What is going on when change seems impossible?

How many times have you made a sensible decision that you know is attainable and which you know you want to implement.  You may have even checked that it is SMART or run it through a well-formed outcomes analysis if you have any knowledge of NLP.  Yes this is the decision that you need and want and it passes all the rational decision making criteria that you know about.

So how come after half an hour, a day or even a week, you find yourself doing the opposite of what you had absolutely, definitely decided you were going to do every day/never again.   It can feel as if someone else taken over the controls to your life.

We tend to believe that we are a reasonably unified whole but many philosophers and psychologists have considered that there are different parts to our make up.  Freud and Jung identified the unconscious as the seat of all those unexplained behaviours and modern neuroscience has identified three separate brains that all have different functions.  Jonathan Haidt in his fascinating book the Happiness Hypothesis likens our inner mental life as to being run by a committee.  So no wonder you can feel confused and conflicted even when you believe your goals to be totally desirable or important.    Haidt has a fabulous metaphor of riding an elephant.  I love this because it demonstrates the comparative power of the conscious and the unconscious mind.  Your conscious, controlling mind (the howdah) is tiny compared to the unconscious might of the elephant.  To make progress both the elephant and rider have to be in agreement about the direction.  Rational argument and thought control do not work on the elephant which is why it does not always follow your instructions.  The elephant of your unconscious mind feeds on symbols and emotion, both of which can be neglected in our SMART approaches to goal setting.

So if you are not reaching your desired goals and no amount of rational argument is making a difference, consider that your elephant may have a different agenda.  Fortunately there are many ways in which NLP and hypnosis can help you rein in the unruly elephant.

To identify if you have an elephant control problem:

  • Check in with your gut feeling.  Your guts, in a very real sense, are connected to the most ancient part of your brain and as this is preverbal, it won’t take any notice of even your well-phrased instructions.  How do you feel about your decision?  The first response to that question is the one you need to work with.
  • Is there an automatic quality to the behaviour you are trying to give up?  Do you find yourself with a biscuit in your hand or do you simply forget all about your intention to get to the gym until it has closed (my favourite!)?
  • Do you keep finding yourself in the same place time after time?

If you recognise yourself in any of the behaviours described above, then your elephant may need a bit of work.  There is no point in shouting at it.  The gentle approach of hypnosis will be much more effective.

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