HOW TO CHANGE THE NEGATIVE WAY OTHERS AFFECT US
Parents are the ones who first leave an imprint on us. They may be a positive influence or a negative influence. As children we mimic our parents in many activities. One way is that we use “self-talk” that mimics our parents and our “significant others.” When we realize that our “significant others” were wrong about us, we can use new self-talk to “re-parent” ourselves and change our views of Self.
Each time we find ourselves thinking or talking to ourselves in the negative “old parent” way and are thinking in unrealistic, critically negative terms, we can correct what we say to ourselves.
We use the method of “thought-stopping.” As soon as we notice the unacceptable self-talk, we say, “Stop!,” and then change the negative to a positive thought. If you are alone, you may loudly command yourself, “Stop!” and add emphasis by stamping your foot! In some circumstances, it is better to speak to yourself silently.
For example, when we hear ourselves thinking in scolding tones, we can say to ourselves, “Stop! That’s not true. I was doing what I thought was best and it didn’t work. I’ve learned something from this that is valuable to me and to others. I’m growing.” Our heavenly parent would echo, “Amen,” to this kind of self-talk.
On the other hand, let’s don’t lie to ourselves. If we really have caused harm to ourselves or others, let us say so (sometimes this is called “confession”), say we’re sorry, and ask for forgiveness and another chance to do better.
There are passages in the Old Testament of the Bible that illuminates the kind of Heavenly Parent we have. One passage speaks of One who will not snuff out a flickering candle, or break off a bruised plant. Today we might say our Heavenly Parent is one who will not crush our hopes or break off a relationship with us. Even if it seems that all others are against us, God is for us. You may want to read chapter eight from the book of Romans in the New Testament of the Bible in this regard.
Another way to “re-parent” ourselves, is to use “imagery.” If we have a picture of ourselves in our mind that is unhelpful, we can shrink that picture and paint a new one that is what we want it to be. We can hold that image big and bright in our mind for several seconds and then bring it back whenever we need it. This new view of ourselves will counteract the bad picture until it no longer comes into focus. We may do this whenever we feel mad, sad, bad, or frustrated. Anthony Robbins has written extensively about these mental techniques in his book, Unlimited Power.
WE CAN HELP OTHERS CHANGE THEIR NEGATIVE WAYS
Changing our own self-talk helps us protect ourselves from other people’s negative behaviors toward us, then with a stronger SELF, we can now see if we can help others change their behaviors that had a negative effect on us. We would especially those want to help persons we love and/or have frequent contact with us. Sometimes we can help them change even when they do not particularly wish to change and see nothing wrong with the way they act toward us.
We can use a direct approach as suggested by Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist, in his “Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life.”, 2003, PuddleDancer Press. He advocates a four step method. First saying, “When I see/hear ___(name the behavior_________” (second)”then I feel ____(your emotion)___.
(third) “I need _____(behavior you need from or her)___ and
(fourth) “I want you to (__do what is needed___).
You don’t need to point out 1, 2, 3, 4 to the person, but you do need some thought and self-analysis before saying anything to the person. After deciding what the specifics of 1, 2, 3, and 4 are, then if at all possible, you need to stop the person in the midst of the behavior or words that bother you and say to the person, “(Name), excuse me a moment, I need to say something.” Avoid getting into an argument about whether he or she said what you think you heard, and proceed with your prepared comment and request.
If we love people, we want to build them up. We encourage their efforts and persistence in doing well. We notice the good things and say something good directly to the person. Even when we do not particularly like a person and we care enough about our self and how their behavior affects us, we can work toward changing their behavior.
Behavioral therapists have learned that even small things that are commented on by significant others tend to make those behaviors become more frequent. By this, we help “shape” others’ behaviors and, therefore, their personalities, work habits, and lifestyles. By noticing and mentioning even occasional positive behaviors, we mirror and help shape their “self-image,” the way they see themselves, and they unconsciously, or even consciously, begin to behave in those positive ways more frequently.
There are exceptions as when dealing with a person who is oppositional in behavior, one who does the opposite of what is requested or expected. Perhaps this is more common with young adolescents who struggle to develop their own person separate from family and peers. I even hear reverse English usage among young people– words used in ways opposite their ordinary usage.
However, in general, we are in a danger zone when we ignore bad behavior, and create a greater danger in ignoring good behavior. If the good behavior is ignored, the only way the person has of getting attention is by bad behavior. This seems to be true at all ages. Have you been yelled at recently? Perhaps someone needs something from you, perhaps a mirror.
We can “mirror” others’ behavior by telling them the strengths and weaknesses we see in the way they are handling their frustrations. One could moderate a hot situation by earnestly saying,
“I appreciate the fact that you are not letting me ignore you. That shows your strength. I would like it better though, if you would find a way to get my attention without yelling at me. What can you and I do to improve this situation?”
We not only mirror what we like and dislike about the others’ behavior, but we offer to do something different to help improve the situation.
OTHERS CAN HELP US CHANGE
We need others to help us know what our strengths and weaknesses are. God’s Spirit is promised to help us in our weaknesses. Therefore, we can thank people for pointing out our weaknesses to us so that we can ask God and other people for help to increase our strengths. We may find help also though seminars, counseling, educational courses, wise friends, study, prayer, and meditation.
