If you do NLP, hypnosis or are interested in personal development, you should know this…
Your emotional state as you approach a problem or habit, has a lot to do with whether or not you’ll be successful. A couple of recent studies have shed light on what we practitioners have known for a while. One study shows how political passion can diminish our ability to think clearly and perform simple cognitive functions such as math (something you can easily figure out for yourself by reading any comment thread on the internet).
Another study shows how strong beliefs can influence our judgement in the face of information contradictory to those beliefs. In other words, facts don’t tend to change our opinions and actions, unless…
And here’s where we come to the crux of the matter.
Emotional State Matters
Both studies show that how we respond to a new situation or new information depends on our emotional state as we do so. Certain emotional state lend themselves to flexibility, others do not. So, if you want to be effective in helping people or in changing yourself, it’s vital that you do changework from within the emotional state that would be most helpful.
Just getting some positive feelings about yourself can help you be more open-minded about new information, for instance.
In my experience, fear-based emotions tend to shut down higher cognitive functions. Fear is designed for dangerous situations where we may need to fight, flee or freeze — not do calculus. In the modern world, we’re not often faced with saber-tooth tigers. It can be a problem when we’re under stress (having a tiger response) because of a modern stress (the TPS reports are overdue). In other words, we may need our fancy-pants brains and not our primitive brains to deal with that work situation.
One study showed how feeling good about oneself can lead to more open-mindedness in considering new information. And being open-minded and flexible are often key in change work — both for the therapist and the client.
Threats To Current Paradigms
When we get information that threatens our deeply-held belief systems, we tend to discount it. But that information may be exactly what we need to assimilate in order to change. If we had some tools to help us feel more secure (then we won’t get so defensive) and to look at the ne information in a different way, we could change ore easily.
One thing you can do is help people access flexible, open-minded states as you approach change work. States that help people feel secure and open are often good for this.
Another way to approach it is to change the angle from which you approach change. Choose a frame that’s consistent with deeply held beliefs. Any situation can be considered from multiple viewpoints. Smoking (as an example) can be considered a rebellion, a pleasure, an addiction, an unkindness or a burden. If a client comes to you to stop smoking, choose the frame that resonates with them but is least compatible with smoking.
Powerful NLP Tools
There are a couple of NLP tools that I find particularly useful in putting these concepts to work for personal change. Anchoring and reframing. Anchoring can easily help us get emotions we want to emphasize up and running. That may help us feel more secure. From within that feeling of security, we may be more able to take in new information.
And reframing can help change the context so that new information is not threatening to old belief systems.