Breathing Through Conflict

It happens to all of us. Some situation in which we find ourselves seems to spiral out of control, with tensions and emotional energy increasing in intensity. Perhaps you're in a meeting, and conflict arises. Maybe you're working on a project and suddenly there's a problem going on. Or maybe you've found a mistake on your grocery receipt and the customer service staff do not want to help you.

If you've been learning and applying NLP for any length of time, you've probably learned about rapport. One of the techniques for gaining and maintaining rapport is to notice and match the breathing rate of the person with whom you wish to be in rapport. But what happens when the situation is changing so rapidly that anything short of instant rapport will not suffice? What if there are multiple players with whom it's difficult to gain rapport? What if you're dealing with someone who seems to always take the opposite direction to which you're trying to lead?

One tactic I would suggest is simply "holding the center".  Nothing too mystical here - just watch your own breathing and maintain it. Keep it nice and slow and easy. As you breathe, you might notice that it slows down on its own slightly and some of the tension in your mind and body can be let go. Your own stress levels diminish, and you are more able to see the way out of your situation.

Check your posture - tension in the shoulders, back, and neck can aggravate a tense situation and might even encourage you to escalate the conflict rather than tone things down.

An image I like to use is standing in the center of the hurricane. The thing is, you're not an island that's stationary and about to be pummeled by the other side of the eye. No, you are a moving column that has your own spin, and by being flexible yet holding fast to the center of all that stormy activity, perhaps you can slow the winds over time and diminish the conflict. The winds are calm in the eye of the storm. Breathe and maintain that calm. Perhaps rapport can come after that.

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5 Tips for Keeping Your Cool in the Current Economy

It's been quite some time since I've last posted; I've been keeping very busy and working on some improvements to my life so it's for good reason. 

What are we all doing, as folks interested in NLP and peak performance, to make sure we're not drowning in the bad news of today's economy? I'd just like to share a few simple things I'm doing to keep an even keel and prevent myself from being overtaken by stress. YMMV.

  • Maintaining an active intellectual and spiritual life   - I'll leave the spirituality (or non-spirituality) up to you, but I can't not talk about the realization I've had relating to the mind. It's not a new discovery but it's inspired in my case by Turtles All The Way Down by John Grinder. Play games. Solve puzzles. Play at activities that are absorbing a even slightly frustrating to your mind. This might break up thought patterns that are causing stress in your life. It may even let your subconscious mind see things in a new way.  Sometimes a good distracting game is all I need to have an "A-Ha!" moment about some vexing problem.
  • Create a nutritional shortlist - pare down the number of supplements you're taking. If you must, eliminate them in favor of healthy, whole foods until you can realistically and responsibly afford your normal supplement program.
  • Continue your daily short trance breaks or power naps if you have the time.  And I bet you have the time to enter a light trance for just five minutes a day.  It's another way to give your mind a rest by directing it somewhere other than the chatter of everyday life. 
  • Get daily sunshine and fresh air when available
  • Keep in touch.  A strong network of good relationships will help you in the short and the long term, and you'll be helping those with whom you relate.  
As I come up with more, I'll post them here.  These are all things that you can work in; no matter how tough things get I would expect you could maintain at least one of these stress-busting habits.

What are some things you're doing just to keep the stress off? Comment below.

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"The Secret" About "What the Bleep Do They Know" About Quantum Mechanics

I've mentioned before how The Law of Attraction misuses the terminology of quantum physics. Well it's one thing to make that statement; I am now going to begin examining the concept a bit more closely. Many hypnotists must contend with the huge amount of misinformation out there about our field; and the antidote to misinformation is correct information (and plenty of it!).

While there might be a possibility that our neurology makes direct use of quantum effects, this has yet to be scientifically demonstrated. Recently I saw an article positing that photosynthesis makes use of a quantum effect to generate energy efficiently for plants and there could be more things in our lives built upon quantum physics than just particle accelerators. Nevertheless, it does not follow that a system for understanding what happens in the specific context of the subatomic scale (quantum theory) will necessarily play out the same way in another, very different, context. Does quantum theory mean that your mind controls and even creates reality?

Hardly. NLP acknowledges that whatever reality is out there is filtered through our senses and then through our neurology (f1 and f2 transforms). The map is not the territory. Think about this for a minute and you may realize that this does not require that the map creates the reality!

Now, sometimes people might get "results" from employing the law of attraction. As I've said in the past, I contend that this is due to the goal-seeking nature of our neurology. The "as-if frame" is a powerful one; perhaps when you act as if the law of attraction is working in your life, then you'll be more open to the opportunities around you that you hadn't noticed before.  But in no way does quantum theory come into play, essentially allowing your mind to dictate what goes on "out there" in any way other than normal interaction with your environment would allow. To make assumptions that your "quantum mind" is using the "law of attraction" to affect reality is employing an "appeal to quantum mechanics".

