Sometimes I wish there were a guaranteed way to filter every negative message as perceived in childhood. If I could do that, I’d wipe the slate clean!
The memories might remain, but the negative messages from those memories would magically reset. Presto! Emotional equilibrium. Ahhh………
We can do this with individual memories. In NLP we use a variety of methods to cleanse memories so they no longer impact you emotionally. However, there is no reset button that transforms an entire past at once. Given the limitations of consciousness, it’s difficult enough to discover specific negative messages that are still lingering.
The biggest challenge, however, is your own resistance. You naturally want to protect yourself from pain, so you try to ignore the past and distract yourself from the inner negativity. If negative states linger in spite of your efforts, something else is required in order to heal.
This post will show you how to uncover and heal negative programming that (most likely) came from childhood. You shouldn’t do this haphazardly. Wait until you’ve got at least 30 minutes to sit alone with a notebook. You’ll need to think, record your thoughts, and put them in perspective.
The template below will help you do all of the above. The goal here is to:
1) Help you discover hidden obstacles to your mental and emotional well-being.
2) Put those obstacles in a healthy frame and 3) Help you move forward with your life.
We’ll use a series of questions to call thoughts and feelings to mind. It’s important to enter a positive, open-minded state before starting.
Get your notepad ready. Here you go.
1. Ask yourself: Which negative thoughts or feelings from the past still bother me today?
As thoughts come to mind, write them down. Act like a reporter. You are recording information from your unconscious mind. Don’t get caught up in them right now if you can help it.
2. How old were you when you first heard the message?
Identify the time period in your life when these messages began to appear in your life. Most often, the negative messages will come from another person. In my case, I was nine years old. My family was in transition.
It was at that time when my older brother ‘turned on me.’ Under pressures of his own, he began to take out his angst on his little brother.
I can still hear the criticism. Having done a lot of personal work, the messages do not have the negative impact they once had, but I do feel still feel it.
3. Identify the feelings in your body right now.
Listening to those old voices, I am feeling sad, which is a hollow feeling in my gut. On an intensity scale of 1-10, I feel the sadness at a three. At one time, I felt worthless. At another time, I felt resentful. Now, I feel a little sad.
How do you feel when you listen to messages from that time period in your life? Where do you feel it? Describe the feeling. Rate how strongly on a subjective intensity scale of 1-10.
4. Make a statement of truth.
My statement is: Today, as I listen to the criticism originating when I was nine years old, I feel a little sad.
Your statement of truth could be similar. It needs to be made in the present and include the age at which you began to feel this way and the intensity at which you still feel it in the present.
5. Notice how much time has passed and acknowledge yourself
Isn’t it amazing how bad feelings persist? In my case, 39 years. I am 48 as of this writing. My feelings have persisted nearly four decades. And this is typical.
It’s common to believe things that happened long ago should no longer affect us. The truth is, memories from childhood which become part of your programming have more impact on you than any other kind of memory.
So, notice how much time has passed. Why? This helps put the messages in perspective, for one. And…messages that persist this long are important to notice.
Not because they are true. They need to be addressed and healed. Most of us spend our lives trying to avoid these painful feelings. Avoidance perpetuates the pain and allows the negativity to persist.
Running from your pain only creates more pain. Pain and negativity need to be acknowledged. This is how you heal yourself. Acknowledgment is HUGE. When someone owes you an apology, it’s so easy to resent them. When they do apologize sincerely, it’s easy to let go. Why? Because you were acknowledged.
Your inner pain heals on the same principle. Acknowledge. Share when and where appropriate. Little by little, you’ll let go.
Once you’ve acknowledged, push any memories off into the mental distance. Imagine them floating away. See yourself in them over there. In NLP, we call this dissociating.
When you dissociate from something from a memory, you see yourself from a distance, like a neutral observer. From this perspective, you are no longer reliving the event, caught up in the emotion. It’s extremely helpful when considering negative memories.
See it over there. Acknowledge once again and…
7. Get on with your day.
You’ve spent a little time consciously revisiting your past. Good for you. Take a deep breath and move on with your day. Don’t sit there stewing. Get moving. This is how life works. We all have pain. We’ve all suffered at the hands of others. Life still expects big things from us.
You’re no different. Even though you’re working your way through negativity, your life is waiting for you to do great things. Do them! This is how you rise above your past and develop a new future – one to inspire you.
Who should work on healing the past and who shouldn’t?
We’re all a work in progress. If your past doesn’t support your desired present and future, then you should engage in healing activities on a regular basis. Some claim healing the past is not necessary. I agree, in part. People in their teens and 20’s who need to get their adult lives established should forget the past and move full throttle into the future.
If you’re over 30 and suspect your past is holding you back from the life you want, dig in. If you need help, get some coaching.
You’ll always be a work in progress. Yet, there is no substitute for getting to a place where you can do what you want, regardless of the past. This is a magical, freeing place to live.