It’s funny, isn’t it, how sometimes the more you think about something the more you find reasons why you shouldn’t, couldn’t, can’t?!!
And how you often get so caught in the trap of looking back at a past experience and analysing what went wrong and blaming yourself, that you end up making the unhelpful feelings you have about yourself or the situation even stronger?
And how, if you are not careful, you just keep replaying and replaying and replaying ad infinitum …….
Actually funny is the last thing it is isn’t it?! If we concentrate on the past and play it over and over again in the same way, all we are doing is taking away our power to change and move forward.
So it was no surprise last week when a study led by Clinical Psychologist Peter Kinderman from the University of Liverpool found that rumination is the biggest predictor of the most common mental health problems in the country.
“We found that people who didn’t ruminate or blame themselves for their difficulties had much lower levels of depression and anxiety, even if they’d experienced many negative events in their lives,” says Peter Kinderman, who led the study and is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool. “Dwelling on negative thoughts and self blame have previously been recognised as important when it comes to mental health, but not to the extent this study has shown. “The findings suggest both are crucial psychological pathways to depression and anxiety.”….. “The most important way in which these things led to depression and anxiety was by leading a person to ruminate and blame themselves for the problem.”
It’s important to get across what the findings mean for the average person, says Dr Ellie Pontin, a clinical psychologist and research associate at the University of Liverpool, who was also involved in the study. “It’s actually a really positive message and should give people hope,” she says. “It can be very hard to be told your problems are because of what you have experienced in the past or your genetics, things you can’t change. The way you think and deal with things can be changed.”
This is actually the essence of NLP and why I am so passionate about how it can help- that we can change our internal representations and thus how we feel and how we behave. It is not about pretending something has not happened, its about taking the learnings from what has happened and taking it forward and making it work for us!
Imagine our life is a table top. From the moment we are born our memories and experiences form part of the way we see, think and feel about things. They become the legs that support that table top. Now, if those memories and experiences are negative ones we can take them inward as limiting beliefs – we start to believe everything we are told about what we can’t do and believe other people’s negative opinions. The more we think about these limiting beliefs, the more we strengthen them and the legs get heavier and heavier and the table gets fixed in place and too heavy to move. Soon we find ourselves cluttering more and more on top of the table because it is ‘just there’ and we can’t move it. The top gets scratched, dented and loses its shine.
So now imagine taking some sandpaper and working on those legs, those limiting beliefs. Open your toolbox and take out the carpenter’s plane and start to plane away those edges, turn them on the lathe to change their shape. Now notice how lighter the table becomes. How, as you move the table, the clutter starts to fall and you can see the table top again. How even a quick wipe with a duster makes a difference and then how, with just a bit of care and effort, you can start to polish the top and notice the grain of the wood, the smoothness of the timber and how the legs now add beauty to the overall piece. And now it’s funny how you can move the table more easily isn’t it?
I am really excited that the work we do to help people change their thinking patterns is now being recognised as a key tool for health professionals to learn so that they can make a difference to those suffering from anxiety, stress and depression!