Wikipedia says it pretty well:

Quantum quackery (appeal to quantum mechanics) are terms of the " Science wars ", criticizing the fashion trend in postmodernism , popular philosophy and various currents of  pseudoscience to refer to  quantum physics  without any  intellectual rigor or understanding of the field to provide an erudite-sounding explanation of pretty much anything without making any actual claim.

Quantum quackery and  New Age "mystical physics" begin in earnest in the 1970s with Fritjof Capra's "The Tao of Physics". Capra asserts that quantum physics confirms Eastern mystical teachings, a claim taken up in the 1980s by Hindutva pseudoscience.

*edited for grammar and to get to the point

It's akin to the convenient metaphor of "energy flow". In martial arts, oft-used phrases like "centering yourself", "allowing the flow of ki" and "breath power" are essentially descriptors for complex (and many times extremely subtle) physical behaviors. Yet on the surface, they seem to describe the existence of something like The Force. While I don't go as far as to claim that this "force" does not exist, in my experience the majority of its associated phenomena seem to be based in complex, but very concrete, physics and biomechanics. Even so, as my first Aikido teacher said, when you act as if the ki is real, you get demonstrable results whether it's objectively real or not.

The problem with the misuse of quantum theory terminology is that people actually believe that modern physics really concretely relates to how they can make money appear from nowhere.  You know by now that I am not a die-hard materialist and in fact am very spiritual but I like to keep my knowledge domains nice and distinct. Quantum physics is for understanding the domain of the extremely small. Material prosperity is another domain which can (and should where useful) employ metaphors built on quantum physics, but ought to be intellectually honest and not misapply ideas.

For some background in quantum physics: Visit Wikipedia

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Lent : Religious or Not, It Pays to Check In Every Now and Then

Tomorrow begins the season of Lent for many Christian churches. Traditionally this is a time leading up to Easter in which the observer will take special effort towards self-examination, in particular by "giving something up for Lent".  Growing up in a tradition that did not practice Lent, I did not understand why anybody had to give anything up. It just didn't make sense - giving something up doesn't make you an intrinsically better person, so why bother?

But upon closer examination, Lent is not some kind of magical practice that makes better people, or makes people worthy of heaven, or whatever. It's a 40-day period of focus on our lives placed in wider, cosmic context. And whether you're religious or not, a 40-day period of intense reflection, seeing what you can do without (use it as a time to defeat bad habits, excesses, or even addictions) will probably yield great benefits.

Aggressive Optimism maintains that peak performance comes when you frame your day-to-day life in a wider context, a greater meaning. Human life has a cyclic nature: night and day, rest and activity, accumulation and release - and one way to embrace these principles of context and cycle is to follow a religious calendar. I'm not sure what John Grinder would say about this case specifically, but Turtles All the Way Down talks about coherent culture and my thinking springs from that concept. Lent provides a yearly cycle whereby those who observe the Christian holidays can re-center their lives and let go of anything accumulated that they don't need.

To adopt a 40-day discipline of some sort can help clear your mind... perhaps you'll make a 40-day commitment to meditate every day, or to pray more deeply, or to clean out your diet.  Non-Christians need not call it "Lent", and they can undertake it any time of year they choose, but I would resist the temptation to round the number of days, as that can lead to boxing it off as "that thing I did that one month". Make it an odd number so it gets loose from the regular calendar and you can avoid compartmentalizing it too much.

Another temptation is to extend your practice all year long, which depending on the practice might be a great thing, but good dividends come from the yearly checking-in itself so no matter what you keep for year-long routine, be sure to always check back on a regular basis.

To those who wish to join in Lent this year, it's never too late and there are so many resources online with suggestions for a practice that I'll refrain from making any suggestions. Google and Yahoo are your friends.

Posted by Steve in NLP, Peak Performance, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Beating Blue Monday

Yesterday was supposedly "Blue Monday", the day that some think is the most depressing day of the year. The day when everyone realizes they are not following through on their New Year's resolutions, when the days are still short and with little sunlight, when the cold of winter really sets in.

As I started my new year, being the Aggressive Optimist I shunned the "resolutions" concept and simply searched inside myself, following the AO Manifesto, and generated a burst of attitude and activity that has propelled me past that dreadful Monday of doom.

How can we all do this? Luckily, as Aggressive Optimists we learn from NLP Presuppositions that if somebody can do something, anybody can learn it. And the truth is that I didn't make it up, I myself learned it from another.

I don't have the concrete reference to hyperlink, but if I recall correctly it was Phil Lenahan's newsletter that mentioned having year-round resolutions. Use the new year as a time to set goals, but don't ONLY do it in the new year. Do it year-round so you can have an ongoing buzz of self-reinforcing activity. When you encounter mistakes, correct them rather than abandoning the whole process, which oftentimes happens in the case of dropped New Year's Resolutions.

Use your small successes as "fuel for the fire" and keep on trucking throughout the year.

Phil has some great resources on his site. If you're not religious, don't be turned away by the site's Catholic orientation. His book and his site's tools are very helpful and gel completely with Aggressive Optimism.

