The famed Olympic diver, Greg Louganis, would clear his mind then review in his mind 40 times the dive that he was about to do with the 41st time being the real deal, controlled by his servo-mechanism at this point. When our mind becomes a cluttered mess with external disturbed thoughts, we can mentally conjure up a chalkboard with an eraser that we use to first erase out what is bothering us before we can proceed. We can also use the example of a calculator in which we clear the screen before we begin. At that point, we can enter a reflective state in which we play the mini movie of what we envision we are doing to reach our goal so that when the time comes, how we behave and carry out what we need to do is almost second nature.
Now to join the previous blog of hitting the delay button and this one on hitting the erase button, try to visualize yourself when you have a moment with the telephone ringing and ringing and you remain completely calm in your mind. You don’t rush to pick it up. Picture your colleague at work screaming at you and you remain completely at peace and don’t fall into his anger rant. Picture these scenarios and various ones like them over and over again like a well-wrought film. Once you have firmly played out your calmness in the sea of storm, you will move through your busy day with calm because you have already previsualized it with your repeated mental movie, hit the erase and delay buttons so that when you encounter the real-life situation, you are already under the control of your automatic servo-mechanism.
As we have discussed, a strong internal self-image will flourish despite the vicissitudes of circumstances that surround us. In addition, the many previous blog series, especially those focusing on Toltec and Eastern thought, have helped us reach a deeper equanimity that is so very important to happiness and also to create the stillness that we need to move our unconscious servo-mechanism forward.
Maltz has many interesting ideas on how to achieve this peaceful state in our life so that we can be in a position to allow ourselves to move our servo-mechanism to our desired target (our goals). With the multitude of external stimuli that bombard us every day, we have to quiet our own voice so that we do not become drowned out. Think for a moment when the telephone rings, you have an almost instinctual need to go to answer it in a Pavlovian response. Maltz suggests that next time that the phone rings, delay your response and say, “I’ll get up in a few moments but not right now.” Hitting the delay button will start to disconnect you from the rush of external stimuli that may be disturbing your peaceful state.
Maltz also uses the example of a woman who had intense agoraphobia so much so that she could not leave the house. In crowded situations, she would panic and be lost for what to do. Then she thought to herself when she was in a crowded situation, “Wait, I am not going to panic right now but I will in two minutes.” Of course, she continued to practice this mental game of hitting the delay button until she overcame her fear.
Even though we might not be able to completely extinguish all of the negative thoughts in our head, we can “hit the delay button” so that we might begin to let go of our unsavory connection with the bustle of external prodding.
Poise is defined as the ability to remain calm and liberated even in the face of unfamiliar or strange circumstances. James Mangan, the famous salesman, author and lecturer, was painfully self-conscious whenever he ate in fine dining establishments. He felt out of his element and was wondering if what fork he used was wrong, if he behaved in a less than civil manner, etc. Whenever he felt this constraint on his personality, he would say to himself, “I’m going to eat with Ma and Pa.” By doing that, he was alleviated about that social situation and also many others. He eventually became immune to the thoughts of strangers and strange situations. Similarly, when we are so fearful of what someone else thinks of us, we cannot act freely and are restricted. When our conscious thought is restricted, so follows our unconscious servo-mechanism. Our creative mechanism is stifled and so is our potential to do anything great.
Jennifer Capriati, once a 14-year-old tennis wunderkind, between 1990 to 1993 reached three Grand Slam semifinals and captured the 1992 Olympic gold medal in Barcelona. But then her career took a nose dive. She left the tour for 2 years and in 1994 was arrested for possession of drugs and for shoplifting. Capriati traced her disillusionment to when she lost the Grand Slam semifinal to Monica Seles. When she made her comeback, a journalist reported, “There seems to be two key reasons for Capriati’s renaissance — concluding it didn’t matter what people believed about her and learning to stop believing bad things about herself.” In 2001, she beat Martina Hingis in the Australian Open finals and then defended her championship the next year as well as winning the 2001 French Open. She has racked up 14 singles titles and 1 doubles title during her career.
