“All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.”
“Gimme my first attack.”* Elvis Presley always called for his first hit this way, fulfilling a bizarre daily ritual designed to make sure the King of Heartbreak Hotel got to sleep after a strenuous night performing. Elvis’s assistant would open the first envelope and give him “the usual”: a rainbow-colored assortment of barbiturates (Amytal, Carbrital, Nembutal or Seconal), Quaaludes, Valium, and Placidyl, followed by three shots of Demerol injected just below his bare shoulder blades.
Before he went to sleep, Elvis’s kitchen staff, which was on duty around the clock, would go to work. It then became a race to see how much food the King could consume before falling asleep. Typically, he’d eat three cheeseburgers and six or seven banana splits before nodding off. Often, his assistants would have to dislodge food from his windpipe to keep him from choking to death. Elvis would then sleep for about four hours before stirring.
So groggy that he had to be carried to the bathroom, he would make his second request by feebly tugging at his assistant’s shin. Elvis was unable to take the drugs himself, so the aide would pop the pills into his mouth, and carefully pour water down his throat. Elvis was rarely able to ask for the third attack. Instead, as a matter of routine, an aide would administer the dosage and let him continue to sleep until mid-afternoon, when the bloated King would jump-start his body by popping Dexedrine and stuffing cocaine-soaked swabs up his nose before taking to the stage again.
On the day of his death, Elvis remained lucid and saved all of the “attacks” for one fatal dose. Why would a man, so universally adored by fans and seeming to have it all, regularly abuse his body and then take his own life in such a horrific way? According to David Stanley, Elvis’s half brother, it was because he much preferred being drugged and numb to being conscious and miserable.
Unfortunately it’s not difficult to think of other famous figures—people at the top of their professions in the arts and business—who also brought about their own demise, either directly or indirectly. Think of writers like Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath, actors like William Holden and Freddie Prinze, singers like Mama Cass Elliot and Janis Joplin. What do these people have in common? First, they’re no longer here, and we all experienced the loss. Second, they were all sold a bill of goods that said, “Someday, someone, somehow, something . . . and then I’ll be happy.” But when they achieved success, when they arrived on Easy Street and got a firsthand look at the American Dream, they found that happiness still eluded them. So they continued to chase it, keeping the pain of existence at bay by drinking, smoking, overeating, until finally they got the oblivion they craved. They never discovered the true source of happiness.
What these people demonstrated is something all too familiar to so many people: 1) They didn’t know what they really wanted out of life, so they distracted themselves with a variety of artificial mood alterants. 2) They developed not just neurological pathways, but expressways to pain. And their habits were driving them down these highways On a regular basis. Despite achieving the levels of success they’d once only dreamed of, and despite being surrounded by the love and admiration of millions of fans, they had far more references for pain. They became quite adept at generating it quickly and easily because they’d made virtual trunk lines to it. 3) They didn’t know how to make themselves feel good. They had to turn to some outside force to help them deal with the present. 4) They never learned the nuts and bolts of how to consciously direct the focus of their own minds. They allowed the pain and pleasure of their environments to control them rather than taking control themselves. Now, contrast these stories with a letter I received recently from a woman who utilized my work to utterly and completely change the quality of her life:
I had been severely abused my entire life from infancy until the death of my second husband. As a result of the abuse and severe trauma, I developed a mental illness known as Multiple Personality Disorder with forty-nine different personalities. None of my personalities knew about the others, or what had happened in each of their lives.
The only relief I had in forty-nine years of living as a multiple was in the form of self-destructive behavior. I know it sounds strange, but self-mutilation used to give relief. After one of my many attempts at suicide, 1 was sent to the hospital and put under a doctor’s care. In order to integrate the personalities, I had to go back to the original trauma that created each personality. That trauma had to be remembered, relived, and felt. Each of my alters handled a specific function, a selective ability to remember, and usually a single emotional tone. I worked with an expert in the field of MPD, and he helped me to integrate all forty-nine personalities into one. What kept me going through all of the different processes we used was feeling that many of my people were very unhappy and my life had become so chaotic (one alter did not know what the other was doing, and we found ourselves in all kinds of situations and places that when I switched, I had no memory of). We thought that by becoming one we would be happy—the ultimate goal. That was my misconception. What a shocker! I lived a year of hell. I found myself very unhappy and grieving for each of my personalities. I missed each of my people and sometimes wanted them back the way they were. This was very difficult, and I made three more attempts at suicide that year, and again was admitted to a hospital.
During the past year, I happened to see your program on TV and ordered your thirty-day tape series. Personal Power. I listened to them over and over, grasping at anything that I could use. My breakthrough came when I started to listen to your monthly POWERTALKs. I learned things from you as a single being that I never learned as a multiple. I learned for the first time in fifty years that happiness comes from within. As a single being I now have the memories of the horrors that each of the forty-nine endured. When these memories come up I can look at them, and if they became overbearing, I can now change my point of focus as I learned from you, and not in a dissociative way as I had done before. No longer do I have to put myself in an amnesiac trance and switch to another person. I am learning more and more about myself, and am learning how to live as a single being. I know that I have a long way to go and a lot of exploring to do. I am sorting out my goals and planning how to get there, for now, I have begun to lose weight and plan to be at goal weight for Christmas (a nice gift to me). I also know that I would like to have a healthy, nonabusive relationship with a man. Previous to my hospital admittance, I worked full-time for IBM and had four businesses. Today, I am running a new business and am enjoying the increased sales I have been able to realize since my release from the hospital. I am getting to know my children and grandchildren, but most importantly, I’m getting to know me.”
