When Gary recalls a negative memory, he re-experiences the emotion he felt, and gets upset. Since he is prone to obsessive thinking, once a negative emotion triggers, he can obsess about it — and stay upset — for hours.
Tabitha gets trauma flashbacks. She re-experiences events so vividly that they re-traumatize her. Afterward fear, anxiety, depression, and crying jags can debilitate her for days, and affect her mood for weeks.
Emotionally loaded recall is especially common in people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a learned trauma response. It’s also common among people with Asperger syndrome. Like Gary, Aspies are prone to obsess over negative emotions and make them worse.
Of course, re-experiencing remembered emotions can be an asset when you recall pleasant memories. But with negative experiences — especially traumas — it’s usually preferable to get the useful life lessons from less-than-positive memories, without getting upset or re-traumatized.
What is psychological trauma?
A trauma is a strong, persistent, negative emotional response to a past event, or reminders of it.
- A trauma is not an experience. It is an emotional response to an experience. If the emotional response is positive, the experience is not traumatic, no matter how harrowing its sensory details. (Think of all the people who pay money to have scary, dangerous experiences such as white-water rafting!)
If you’re like most NLP Practitioners I talk with, your training included a lot of elicitation, and little or no NLP modeling.
That’s unfortunate, because modeling is the core skill of NLP. In fact, Richard Bandler and John Grinder used it to create Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP’s rich array of techniques, models, and applications got developed and refined using modeling.
How ironic that NLPers so rarely learn NLP’s core skill and strategy. But fortunately…
In a previous post, I discussed the problems of learning skills and attitudes from role models who aren’t competent. In this post I’ll discuss how to find real experts to learn from.
What makes an expert?
To find good exemplars (examples of a skill or ability) to learn from, evaluate their results. Ask:
- How good are the person’s actual results? It doesn’t matter if Rowena thinks she is the world expert in good relationships; it matters whether she has good relationships. Judge only by results, not by what you, she, or other people think will work, does work, or should work.
- Does this exemplar get consistently great results? Someone who has excellent relationship skills will tend to have lots of good relationships: with their spouse, parents, children, friends, neighbors, etc. They’ll also have minimal problems with bad relationships, quarrels, firings, and people doing nasty things to them.
Imagine that you are about to learn to drive race cars or speed boats. You probably wouldn’t pick as your driving teacher:
- The town drunk
- A blind person
- The neighbor who has crashed their car into every trash can and sign pole in the neighborhood.
And yet most people learned at least one important life skill from someone that unqualified to teach it.
How a person structures “now” on their timeline has a big effect on their quality of life. Two important distinctions about now are:
- the degree to which the person is “in time” or “observing time”, and
- the physical size of “now.”
If now is physically small, the person is likely to feel pressured or harassed, as though there is literally not enough time to get things done.
If now is spacious, they are likely to experience of having plenty of time, even when they have a lot to do and not much actual time available.
If now is enormous, the future may seem irrelevant because it is so small and far away. This works well for meditating, but can cause significant problems in day-to-day life.
How a person structures “now” on their timeline has a big effect on their quality of life.
- If they are in time, with their timeline running through their body (or they stand inside a “time tube”), they are probably good at being present in the moment. However, they may stay so in the moment that they have trouble keeping appointments or planning ahead.
- If they observe time, standing outside the “now” so they have perspective and can see the future from now, they can probably remember appointments and plan ahead. However, they might find it difficult to enjoy the moment because they always see, hear, and think about their future and/or past.
Each option has useful elements, and it would be nice to have them all, rather than having to pick one or the other. That’s why I developed the following technique.