Capriati’s comeback was based on finally forgetting whatever anyone else thought of her as well as what she thought of herself and just doing the job. When our self image is finally liberated from the confines of how we fear other people will see us or how we will see ourselves, we can unleash a powerful new self image that in turn promotes a healthy and free unconscious servo-mechanism. Our true personality can shine and we can be free.
There are two ways to respond to negative feedback: 1) improving your future course so that you don’t repeat the same mistake, 2) you shut down and become more inhibited in what you do and say. Like the guided missile that is our unconscious servo-mechanism, tiny corrections continue to move us toward our target. However, when the negative feedback is too severe or strong, the missile veers tremendously off course or shuts down all together.
Maltz says that we were all born to have a care-free attitude and unrestrained personality. However, with ongoing negative criticism, we become more and more restrained in our social interactions and more timid as individuals. Our servo-mechanism should act freely and not be restrained by conscious fear of a situation.
He uses the example of a stutterer and a deaf-mute. Usually, a stutterer becomes increasingly self conscious of his behavior and cannot talk well. However, an experiment was undertaken in which the stutterer had his voice recorded but during his speaking had a loud bell tone ringed into earphones during his speech. Surprisingly, when played back, the stutterer was amazed that he was not stuttering. His unconscious ability to speak was paralyzed by his conscious deliberation on his speech until that conscious layer was removed. The opposite is true of someone born deaf. Typically, they can’t speak at all. That is due to the absence of feedback on one’s own speech so that individual never learns to speak. We need aural feedback to what we say so that we know how to correct our speech.
The stutterer represents the person who is so inhibited by past negative comments that he or she cannot freely interact with others. The deaf-mute is similarly an example of someone who never got any feedback and does not know how to move forward.
To unlock our true, real personality, we must begin to let go of this thick layer of conscious restrictions. Tomorrow we will investigate poise and what that means to the unrestrained personality.
Yesterday, we talked about how to avoid emotional scars. Today, we use similar plastic surgical parlance and discuss how we can be our own plastic surgeons to perform our very own emotional facelift. Maltz explains that forgiveness is the key action that must be taken. We have talked about forgiveness in many previous blogs but I really like both the analogy of an emotional facelift (hey, I’m a facial plastic surgeon) and also the subtle twists that Maltz adds that have never been discussed before.
When a wife has forgiven her husband for an adulterous affair, she can subtly undermine his life through subversive comments and righteous indignation but still have offered “forgiveness”. Maltz argues that if we forgive we must forget. We must cancel the check, tear up the receipt so to speak. If we do not forget, we have in short not forgiven. Our emotional facelift must require forgiving and forgetting.
Sometimes when we forgive our enemies, we do this in a tactical maneuver where we lord over the other person by reigning on him forgiveness. This is also not the method for an emotional facelift. It is not how we repair our scars. I remember when a lady came to my office very grieved at another individual’s behavior and said, “I really pity him.” I remember telling her that pity was an emotion of superiority and not love and forgiveness. When we offer forgiveness it should be unconditional and absolute. It should not be used as a tactical maneuver to outpace our enemies.
I like that we have also forgotten that forgiveness requires that we condemn someone first. For example, when Jesus worked with an adulterous woman who was going to be stoned by the church, he actually did not offer her forgiveness but simply said, “go and sin no more.” He did not condemn this woman so he need not have forgiven her, not in the classic sense per se. If we don’t condemn someone first, we need not even extend forgiveness because we did not accept the hurt in the first place. A subtle but profound thought.
Finally, forgiveness begins with forgiveness of ourselves. We must allow ourselves to be off the hook first and foremost. When our self image is low we tend not to forgive ourselves nor others around us. When we start with a strong self image, we forgive ourselves and others. Or in the parable of Jesus and the adulterous woman, hopefully we won’t even need to offer up forgiveness because we did not first start with condemnation.