Working as I do in the Solution Focused approach, does not mean that life does not serve up the occasional lemon. Adopting a positive attitude to life does not make you immune the occasional setback or hiccup. But, as the saying goes, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade'.
I am careful to explain this to clients, who are sometimes disappointed that they let someone annoy them, or they had an off-day in between sessions.
We will none of us reach a state where there are no challenges to be overcome.
What’s different about using a Solution Focused approach is recognising a number of things about life’s lemons:
- Viewing a setback as a challenge or a threat makes all the difference to how well you cope with it.
- Approached with a ‘can do’ attitude, a setback is only a temporary affair.
- By overcoming life’s occasional challenge, we become more resilient and better able to cope in the future.
After more than a decade of immersing myself in Solution Focused techniques, I find it relatively easy to see the upside in most situations. My brain naturally begins a process of ‘OK, that’s a nuisance, but at least it means x, y or z’, which enables me to see a positive future beyond the problem at hand.
To be fair, I already had a ‘can-do’ approach to life generally, and that’s what attracted me to Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, but the good news is that anyone can learn to develop a more robust approach to life’s hazard.
Whether you see yourself as a victim or a survivor, a pawn or a player, a drain or a radiator will determine how you handle a tricky situation. You respond how you respond because that’s how you’ve always done it.
Fortunately you can re-wire your brain to be more resilient, because your brain is malleable. Changing how you respond is achievable by imagining how you would prefer to react in a given situation:
- How do you want to come across in that job interview?
- How do you want to behave when your children are throwing tantrums?
- How do you want to respond when the decorator has made a blunder?
Visualising how you want to be is the key to developing a more resilient approach to life.
And that way you can make lemonade no matter how many lemons come your way.
From time to time I come across a client who I know would benefit from additional therapy such as holistic massage, osteopathy, acupuncture, reflexology etc and, like most therapists, I have a network of colleagues that I can refer clients to. Similarly, I am fortunate in that those other therapists will occasionally refer their clients to me for hypnotherapy.
Together we work with the clients, complementing each other’s therapy. This is because we are acutely aware of the mind-body connection. For example, we know that our thoughts can cause us to become physically tense, or if we are in pain we can become depressed or moody.
Have you ever noticed yourself clutching the steering wheel really tightly because someone has just upset you? Or you don’t get migraines when you’re on holiday? Or you get stomach cramps before meetings at work? Being stressed can even impact on your blood pressure, immune system or reproductive system.
When clients are referred to me from other therapists, I work with the clients using Solution Focused techniques designed to help them cope better with the emotional stresses they are experiencing. In this way clients learn a more relaxed approach to the events in their life, which in turn leads to a release of physical tension and relief from other stress-related symptoms.
Hypnotherapy can have other physical benefits too. It may be that the client becomes more motivated to exercise, or chooses to eat more healthily, or manages to sleep better, which of course helps both the mind and the body.
It’s absolutely fascinating how the mind affects the body, and vice versa.
Several years ago a lovely client gave me a greetings card that nicely summed up our work together. The caption read:
'Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and everything is fine.'
Wow! So simple and yet so powerful, summing up how most of what we worry about never happens and, even if it does, we have survived it.
That saying still makes me smile and it got me thinking about other inspirational quotes that demonstrate how we create our own reality. These two are amongst my favourites:
'Only when we accept the fact that we are where we are because of choices we've made in the past can we live every day of the rest of our lives in the certain knowledge that we can do anything we want to do if we simply make the right choices.' Jim Stovall
'Do something today that your future self will thank you for.' (Sean Patrick Flanery)
That first quote was a game-changer for me. The penny dropped that I wasn’t stuck in the difficult situation I found myself in; I could make choices that would lead to a better outcome.
The second quote is never far from my mind. It motivates me to take action on projects that will provide a future benefit, no matter how small that action is.
So, what choice will you make today?
Have you ever compared notes with a colleague after a business meeting and found that you each thought something different was agreed? Or reflected on a holiday to find that you recall it as being really enjoyable, but the person you were with only remembers the times when things didn’t go to plan?
How can this be? Well, it can’t be the event itself. When all is said and done, pretty much the same things happened to each of you. It actually boils down to the way we think about things. And the way we think about things is ultimately a result of how our neurons (nerve cells) are connected in our brains.
When we are born we have around 100 billion neurons in our brain. At this stage it’s pretty much a blank canvass and we have relatively few connections between the neurons. As we experience life, so our brain cells connect in such a way that we can recognise a situation next time around and respond appropriately. In other words, we learn.
So, it’s easy to see that if we have different experiences, we learn to respond to events in a different way. Fast forward a few years and our past experiences shape who we are. If in the playground at school we found that our input was overlooked in favour of a more confident friend, we may subconsciously ‘learn’ that it’s a waste of time speaking up in meetings or expressing an opinion.
Of course, to us, it feels normal. How I respond to a situation feels normal to me, and the way you respond feels normal to you, and it comes as quite a shock when we realise that others don’t see the world as we see it.
None of this is a problem if our experiences have shaped us to lead a fulfilled and contented life, with inbuilt resilience to tackle the occasional challenge. If, however, we have developed into an anxious, fearful individual then that’s not so much fun.
The good news is that our brains are ‘plastic’, they are malleable, and with the appropriate training we can learn to respond differently to life events. We actually forge new connections between the neurons in our brains, so we can react in a more helpful way.
Of course, anything worth doing takes effort and consistency, but the rewards can literally be life-changing.
Over the years I have helped clients improve their performance in a variety of sports, including golf, martial arts, horse riding, tennis, hockey, football, and a whole host of others.
Now sometimes, the client has not actually come for therapy in connection with their sporting skills, they may be having trouble sleeping or they are generally stressed. Simply by helping them to reduce their anxiety about life overall, they have found that their game has improved. A useful by-product of feeling more relaxed and in control (the same is often true about weight-loss, by the way).
Other times clients are seeking specific help in connection with their sport, for example:
- Regaining confidence after a run of poor performance or a period of ill health
- Overcoming nerves during important competitions
- Mastering a particular technique
- Finding the motivation to practise
- Pushing through self-imposed limitations on performance
Whatever the reason, we begin by making sure the client is in a good head-space generally. If the client is stressed through work pressures, ill health or relationship issues, then we help the client cope better with these situations so they have a clear head to address their sporting expertise.
Then we use positive visualisation to help the client imagine what the perfect golf shot would look, sound and feel like; or imagine how confident they will be when they are on their lively horse; or picture themselves as calm and confident when they are competing at the next championship game.
We make use of the fact that when we visualise something happening, the brain responds as if that thing is actually happening.
So, by helping clients repeatedly visualise success their skill and confidence improve.