This week…
It’s Never Too Late To Meet A Blue Whale!

It’s never too late to meet a blue whale…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jesus Christ

Just before Christmas I ran into a blue whale that I hadn’t seen since I was 9 years old.

Desperate for something different to do at the weekend, I’d taken the girls to the Natural History Museum to see the Dinosaurs. My own memory of going round museums as a kid was mainly to do with having aching legs and hoping it would finish soon, so I was keen to see whether I could inflict a different experience on my kids.

Anyway, the dinosaurs met with a suitable reaction, ranking just after ice cream and the museum shop(!) when we turned a corner and there he was.

Filling the room, a lot more dusty than I remember (and in what seemed like a much smaller room) but the same blue whale from years ago. It was one of those time-travel moments when suddenly all the years fell away and I was transported back to my past.

And that was what made the day stand out. Why?

Because just to one side was an old exhibition stand explaining how they train dolphins and killer whales to follow simple commands. It turns out that although they have a language and can be taught to follow our commands, they have no concept of the past.

Why not? Well, I'm no dolphin expert but it seems that in order to experience your past you need a fairly sophisticated ability to represent the past using language, an ability that is so common to humans we assume every creature can do it.

Just stop for a moment and consider this. You can only have a past if you have the language skills to construct one. You can’t re-experience 10 mins ago, you can only describe it to yourself and others using your language skills. In other words what you experience is NOT your past but a version of NOW that you construct with pictures, sounds, feelings and then describe to yourself with your language. The only experience we ever have is NOW.

Changing The Past

This is hot stuff because if you construct (i.e. make up) what you experience about the past then you can change your experience of it.

When you think of the past, in reality you are having an experience in NOW that is based on your description of what happened - a description made using words, pictures, sounds and feelings. Every-time you access a memory, you change it - this is how the NLP phobia cure works. It’s also the basis for all the talking therapies - change the description you make of something and you change the experience.

I've heard people say before that It’s never to late to have had a happy childhood but it wasn’t until I was standing there in front of the plastic model of a dolphin that I really got it.

Come to think of it, how many children do you know who worry about what happened last week and replay it over and over again. Mine certainly don’t but I do, so someone must have taught me to do that as I got older.

Living For NOW

Whilst children are busy living in NOW, many of us adults will do anything to avoid dealing with NOW, particularly if it would mean facing up to problems or challenges where we need to take action. So what do we do? Take refuge in reliving the past or worrying about the future all the while forgetting that all we have is NOW and it needs attention.

If your past is constructed then you can construct the kind of past that most supports you - you can literally reprogram or reframe the memories so that they serve you.

Reframing is changing the frame in which you perceive events in order to change what they mean to you. When the meaning changes your responses and behaviour change.

Of course, this applies equally to communication with others - help them change the frame they put around events and the meaning changes. When the meaning changes their response to the event and subsequent behaviours will change.

How To Reframe

The classic how-to guide for this is Reframing by Bandler and Grinder.

They start by noticing that reframing is a natural skill and something that storytellers and comedians have relied on for years - examples include the story of the ugly duckling who turns out to be a swan and Rudolp whose red nose was useful in the end.

The best place to start is with content reframing where you change the meaning of something or it’s context to affect your own or someone elses reaction to it.

They maintain that every experience in the world and every behaviour is appropriate, given some context, some frame and so there are two main ways to help yourself (and others) to reframe.

The first is to change the context and the second is to change the meaning.

Changing The Context

Changing the context can be useful when people are beating themselves up about a particular behaviour I'm too Z or he’s too Q.

Being greedy is usually unproductive in relationships and at work. However, being greedy for your personal development is useful thing as would being greedy in a survival situation - it would keep you alive.

The point is that being greedy may be very useful and appropriate in some contexts and not very useful in others. Creating a context where greed becomes being able to meet your needs changes our response to it.

Rather than attacking yourself for the behaviour, you simply search for a context where that behaviour is appropriate and then agree with yourself to only use it in those contexts.

Changing The Meaning

You can also change the meaning of current or past events and behaviours. I feel X when Y happens.

One example might be I can’t take notes, I'm so stupid. Here someone has made one thing (not being able to take notes) mean another thing (I'm stupid).

Another example might be I feel tense and stressed because my boss always criticises me. In this example the person attaches a particular meaning (I'm being criticised) to someone elses behaviour (their boss always pointing out mistakes) with the result that they feel tense and stressed.

But, of course, this is only one meaning for the bosses behaviour. There are others…

He must really notice the work you do and like you enough to want to help you make it even better

When it comes to our past, we often present it too ourselves using a particular frame - we assign certain meanings to our memories and feel certain feelings as a result. When we change the meaning then our response (feelings, behaviours etc.) to the memories will change.

To Summarise…

To help yourself or others change the CONTEXT - ask yourself, In what context would this particular behaviour that I'm complaining about have value? Think of different contexts until you find one that changes your evaluation of the behaviour.

To help yourself or others change the MEANING - ask yourself:

Practice trying on different beliefs about way things work as a way of reframing what happens to you. An example might be the belief that Everything happens for a reason, and a purpose, and it serves me

This week, why not take something from the past 10 mins, day, week, month, or years and redefine it to have it mean something different and serve you.