To have our weaknesses pointed out to us may be distressful. We may need a lot of evidence to convince us of our need for help. We may want so much to be perfect. We may be so ashamed of our weaknesses. This is often the case when we deny our problems and weaknesses. At times like these we need help such as the alcohol and drug treatment specialists give in an “intervention meeting.” We need to know we are loved and respected so that we can feel safe in admitting our weaknesses.
Therefore, in the “intervention” our significant others from home, from work, and from among our friends meet with us all together. They emphasize that they love and care for us and that what we are doing hurts not only ourselves, but them as well. They have planned a “way of escape” from our weaknesses and temptations by providing admission to a treatment facility or program. They continue to be supportive and lovingly honest with us about their feelings, thoughts, and concerns during the treatment and afterward in the recovery period. It is not surprising that the hurt some of our loved ones and friends experience from our habits also leaves them angry.
When we know our weaknesses, however, we can tell any of our friends who like to “harp” on our weaknesses, who feel they are better than we are, to also tell us our strengths. Perhaps, it would also help for you to offer to give them your perception of their strengths and weaknesses. This way you both can grow together, although perhaps in competition with one another, or in spite of one another. If the other person does not wish to grow, s/he may at least be more moderate in criticizing you.
In my first draft of the preceding paragraph, I used she/he/you instead of we and us. I had to consciously make myself go back to using we and us pronouns. That is how hard it is for someone like me who has felt that criticism is a personal condemnation, instead of an opportunity for growth, to identify with being criticized! But, what I am saying to you has helped me to be less sensitive to criticism now than I have been most of my life.
If we take criticism as a chance to grow and mature, we need not feel discouraged or depressed. Remember, God loves you and wants to bring you to your “full glory.”
Others can help us strengthen and build up our self-concept by telling us what they like about us, our talents, efforts, and strong points. We need this kind of “feedback,” for it truly “feeds” our bodies, minds, and souls. When we do not have this “food” we are apt to use physical food, drink, or other behaviors in ways that abuse our bodies and damage our relationships. We can ask for “positive feedback.”
Even infants and small children may “fail to thrive” for a lack of personal warmth and caring. They eat poorly and are listless. They show little or no interest in their surroundings and the people who “handle” them. With a change in the caretaker’s behavior from “handling” to cuddling and cooing, smiling and playing with the child, the child begins to respond and to eat with better appetite.
We adults, no less than infants, need physical touch and “cuddling.” We need the smiles and interest of other adults, the handshakes and pats on the back.
If we are “task-oriented” people who “like to get the job done regardless” we need to take “extra care” of those we love most. The reason for this is that our natural tendency is to leave others alone if there is not a “need” or “job” that requires our attention. We all need to be shown appreciation some of the time.
As task oriented persons ourselves, we may not realize or verbalize our own needs for psychological care, “warm fuzzies,” or compliments, and may even rebuff efforts that do not match our views of ourselves. Few of us, if any, are truly independent either psychologically or physically. We DO need each other.
We need people who will remind us of our strengths when we feel weak and discouraged. We need someone to point out ways to improve and help us explore ways to correct our weaknesses and deviations. We need “helpers” who will be kind enough to point to our weaknesses and wrongheadedness, “our blind spots,” in such a way that we can see them. Seldom are all these capabilities found in one person. If you do find all these qualities in one person, you have found a good “therapist,” whether “credentialed” or not.
If you do not have others who will serve you in these ways, you may want to look for a trained therapist. A good place to start is in your local library to learn about the different kinds of therapies available and what might fit your specific concerns, your personality, and family.
The education of mental health nurse therapists expands a client’s options for counseling. Nurse specialists in mental health and psychiatry are being recognized for their particular awareness of the integration of physical and mental health, as well as their training in the connections between physical illness and mental symptoms.
Please do not neglect your spiritual resources, notably prayer and meditation. They are valuable to actually change the brain processes favorably. Particularly if your view of God is positive, a caring, merciful, compassionate, forgiving God. Persons whose view of God is of one who is wrathful and punishing and unforgiving are said to be more likely to have difficulties emotionally and mentally. These difficulties are opportunities for further growth as a person.
In learning more about the effects of prayer and meditation, I enjoyed reading detailed descriptions of neurological research on the effects of prayer, meditation and other events deemed to be of a spiritual nature in The Great Courses’ transcript for “The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience”, a series of 24 lectures by Dr. Andrew Newberg, Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. I interpreted the changes to be involved with a stronger sense of purpose in life and a more generous, less self-centered, stronger willed and determined person.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of (people) knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27. R.S.V.
So has He given some to be apostles but others to be prophets; some to be evangelists but others to (be) pastors and teachers, to make the saints fit for the task of ministering toward the building up of the body of Christ, until we all may arrive at the unity of faith and that understanding of the Son of God, that brings completeness of personality, tending toward the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. As a result, we should no longer be babes, swung back and forth and carried around with every changing whiff of teaching that springs from human cunning and ingenuity for devising error; but, lovingly attached to truth, we should grow up in every way toward Him who is the Head–Christ, out of whom the entire body is harmoniously fitted together and closely united by every contributing ligament, with proportionate power for each single part to effect the development of the body for its upbuilding in love.
Ephesians 4:10-16 Berkeley Version