There's been a bit of a debate that raged over in an NLP Facebook page that I frequent. I threw my tuppence worth in and then took a step back. I was somewhat surprised by the vehemence of the argument, but then over the Internet, people will argue their opinions on red onions with the stridency of a fundamentalist religious believer. When it got to that stage, I took a step back and considered the bones of the argument itself.
It was about Positive Mental Attitude.
How about that eh? Who'd have thought people would get all hot under the collar from that?
NLP purists argue that it's your attitude that dictates your reality. Your attitude creates the filters through which you experience life. In other words, if you're an optimist good things are there for you and conversely, if you're a pessimist, Life will give you lemons.
To a certain extent, I think there's a lot of weight to the positive argument. Depending on your filter, you'll see opportunity or difficulty. NLP has quite a few good strategies and techniques to get yourself into a positive state, to give you control over your thinking and emotions. These strategies and techniques are incredibly useful.
I did my NLP training a couple of years ago and since then, my internal experience of Life has been far more enriched and considered. The biggest thing it has given me, is awareness.
The thing is, I'm not an NLP purist. If you ask me about specific techniques and strategies, I'll have to stop and think about it. I can do it, but it might take me a moment or two. For me, NLP is about flexibility and attitude.
I spent two months during a summer two years ago, with my father before he died. It was perhaps one of the most profound experiences I've had and it rocked me to the very core. When I returned to my life in Norwich, I went to see someone, who suggested that I'd experienced "challenges". Ladies and Gentlemen, it's a testament to my self-control that I didn't pick up the metal folding chair I was sat on, and beat the man to death with it. Challenges? Really?
It was the trivialising of that profound experience which fuelled my rage. And yes, it was rage. Perhaps a little bit over the top, you might say. Perhaps. I got off the chair and haven't seen him since.
NLP, ultimately is about easing suffering. It's about: not making a bad situation worse.
The problem I have with the strident defenders of Positive Mental Attitude is that they argue that there is no such thing as a "bad situation", it's only "a challenge" that you're failing because of a poor attitude. If you change your state, no problem.
Part of my resistance to the paradigm of Positive Mental Attitude comes from the fact I'm a writer and a Pagan. As a writer I am driven to communicate Life's experiences; as a Pagan, the natural world informs my spirituality. My own experiences include: joy, love, laughter, friendship and also, grief, disappointment, pain. I have suffered. My Life is a rich mix of these things. If I was happy, happy, happy all the time, would my life be as rich?
NLP has meant I experience the lows without fear. In fact, there are days when I positively enjoy my moodiness. I relish my grumpiness. I experience these moods knowing I'm not stuck in them. They pass like the rain in winter.
Nature is a great teacher and many of my Facebook posts reflect the metaphors Nature and Science contributes to life.
You see, if we are the sapling, we need the sun and rain to flourish. The wind to blow off the leaves and the deadwood. The change in seasons to bring periods of rest and growth. NLP has given me more flexibility. Why would I need it, if there wasn't a stiff wind to bend with?
The stiff wind, the low moments, are all part of Life. For me there is power in these experiences. They are the teachers. Great insight comes from them. Insight, I could not have gained with the highs.
Being able to say to those around me: I'm having a really hard time right now, gave the people around me, the opportunity to give me the comfort I needed. I try to return the favour, sometimes more successfully than others, but I do try. There is a great joy in being able to comfort. It reminds us we are not alone. Sharing compassion and love are rich experiences in themselves.
The Work of Byron Katie and Buddhism continue to inform my learnings. I think of myself as a student of Life, not a teacher. This blog is about sharing my thoughts on my experiences, with a hope that you, my readers might find it a trigger for your own thoughts. I don't have answers, I only have more questions.