Here's to an Optimistic Year!

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Dr. Andrew Weil: For sugar cravings, hypnosis and stress control may help

Dr. Andrew Weil, pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, writes in the Tucson Citizen that sugar cravings may be helped by hypnosis, and the use of breathing techniques in order to reduce stress.

According to Dr. Weil: "Eating sweets can increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin,
which can help you relax, suggesting that some cravings are
stress-related. Studies at the University of California-San Francisco
reported last year that chronic stress may explain why some people
crave comfort foods."

Perhaps it's possible to ask your unconsious to help regulate your sugar cravings. The unconscious would have many resources at its disposal, most importantly the external behaviors that get us into trouble in the first place. Dr. Weil has suggestions for these behaviors as well, including choosing snacks with a low glycemic index, eating bitter foods, and he even recommends the supplement gymnema sylvestre.

For more information, visit the article itself on the Tucson Citizen web site, or visit Dr. Andrew Weil's own site.

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ABC News Reports on Psychedelic Magic Mushrooms

Quite a surprise from the Google News site- the ABC News web site has published a Reuters article covering recent research into the beneficial effects of psilocybin mushrooms. Apparently 60% of the volunteers who received an extract of psilocybin reported a "full mystical experience".

But the interesting part  to me is the two month followup:

Two months after getting the drug, 79 percent of the volunteers said they felt a moderately or greatly increased well-being or life satisfaction, according to the report published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Maybe we can't try and tease too much out of a wire story, but the  percentage of people from the study reporting a moderate or great increase in wellbeing evidently (according to this article) exceeds the apparent percentage of people who reported a mystical experience.

But other than this weird observation, perhaps we can ignore the means used to achieve a peak experience in this case and focus on the concept that peak experience can have lasting positive effects.
So are thosse of us using positive psychology, NLP, hypnosis, or even exercise and martial arts just chasing a high? I've heard that accusation leveled against  peak performance seekers many a time. Perhaps now, with research like this, we can begin to back up scientifically the lasting benefits of our personal mind tech.

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Habits of a Highly Effective Person

CNNMoney has a nice writeup by Bill Gates about his work habits, how he limits information overload, and prevents information underload. I'd say he's about as effective a person as you can get, similar to Steve Jobs, so take a look and mine this article for all its nuggets.

One nice bit: "Staying focused is one issue; that's the problem of information
overload. The other problem is information underload. Being flooded
with information doesn't mean we have the right information or that
we're in touch with the right people."

Read the entire article for more on how he uses technology, and good work habits to get things accomplished and to vision the future.

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Does Stress Really Make You Sick?

Following up on the quarreling couples article, I have news of another study showing that stress impacts the immune system. Courtesy of Life Extension Daily Update on December 5th, Agence France-Presse reports on an Australian study showing the link between stress and the release of neuropeptides that weaken the immune response.  Researcher Fabienne Mackay was quoted, saying:

"During periods of stress, nerves release a lot of NPY and it gets into the bloodstream, where it inhibits the cells in the immune system that look out for and destroy pathogens in the body," she said.

"That stress makes you sick is no longer a myth, it is a reality and we need to take it seriously."

Mackay was also quoted discussing the need for relaxation techniques and even yoga to help combat stress and its numerous effects on our health. As hypnotists, we already have the skills to keep stress levels down; how many of us actually use them?

In my own experience, I usually take a "trance break" either midday or in the middle of an intense work period in order to keep the stress down. Since I've undertaken this practice, sometimes using the Betty Erickson technique and other times simply using my own rapid induction anchors on myself, I have noticed a qualitative change in my stress responses. I also believe these breaks are consistent with Herbert Benson's "Breakout Principle" and enhance my creativity.

If we combine regular physical activity, a healthy lifestyle, and self-hypnosis, we may have the beginnings of performing at our peak.

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UK Doctor recommends light stress for anti-aging effects

From Life Extension Daily News comes an article recommending light, pleasant stress as a way to combat aging, in effect affirming what I would call common sense - human beings need to be challenged to be happy. This is really no surprise to me, as I find that pretty much anyone around would prefer some challenge, whether through business, exercise, martial arts, or even the crosswords, over a life of daily monotony.

If the aging people whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in my life are any indication, it's true that staying active and mildly stimulated with a variety of challenging tasks will keep you happier and possibly healthier over time.

Quoth the article:
"Dr Marios Kyriazis, medical director of the British Longevity Society and a private anti-ageing doctor, believes enjoyable stress - if you think there is such a thing - helps us live longer.

Dr Kyriazis said: 'I'm talking about mild stress not excessive stress. If we have mild stress that causes a very light damage in our cells.

'The cells try to repair this damage and at the same time they also repair any age-related damage that's around. It makes you stronger and more youthful.'"

Isn't this also the basic mechanism that makes exercise work? Physical adaptation to physical stressors.

More info:

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