“We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them.” Elbert Hubbard
How many times do you catch yourself saying “If only he/she/they would change, life would be so much better.”? Or, “I’d love to do …. (fill in the blank) but I’m too scared.”
It’s something I often hear clients verbalise, and I’m aware it’s been something I’ve succumbed to at various times.
Liberation comes when we wake up to the fact that we can’t force someone else to change, as much as we feel what we’re seeking to change could be of benefit to them.
However, by changing ourselves, we discover that magically those around us begin to change too.
Or do they?
Could it just be the way we see things that changes? And when we react and respond differently to events, and life in general, due to the changes we’ve personally instigated, then our perception of others alters accordingly.
Take an example of changing the way you look at things to face your fears …
Can you think of any fears you’ve faced and overcome, by changing the way you see them? Maybe it’s happened by talking yourself through them, and seeing a new perspective, with a cleaner, sharper and brighter lens?
I can recall a few from the past twenty years or so of my life:
Fear of flying – In the 1990s, I had an irrational fear of flying – nothing major, it didn’t stop me from holidaying in Europe, but I hadn’t ventured further than that. I recall during those short flights, breaking out into a cold sweat during take off and landing.
- However, in 2001 I flew all the way to New Zealand, literally to the furthest point you can go from England without being on your way back again.
I’ve repeated the journey south or north 24 times since then! I can’t recall how I changed my mind, only that my desire to go was greater than my fear of flying. Once there, my need to remain in contact with my family and visit them frequently, enabled me to maintain my mindset. I told my mind a different story to the one it had previously pictured.
I read about the risks of flying and informed myself that there was more risk crossing the road than flying in the twenty first century. I discovered that long haul flights are so much nicer than short ones. And I chose to see the journey as a part of the ‘holiday’, the joy of time to sit still and eat, drink, read, sleep, watch movies, chat. Visiting different airports became a delight too, so I added that into the reasoning.
- Fear of enclosed spaces – I have no idea where or when this originated, but I had a fear of being buried alive. I remember watching a film where it happened (thankfully she escaped at the last minute – I held my breath and could hardly watch!). The absurdness of my fear brings to mind the YouTube video ‘Stop It’, by Bob Newhart – if you haven’t watched it yet I recommend it. You can’t fail to laugh out loud at his direct coaching style.
I took steps to overcome this fear during my 2001 to 2002 sabbatical to New Zealand. On a solo road trip , I visited ‘Waiotomo Caves’ in the west of the North Island and went ‘Black Water rafting‘. This entailed crawling into a hole in the ground, sitting in a cave, then walking, jumping and swimming underground in a wetsuit and hard hat with light, before finally sitting in the rubber tyre we carried, leaning back, holding the feet of the person behind, turning off our lights and watching glow worms illuminating the cave roof – resembling hundreds of brightly twinkling stars.
It was one of the most magical experiences of my life, and one I repeated three years later with my younger daughter – just to prove I could! But it took some self-talk initially to persuade myself I could do it and enjoy it.
- Fear of drowning – I suspect this is similar to my being buried alive challenge. I’ve tried scuba diving in a swimming pool twice, but each time my fear overwhelmed me after only a short time. Then in 2005, on my aforementioned daughter’s NZ visit, she asked to experience white water rafting.
Buoyed by the black water rafting experiences, and feeling I’d taken myself way out of my comfort zone a number of times, I imagined I’d accomplish a change in view once more. Unknowingly, I chose to book us onto an adventure that would heighten my fear rather than diminish it. We rafted on the Kaituna River near Rotorua in the North Island of NZ.
At the bottom of the Tutea Falls, which, unbeknown to me at the time is the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall with a 21 foot drop, our raft overturned (you can watch a clip of a raft descending it successfully here). I woke up underneath the boat, due to thankfully still holding tightly onto a rope, in an air pocket only slightly higher than my head, and managed to scream and hyperventilate simultaneously.
I don’t dwell on the possibilities had I not held on, though did initially imagine the scene of me waking up at the bottom of the waterfall, panicking and completely forgetting the instructions to curl into a ball and allow the water to lift me up should such an event occur. The outcome of a black eye and a few tears was minor considering the potential alternative of something far more sinister.
React, respond or retreat?
Throughout our lives we’ve been watching and listening to events that occur around us – and even those we have no personal experience of through the media’s portrayal and more recently the Internet.
We make assumptions and form beliefs about the world and others, from the knowledge we gain daily. The interesting thing is that we all do this differently. If four people watched the same film simultaneously, in the same room, and then were interviewed, they’d each recall parts that resonated with them and spoke to their particular beliefs – and they’re unlikely to be the same ones.
So when we’re faced with a situation that daunts, scares, enrages or confuses us – take a step back. Consider what story is being brought to the forefront of your mind. Then consciously choose to look at it from other angles, not just the first reaction. Respond thoughtfully, rather than reactively. See if you can find an alternative tale to tell your brain.
Or retreat. Walk away. Be ok with it not being ok. We don’t succeed at everything, and if we can be open and honest with ourselves, we’ll learn a great deal when we ‘fail’ – it doesn’t make us a ‘failure’.
Know that most of the time, you CAN push past your fears and change your self.
Did you notice how my last two posts have had quite a focus on the importance of breathing? More about that next time …