Posts tagged Tools

Reprogramming

A woman I sponsor is now sponsoring her first sponsee.  We were exchanging ideas and impressions about sponsoring and what works, when we found ourselves discussing the way our brains start to absorb all of this new information about life skills.  It takes some time to learn how and when to utilize all the knew options – and it requires some helpful tools.

When I was first came to 12 Step programs it was hard for me to remember what to do when I felt anxious.  My mind seemed to go into brain freeze, and all that could be reached on my own was the unhelpful, automatic pilot actions that I’d relied on since childhood.  Often reactive,  they weren’t helpful.  My sponsor suggested making a list of what to do instead, the new more helpful responses.  Alternatives learned at meetings and from working the 12 Steps.  The list was then hung on the refridgerator where it would always be if my brain became stuck.  And little, by little, the new options started to program into the automatic pathways in my brain.  I was reprogramming my brain to operate in a new way – and with practice it was working.  After a while the list was rarely needed.

Six years later, my brain had to start over again.  A brain injury from a car accident had destroyed many of the pathways to that new information.  It was devastating  – but also an opportunity because this time, I was able to watch the rebuilding of my brain in a different way. The brain is fascinating to watch.  Since mine worked in slow motion for a while, it was possible to watch it run (in many seconds) through the same process of internal dialogue and decisionmaking that most people process in only fractions/hundreths of one second.   The injury had left my brain like a file cabinet which was at times locked.  Or it was unlocked but I couldn’t find the right drawer.  Or I found the right drawer, but couldn’t find the right file.  Or the right file was found, but the correct paper was missing.  And sometimes it was possible to find the correct paper, and the words or directions were there, but I couldn’t get the words to my mouth to say.  It took years to rebuild these pathways.  It required using lists on the refridgerator again – and it worked again.  We all deserve helpful prompts to remind us of what works as we build a new network of alternatives and options in our brain.  It takes time, and it is so worth the results when we learn to respond automatically to life in helpful, thoughtful ways.  Patience, practice, and persistence pays big profits in the life skills account.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am doing what works.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

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Asking Questions

Asking questions is a good life skill to develop and practice.  Even as a child it occurred to me that I didn’t know how to interact as well with people as my friends seemed to do.  They made interacting with others look so easy.  They were naturals.  For me it was almost painful at times.  I was shy, uncertain, lacking confidence and self esteem and simply didn’t understand some of the basic principles of developing  and maintaining relationships. 

What the 12 Step programs have taught me is how to relate to others easily.  Asking questions is, I’ve found, and invaluable tool.  For example;  Where are you from?  What work do you do?  How do you like it?  What did you do before that?  What will you do for vacation this year?  Where did you go to school?  How long have you been married?  How did you meet your wife or husband?  – these are just a few openers and follow-ups.  Now it may seem obvious to many people to ask these basic questions.  But, I had to learn how to do it.  And people usually love to talk about themselves.  It’s fun to listen to their stories.

Now I love to ask people about themselves.  I love to hear their stories.  People are so different and they teach me so much without meaning to.  I find them all so interesting – and I’m genuinely interested in them.  I don’t just ask to fill the silence.  I really want to know more about them.  And it’s amazing the connections that we often find between us.  Even on the other side of the planet, I’ve met people who happen to know my family.  It teaches me more about how connected we all are, and how alike.  It’s very reassuring and life affirming to ask questions and see where it takes us.  It keeps us more related to our human community and keeps our perspective in a healthy, loving place as we see the similarities tucked so consistently in between the differences.  We are more alike than different, and a few handy questions can always help us realize we’re in good company and “a member of,” instead of separate from, the rest of the world’s people.  Try it out.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am focusing on others. ”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.  For daily updates, press the orange RSS feed to the right for directions.

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H.A.L.T.

The helpful tools we learn to keep us on track are so simple.  Take for example, H.A.L.T.  It stands for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  When any one of these are present it makes me vulnerable. 

Without a good night’s sleep – say I only slept for 2-3 hours – my concentration is off, my emotional stability is compromised, and I can actually become weepy later in the day which can be embarrassing or at the least, inconvenient.  When this sleep deprivation happens every once in a while, it’s important for me to do extra self-care tasks; take a nap, make sure to eat well, reach out to someone who knows me well and ask for support if needed, say the Serenity Prayer, do an extra Gratitude List, or recite extra Affirmations or pop in the Louise Hay “You Can Heal Your Life” DVD (see the link right, to order).  These methods all help restore my composure for the day.

These tools help us identify activities that maintain balance in our lives.  When hungry, we can eat.  When lonely or angry, we can reach out to others on the phone or go to a 12 Step meeting.  Especially when angry, we can practice the direction on page 552, of the AA Big Book – and it works.  There is no need to suffer, nor is it necessary to inflict our suffering on people with whom we connect each day.  When we use these simple tools – even if things get a little worse first (which can happen) – for the most part life is better in short order.  My personal experience confirms it.  But, we only gain personal experience of these results when we do what is suggested.  It works, if we work it.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am taking care of me. ”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.  For daily updates, press the orange RSS feed to the right for directions.

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