PRACTICING POSITIVE BEHAVIORS
There is an old saying that “Practice Makes Perfect. I agree… So doesn’t it make sense that a person will become who they practice to be?
While teaching a self esteem workshop I had a gentleman in the class (we’ll call John) who, on opening day, when students were sharing information about their respective problems, said that he hadn’t had a job in two years. He said there was no point in looking for a job because he didn’t interview well and no one would like him anyway so what was the point of looking. He said that one of his goals in coming to the class was to have greater self confidence. At the end of the class I gave each of the students’ homework to complete for the next class. This is what I gave John. I said “John, this week here is what I want you to do. Each night you are going to get the local paper and you are going to select three jobs from the classified ads. I’m going to make this incredibly easy for you. I want you to find three jobs that you have absolutely no interest in. I’m going to make it even easier for you. You don’t have to call for an interview. Simply call and ask for some details of the job for example, hours, responsibilities, pay and so forth. You don’t have to schedule an interview or do anything else.” He replied, “I can’t do that.” I asked why not? He said, “That’s not me. I would be being phony to do that.” I said to him, “When you came into class today you told me you wanted to be more confident didn’t you?” He said that was true. I then said to him, “If you practice baseball every day, you will become a better baseball player… Right!” He said that was true. “Well if you practice the piano every day you’d become a better what?” He responded, “A better piano player.” I said you are right. If you practice carpentry every day you would become a better what.” “A better carpenter” he said. I then said, “If you practice confident behavior every day you will become more what?” “Confident”, he responded in a questioning voice. “Darn right” I said. “We are who we practice to be.”
If one practices confident behavior he or she will become more confident. If one practices positive self-talk, he or she will develop a more positive attitude. You see… most often the behavior and the perception precede the feeling, not the other way around. When you change behavior and perception, as a residual effect, the person will “feel” differently about them selves and his or her relationship to the world around them.
Another example of behavior preceding the feeling… I had a student who was interning at my office. When it came time for her first solo client she was very nervous about doing the session. She decided simply to pretend that she was a female version of me (a more experienced therapist) and that she would take on the “role” of a being an experienced, confident, competent therapist and would let the chips fall where they may. Her session went great. She told me that she decided to take the position, “Fake it till you make it”. By practicing the behavior of a confident therapist she was able to rapidly acquire the feeling of confidence that came with confident behavior.
Hypnotic suggestion can make it easy for a person to make the initial behavioral change they desire. This formula provides a self-perpetuating cycle for personal development. As behaviors are practiced they become normal and natural to the person. As they live out these more positive behaviors their perception of themselves and of the world around them begins to change. The cycle continues each element reinforcing the other. Perceptual change with no behavioral change WILL NOT in itself change the dynamic of a person’s life to any extent, nor will it have the long-term effect that will best serve the client. Positive “behavioral” change will impact directly upon the person’s life thereby leading to a more positive self-image and attitude.
DR. HOLDER’S FORMULA
1. Hypnosis can facilitate behavioral change through suggestion for perceptual change. [Note: Without the behavioral change the perceptual change will lack reinforcement and will not last over the long-term.]
2. When we practice positive behaviors, we become that person (The person we practice to be, is the person we will ultimately become).
3. The new behavior must often precede the feeling in order to achieve long term change.
4. The person must be invested in the process (He or she must take responsibility for initiating the changes he or she seeks… even if they are going to a therapist for help).
Note: Often when someone is unsuccessful in achieving long-term positive change it is because of a reversing of priorities. Permanent or long-term success is not facilitated by soft, fuzzy, touchy-feely therapy that focuses mostly on how someone feels. Positive self image and confidence are facilitated when a person takes action and power in their life. Focus must be on how a person perceives their circumstance, how they act or react to those circumstances and also around creating the desired behavior within that context. It is not simply the result of a therapist’s caring heart or intuition (even though these may play a lesser role in the therapy). It is a product of establishing within one’s belief system the idea that they themselves possess the power in their life, as well as the responsibility for, their life. That great power can be tapped by altering perception in order to facilitate the practice of new constructive behavioral patterns. As someone practices these new behaviors, the behaviors become who they are. It is no different that practicing the piano or practicing baseball. The more you practice something the more a natural part of you it becomes.
In the past 3 or 4 decades patients/clients have frequently been held hostage in long-term therapy. This is in part due to the mindset of the “Pop-Counseling Community” of the sixties and seventies. Certain schools of thought in effect protected counseling professionals (themselves) from criticism by committing to absolutely nothing in terms of what is, or is not, positive and productive behavior. Emphasis often focused on how a person “feels” rather than what they do. The philosophy of, I’m okay, you’re okay, we are all just peachy, gave great latitude to mental health therapist. The idea that everyone’s perception and feelings are just wonderful manifestations of that person’s unique identity ignored the fact that “we do not live in a vacuum” and that people’s goals are usually intertwined with their interaction with their environment (including other people). The “We’re all okay” philosophy provided job security for mental health therapists by creating therapeutically dependent clients and patients often captive to years of counseling while often accomplishing little. I can’t begin to tell you how many people have come to me with statements like this… “Dr. Holder, I’ve been in counseling for years. After all this counseling I know why I feel lousy but the problem is I still feel lousy”. In my opinion therapy with that end result is not competent therapy. In fact it is virtually useless.
In recent years there has been a greater acceptance of “brief therapy”. Hypnotherapy has always been brief therapy. Hypnotherapists know that what the mid perceives as real is real to that person’s mind. If you alter perception you can easily change behavior. As one practices positive behavior their perception is further changed for the better. As a result of perceptual and behavioral change the person then “feels” better about themselves and their relationship to the world around them.
BEHAVIOR TO BETTER SELF IMAGE
If someone’ goal is to move from point “A” to point “B” as rapidly as possible, it’s important to practice being the person they desire to be. If you begin to look at life from a different mountain or valley, it is far easier to facilitate behavioral change. When the perception and the behavior change, that person feels empowered and their feelings and self image change in a positive way too.