Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mind the Gap

I usually have profound, life-altering epiphanies while taking my morning shower. I don't know what it is about this particular space and/or time, but it generally happens while I am having conversations with myself and preparing for my day. I'm not a shower singer, I'm a shower talker.

The other morning my epiphany had to do with being cognizant of my ability to either talk myself into our out of a positive experience. We, as human beings and expressors of free will, have the capacity to train our brains to be positive or negative. It really is a choice. However, to be successful in our endeavor we need to remind ourselves, often, of that goal. Sort of like keeping a gratitude journal, or filling (real or imagined) buckets, or whatever else relates to expressions of happiness or joy.

We all have "tapes" we sometimes play in our brain of words or phrases we constantly repeat to ourselves. These words can be things we heard from parents, teachers, spouses, friends, etc. The words can be either positive (such as, "you are successful") or negative (such as, "you will never amount to anything"). Regardless of the source, we play these tapes over and over in our heads until we actually believe the claim. If we tell ourselves something often enough we believe it to be true. The key is to change the tapes from negative to positive and realize that we are in complete control of our own emotions regardless of who said what to whom.

When I lived in London, England after college I used the underground subway (or "tube") as a mode of transportation. When you are waiting for the train to arrive, an automated voice comes over the speakers and repeatedly says, "Mind the Gap." This is simply a warning to stay clear of the space between the platform and the train until the train comes to a complete stop and you can get on. When you first hear the warning you realize you need to be aware of the "gap" and you move appropriately. When you hear the warning for the 6,000th time your brain has already processed this tape so many times that it's not even a conscious effort to mind the gap. The motions to move away from the gap are automatic whether you are even really hearing the automated voice or not.

If we can get to the point where we tell ourselves often enough that we are good or successful or beautiful or whatever, we can get to the point where it's not even a conscious effort to actually say the words, we will simply just believe. It takes time, no doubt, and that time frame is different for everyone. But, the point is to say the positive words. Repeatedly. Again and again. Over and over.

I tell my boys all the time that they have to believe they can accomplish something in order to actually accomplish it. Nicholas will say,"but I can't do this, that or something else" and I say,"I have faith in you. Why don't you have faith in you?" I ask Nicholas to repeat the mantra "I have faith in me" as many times as necessary until he believes he can do it. He needs to make sure that he controls the tapes that are playing in his head before the tapes start to control him. I just have to learn to practice what I preach. I'm working on it.

The other day Nicholas finished some math problems he was having trouble with. He was really proud of himself, as was I because I didn't help him at all. He said, "you know, mom...that was actually pretty easy." I asked him how his solution went from being practically impossible to so "easy." He said to me, grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire cat, "because I have faith in me." Hallelujah and amen!

What is your "Mind the Gap?"


Helen A. Town said...

Ahh! Just what I needed today!



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