Be Specific

Many AT teachers find it’s important to carefully say what you mean when you are giving yourself any sort of directives. This is because you will do what you tell yourself to do. It also means that you can mistakenly tell yourself to do what you do not want to be doing!

I have heard that this phenomena comes from an ancient part of the reptilian brain that does not receive linguistic qualifiers. So if you state that you do not want to do this thing, your brain gets the image message of doing it, despite you qualifying your intentions by saying “do not.”

In that way, it’s very good advice to be positive, without any Polly-Anna or self delusion involved. If you state what you are about to do in the positive sense rather than saying it in the negative, you have a much better chance of fulfilling your objectives for many logical and empirical reasons. As you outline for yourself what you are doing, you are being specific about the steps involved, planning strategies and providing for damage control only if necessary.

If you tell people your positive motives for your actions, you’re more likely to get cooperation. When people don’t understand why you’re doing something mysterious to them, their small-minded negative suspicions are probably being justified by self-preservation.

I believe it’s an assumption of advanced educational debate techniques, art critics, news and dramatic presentations that objectivity must always be negatively critical to be valuable and valid. You will find that it is much easier to tear something apart by focusing on a derogatory feature than it is to create options and move out of personal limitations. By some people, going for positive, easy progress is defined by our culture as “trite” or “lucky,” depending on the subculture. I think this is because it is no surprise that you get whatever you practice. If you take it upon yourself to restate negatively defined objectives in the positive as I’ve recommended above, you’ll notice that just doing this much takes a certain deliberate creative ability that is sometimes tricky to muster up in the light of how you feel at the time. Intense emotions make it a challenge to be creative. Some people find it tricky to switch from editor to artist or inventor and back again.

Perhaps it would be useful to take away the value judgment elements from the assessment processing if you suspect there is something wrong with you? Leaving out the value of whether you “like” something or not that seems to be happening is useful because then you are not sorting or matching for preference, defining your criteria for success or defining your priorities (or self delusion) while you are making observations. Let the evaluation period be a different stage from the observation time. If you are making observations before you have made any changes, then it is likely all you will be able to observe is your habits and what you do not want. If you decide whether you “like” what happened after you have made a change or run an experiment for yourself, then you have more of a chance to have something new happen.

So rather than “good” and “bad” use, think about your desired criteria: which is exactly what brings about “easier” effortlessness. As you see “difficult” use around you (which is so much more common than “easy” use,) noticing people’s coordination of any sort can be a reminder to remember to use A.T. in gratitude. Such as, “wow, I can see how that person is so down, I’m so glad that I know how to move out of that example!” Then as you know enough to
recognize “easy” natural use, (rare as it is!) the elegance in that person’s use stands out like a spotlight is on them amidst a crowd of confusion.

Is there too much “Polly-Anna” in that strategy for you? How about: “Although I see difficult strain in many people, I guess I can’t shut the door on knowing better now that I’ve opened it, so I may as well move easier now myself.”

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