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All references made to clients, case histories, or coaching scenarios in this column have been altered so they no longer resemble any person; living, dead, or just hanging out at the mall.
Picture yourself equipped with a state-of-the-art computer keyboard dangling around your neck, delicately balanced and aligned horizontally, with easy access to anyone who crosses your path. The keys are color coded with labels that read "make me angry," "frustrate me", or "create despair."
After friends, family, or strangers push these buttons, electrical currents are immediately transmitted to your nervous system and trigger the specific emotions indicated by the selected keys.
While this scenario may sound like the sequel to "Clockwork Orange," many of us have placed ourselves voluntarily on this emotional roller coaster. Having purchased the ticket ourselves, we take our public domain, virtual keyboards with us on our tumultuous journey, relinquishing control of our nervous system to others. If that isn't enough, many of us sport ergonomic keyboards equipped with support for every language on the planet, Braille keypads, and voice recognition as well.
When we make statements such as "he pushed my buttons," "she made me angry," or "he depressed me," we are not only making errors in the rules of linguistics and logic, but we are adhering to a philosophy that doesn't resonate with reality.
Our internal computer code for this program looks something like the following:
FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER/STRANGER SAYS OR DOES "X";
INTERPRET THIS AS NEGATIVE/HORRIBLE;
PUSH OWN BUTTONS;
MAKE SELF FEEL BAD/SAD/DEPRESSED;
INVITE MORE PEOPLE TO DO THE SAME;
PICK UP DRY CLEANING;
Okay, maybe the last line of code won't be there.
However, the rest of the code makes it crystal clear that the person causing the emotional reaction is the owner of the keyboard and not the people pressing the keys. You don't have to be the CTO of Intel to draw this conclusion.
You owe it to yourself to have some fun with your brain. Part of the reason most of us are resistant to change is that our associations with self-help and personal improvement are way too serious for us to take lightly. To add insult to injury, many well-meaning professionals assign their clients with homework. I don't know about you, but the minute I hear the "H" word, my brain shuts down and refuses to cooperate. Didn't we have enough class assignments when we were kids? However, if we are challenged to do something really enjoyable, we just might be motivated to do it, especially if it is couched in terms of play, adventure, and curiosity. You may already be wondering what steps you can take now to reclaim control of your emotions, and thereby a good part of you life as well.
"But no," your critical conscious mind may say. "I'm a sensitive person. I can't help the way I react to the outside word." Or as the animated protagonist in Roger Rabbit stated, "I'm just drawn that way."
Ignore those voices, now. Take a deep breath, and realize that we were blessed by God with a powerful and infinitely diverse brain. I believe we were entrusted with the task of learning how to operate our gray matter efficiently and elegantly. Refuse to accept our factory defaults and enjoy the process of making our brains more user- friendly for ourselves, but not for anyone else.
Here are some of the options we have for reclaiming our neurology.
Remove the virtual keyboard
Take a few moments and visualize your keyboard slowing fading out of existence. Once you do this, it will be entirely up to you to color your own emotional world in anyway that you choose. Even the weather conditions or the status of NASDAQ won't have a role in determining your mindset.
Neutralize the buttons
Spend the next few days seeing which buttons effect your headspace, and then scramble the program of each key until they become inoperative. If you deactivate the keyboard, any animal, vegetable, or mineral can continue to push your buttons 24/7 to their heart's content, but your new operating system will no longer respond to their efforts to control you.
Reprogram the buttons
Creating entirely new reactions to old stimuli will set the stage for incredible positive changes in your life. Wouldn't it be great if every time the "make me angry button" was pressed you would motivate yourself to create a new idea to generate income? When your Aunt Hilda places her finger on your "guilt button," you can feel free to shower yourself with relaxation and inner bliss. To top things off, when your spouse asks you to "have a little talk", instead of hyperventilating and expecting the worse, you will go into a deep trance state, stare lovingly into your partner's eyes, and say "you are right, I was so insensitive" at the appropriate times throughout the conversation.
By challenging your internal defaults and establishing self-rule for your emotional kingdom, you can now enjoy a fuller, richer, and homework-free life. If you are lucky, you may even get to the dry cleaners before they close.
Ben Goldfarb is a personal and corporate coach who has given seminars at Philips Medical Systems, Israel Aircraft Industry, and Marvell Semiconductor. He has offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and does telephone and e-coaching with clients in Israel, Europe and the United States. You can email Ben at email@example.com, visit the Paradigm Shift Communications website at www.pdshiftcoaching.com, or call (02) 641 6673 for more information.
Life Coaching: Back to the future
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