is not a problem. Even wanting them to happen in a certain way it is not so bad. The problem is when you will do anything to get there, even if it means jeopardizing your relationships with others or making them feel bad.
Controlling is always a sign of insecurity and feeling powerless, helpless and out of control. After all, if you have the power, why would you keep seeking it?
Now, perhaps more than ever in our lifetime, things are tough. Money is tight, prices are up, revenues are down, globalization, the Internet and mobile technology change almost everything we know. As a result, pressure is mounting and many parents struggle to cope with it.
In the past week, two things happened that made me think of using buffers or “lines of credit” as a strategy for reducing pressure, both financial and emotional, and keeping ourselves sane, while being better parents for our kids.
The first thing was Eden’s presentation of her research on corporal punishment. You may remember we invited our readers to participate in this research, which examined the links between parents’ disciplinary methods and things like the number of children in the family, age differences, financial situation and more.
When she analyzed parents’ and children’s’ responses to her survey, it occurred to Eden that stress may be a mediator between the various characteristics of each family and the amount of physical punishment used by the parents. Turns out, it is. She found that when parents experience more stress in their life, due to having more kids, having them close together and/or not having enough money to support them, they used less positive reinforcement with their children and were more abusive towards them, both verbally and physically.