I grew up asking these questions and only found the answers when I learnt about the NLP Communication Model.
In case you've ever pondered these questions or ones like them, then this blog is for you.
Why am I me? Why do I think, act and react the way I do?
I'm me as a result of everything I've experienced and learnt up to this moment in time. And that determines how I think and how I act and react the way I do.
...but how I think/act/react is weird/annoying/unhelpful! Where on earth does that come from? It doesn't make sense.
Can I change that?
Yes. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
You think, act and react to things based on what you've learnt over time.
We are always capable of learning, so you can learn to think, act and react differently.
...and it can speed up the process if you can find out how you learnt your current way, so you can un-learn what you learnt, and learn something more useful from that experience instead!
So as I said, the NLP communication model helps to answer these questions. Here it is:
I go through it in more detail in this blog but the basics are that as humans, we work a lot like computers:
Information - some information comes in. What's going on?
Internal Computer - this is our mind. We process the information about what's going on using the existing programmes and stored data in our minds, as well as other variables like the amount of energy we have at the time.
The Magic Triad - the processing results in some output.
What we say to ourselves about what's happening (e.g. nightmare, amazing),
How we feel (e.g. stressed, excited), and
What happens to our bodies (e.g. tense shoulders, butterflies in our tummies)
Behaviour - we use that output to decide what to do (e.g. retreat, dive right in)
Results/Feedback - we get some results / feedback based on what we did.
This is how we learn. More of that later...
So you can see that how we act and react to things is dependent on how our mind (our internal computer), processes the information coming in.
Our internal computers contain all our memories and experiences and everything we have learnt from them, for example
What's important to us (values)
What we believe
The rules that we have for ourselves, others and the world in general
How we do things (strategies)
Our preferred behaviour patterns (for example, do I crave the company of others or am I happier on my own).
What’s in your mind and how did it get there?
If you're anything like me (and many of my clients), you might end up with some habitual ways of thinking and behaving that
aren't particularly useful
are damn right annoying
don't reflect how you really want to be
just seem odd.
Uncovering what's in your internal computer and the impact it has on how you process your experience increases your self awareness and is the first step to figuring out what needs to change and how you might do that.
That can take some therapy, as sometimes the source of our processing is outside of our conscious awareness. But it normally doesn't take much for the root cause to surface, with the right sort of questioning.
Both the Time Line Therapy and Rapid Transformational Therapy techniques I use, focus on going back to find the root cause. The event or string of events where you learnt to think or behave a certain way.
And it’s thought that our internal computer, or
Our adult mind is established when we’re about 21
It takes that time to establish all the programmes. After that, we need conscious effort to change the programming, to change 'our mindset'.
…And when we’re born, our internal computer is empty, like a blank screen…or maybe not (more of that in a bit)!
The process of filling it up is quite simple.
The learning cycle
If you touch the thing in your lounge that looks like a hot fire, you’ll experience pain. If you do it over again, the association between that thing in the lounge and pain will be established and you’ll have learnt “don’t touch the fire”.
But of course, not everything we learn is as simple and straightforward as that. Or as helpful.
As a child I tried something and my dad told me I had done it wrong. I should have done it a different way.Try harder.
And that made me feel sad.
Getting that message consistently as a child led to me expecting to be told I'd done something wrong. I needed to try harder to get things right first time and make my dad proud…you can see how it goes.
I arrived in adulthood as a perfectionist. Afraid of just having a go. Afraid of being criticised for not getting it right first time. Believing that the only way to success was to try really hard.
It’s what I learnt. Initially from my dad.
Looking back, I can see things with different eyes. He just wanted me to do well and that was his way of motivating me. Unfortunately, that’s not how it landed as that style of motivation doesn't work for me.
As an adult, I get to choose and learn a different mindset that is more effective and not as exhausting! I choose to have a go and see what happens. Experiment and focus on taking action as that's what works for me.
