Getting the message – it’s a huge topic. Where to start?
As I sat and waited for all the many random thoughts pinging around my head to get into some sort of order and start dripping down the filter into my consciousness – or in this case, into my fingers and onto the computer screen, I was struck by the music I was listening to (vintage Roy Orbison, actually). The full sound came from the main speaker, and then a beautiful section came from the speaker behind my left ear, followed by the answering section from behind my right ear.
And somehow, that clicked. It’s not only what The Big O was singing that mattered, but what I was hearing – and how I interpreted that – which affected my overall experience.
There’s another article to be written about information overload (note to self!) – but here I want to focus on the messages we receive from our parents, teachers and relations in our early years. Do those adults understand, I wonder, the huge effect their words can have on young, sensitive children?
I may be repeating this story, but it shocked me so much it bears telling again. I was in a local convenience store a while back, and a young boy aged around 6 or 7 was looking for a newspaper. The papers were not in a rack, but spread on a shelf almost at floor level, with a large pillar making things even more awkward (clearly newspapers were not a top seller!). As the boy picked up his paper and turned away, so some magazines dropped from the next shelf up. He started to put the magazines back, which was very good of him – but I was horrified to hear what he was saying to himself as he did it:
“You’re so clumsy, you’re always dropping things.”
“Stupid boy, why aren’t you more careful?”
“You can never do things right, can you?”
As I helped him to pick up the magazines that had fallen off the shelf, he looked at me as if he expected another verbal lashing. Instead, I smiled and assured him that everything was fine, it was only a few magazines, he was being very nice by putting them back, no harm was done. He looked confused, then embarrassed, as he left to pay for his paper.
I was left wondering just who had so effectively programmed this young boy that he repeated the phrases parrot-fashion in such a situation. Di they realise the damage they had done? That the boy would carry that programming with him as he grew up?
I have worked with a number of clients recently affected by getting the wrong message – or by being harshly programmed, like this little boy. The teacher who smirks, “well, you’ll never get very far at this rate,” or something similar. The father who never told his daughter she was pretty, and only praised her when she got top grades at school. The mother who told her daughter that men were evil and sex was a painful, horrible chore. All lay the foundations for problems in the future as the child grows up and faces the dilemma of his / her reality and what he / she has been told.
By going back and finding out where those messages came from, and dealing with them at source, it is possible to free the client from those negative chains and allow them to move forward with a new set of messages that are far more relevant to their particular lives. It can be an emotional, tearful, journey – but getting rid of those outdated, non-serving messages is also hugely empowering.