But it's been handy to have uncovered that was what was holding me back and to know where it came from. Finding a different explanation to those past events makes it easier to let go of the unhelpful things that I learnt then.
Our core learning tends to come from the emotionally significant events in our lives. They're the ones that get our attention and have the biggest impact in shaping what's in our internal computer.
Instant change can happen when the emotion is really high.
"I tried really hard but what I did was wrong. I'm just not good enough"
"I hated people calling me a show off so I won't do anything well any more"
"Reading out loud in class was really scary, I never want to do that again"
"This pork pie is made of mashed up pig. That makes me feel sick. I'm never eating meat again"
Something happens and we make a firm decision for the future about what we will do or believe.
The trouble with the process is the timing
As I mentioned above, our adult minds are 'set' by the time we're 21 and most of our big decisions have been made and key things learnt by the time we're 7!...(my pork pie moment was about age 21)!
0-7 is known as the imprint period. During this time, we're like a sponge. We'll soak up what people around us teach us through their behaviour and what they say... without questioning it.
7-14 is the modelling period, when we identify our heroes and attempt to model what they do.
14-21 is the socialisation period when we widen our circle of influence and refine who we want to be.
So in therapy, when we're looking for the root cause of an unhelpful belief or behaviour, we're looking for an event in the past, the first event where a decision was made, so ideally one between the ages of 0 and 7.
Any decision we make then is compounded as that becomes our focus and (as explained in this blog)
we get what we focus on
So the trouble is that we make big decisions about ourselves, others and the world in general when we are children with
And we're making those decisions based on things that, as an adult may not seem big at all.
My first experience of fear was waking up and thinking my bedroom was full of daddy long legs. When I revisited this experience as an adult I realised it was just my eyes adjusting to the light. If I had my time again, I would have told my younger self to check what was real before reacting. I would have told myself that there was no reason to be afraid and that being afraid wouldn't keep me safe.
This is the value of finding and re-evaluating past events. We can resolve the emotion that's stored in the past and learn something different for the future.
It's like re-writing your history.
Your mind may not be empty at birth
As I said earlier, our internal computer might not be empty when we're born.
If you believe in past lives or ‘inherited characteristics’ then you may turn up at the start of your life with some existing content. But you may not be aware of it or where it came from. Sometimes that shows up in language like
I’m a born worrier.
My family are all <some characteristic>. We always have been.
Interestingly, you don’t necessarily have to believe in past lives to have something in your processor that your mind thinks was created before or during the time when you were born.
My parents used to joke with me about how I was a wonderful mistake. I wasn’t ‘planned’ as my older siblings were.
Like many others, I’ve been hampered by ‘not feeling enough‘ at times in my life. In Time Line Therapy, I uncovered a link to feeling like I was a mistake and the first time I felt that was the point that I was conceived. That might sound weird, but it makes sense when you think about it.
Even if I don’t really have that memory at that time, our minds are symbolic. Having grown up being told I was a mistake, I linked learning that to the point I was conceived, even though I only heard it when I was much older than that.
For the purposes of learning what you need to do to change, it doesn’t really matter If you believe in pre-birth memories, past lives or inherited characteristics. If your mind has learnt something that it’s linked to a historical time, that’s just the way it is.
So, if you've arrived as an adult with some unhelpful learning from the past, remember
It’s just what you learnt from something that happened or an association with an event that your mind has made
Just as you learnt it then, you can unlearn it now by re-evaluating what happened.
Change IS possible as I've explained, but this is also now backed up by neuroscience and the neuroplasticity of the brain. Your brain can change based on what you focus on.
You don’t necessarily need therapy or need to know the root cause of how you think and behave to change (although that can be quicker and easier). If you identify the unhelpful thoughts/behaviours that you want to change, find some good reason to decide they're no longer valid for you, and focus on what you'd rather think/do instead, you can embed that as your new habit over time.
If you'd like to explore how I can help you uncover or re-programme what's in your computer-like mind, please book a free call.
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