Sincerely, Elizabeth Pietrzak
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Ask yourself what you truly want in life. Do you want a loving marriage, the respect of your children? Do you want plenty of money, fast cars, a thriving business, a house on the hill? Do you want to travel the world, visit exotic ports of call, see historical landmarks firsthand? Do you want to be idolized by millions as a rock musician or as a celebrity with your star on Hollywood Boulevard? Do you want to leave your mark for posterity as the inventor of a time travel machine? Do you want to work with Mother Teresa to save the world, or take a proactive role in making a measurable impact environmentally?
Whatever you desire or crave, perhaps you should ask yourself, “Why do I want these things?” Don’t you want fine cars, for example, because you really desire the feelings of accomplishment and prestige you think they would bring? Why do you want a great family life? Is it because you think it will give you feelings of love, intimacy, connection, or warmth? Do you want to save the world because of the feelings of contribution and making a difference you believe this will give you? In short, then, isn’t it true that what you really want is simply to change the way you fed? What it all comes down to is the fact that you want these things or results because you see them as a means to achieving certain feelings, emotions, or states that you desire.
When somebody kisses you, what makes you feel good in that moment? Is it wet tissue touching wet tissue that really triggers the feeling? Of course not! If that’s true, kissing your dog would turn you on! All of our emotions are nothing but a flurry of biochemical storms in our brains—and we can spark them at any moment. But first we must learn how to take control of them consciously instead of living in reaction. Most of our emotional responses are learned responses to the environment. We’ve deliberately modeled some of them, and stumbled across others.
Simply being aware of these factors is the foundation for understanding the power of state. Without a doubt, everything you and I do, we do to avoid pain or gain pleasure, but we can instantly change what we believe will lead to pain or pleasure by redirecting our focus and changing our mentalemotional-physiological states. As I said in Chapter 3 of Unlimited Power: A state can be defined as the sum of millions of neurological processes happening within us—the sum total of our experience at any moment in time. Most of our states happen without any conscious direction on our pan. We see something, and we respond to it by going into a state. It may be a resourceful and useful state, or an unresourceful and limiting state, but there’s not much that most of us do to control it.
Have you ever found yourself unable to remember a friend’s name? Or how to spell a “difficult” word like .. . “house”? How come you weren’t able to do this? You certainly knew the answer. Is it because you’re stupid? No, it’s because you were in a stupid state! The difference between acting badly or brilliantly is not based on your ability, but on the state of your mind and/or body in any given moment. You can be gifted with the courage and determination of Marva Collins, the grace and flair of Fred Astaire, the strength and endurance of Nolan Ryan, the compassion and intellect of Albert Einstein— but if you continually submerge yourself in negative states, you’ll never fulfill that promise of excellence.
However, if you know the secret of accessing your most resourceful states, you can literally work wonders. The state that you’re in at any given moment determines your perceptions of reality and thus your decisions and behavior. In other words, your behavior is not the result of your ability, but of the state that you’re in at this moment. To change your ability, change your state. To open up the multitude of resources that lie within you, put yourself in a state of resourcefulness and active expectancy—and watch miracles happen!
So how can we change our own emotional states? Think of your states as operating a lot like a TV set. In order to have “bright, vivid color with incredible sound,” you need to plug in and turn on. Turning on your physiology is like giving the set the electricity it needs to operate. If you don’t have the juice, you’ll have no picture, no sound, just a blank screen. Similarly, if you don’t turn on by using your entire body, in other words, your physiology, you may indeed find yourself unable to spell “house.” Have you ever woken up and stumbled around, not able to think clearly or function until you moved around enough to get your blood flowing?
Once the “static” has cleared, you’re turned on, and the ideas begin to flow. If you’re in the wrong state, you’re not going to get any reception, even if you’ve got the right ideas. Of course, once you’re plugged in, you’ve got to be tuned to the right channel to get what you really want. Mentally, you’ve got to focus on what empowers you. Whatever you focus on—whatever you tune in to—you will feel more intensely. So if you don’t like what you’re doing, maybe it’s time to change the channel. There are unlimited sensations, unlimited ways of looking at virtually anything in life. All of the sensations that you want are available all of the time, and all you’ve got to do is to tune in to the right channel. There are two primary ways, then, to change your emotional state: by changing the way you use your physical body, or by changing your focus.
PHYSIOLOGY: THE POWER OF MOVEMENT
One of the most powerful distinctions that I’ve made in the last ten years of my life is simply-this: Emotion is created by motion. Everything that we feel is the result of how we use our bodies. Even the most minute changes in our facial expressions or our gestures will shift the way that we’re feeling in any moment, and therefore the way we evaluate our lives—the way we think and the way we act. Try something ridiculous with me for a second. Pretend you’re a rather bored and humorless symphony conductor rhythmically swinging your arms in and out. Do it very s-l-o-w-l-y. Don’t get too excited; just do it as a matter of r-o-u-t-i-n-e and make sure your face reflects a state of boredom. Notice how that feels. Now take your hands, clap them together explosively, and SNAP them back out as fast as you can with a big, silly grin on your face! Intensify this by adding the vocal movement of an outrageously loud and explosive sound—the movement of air through your chest, throat, and mouth will change how you feel even more radically. That motion and speed you’ve created, both in your body and your vocal chords, will instantly change the way you feel.
Every emotion you ever feel has specific physiology linked to it: posture, breathing, patterns of movement, facial expressions. For depression, these are certainly obvious. In Unlimited Power, I talked about the physical attributes of depression, where your eyes are focused, how you hold yourself, and so forth. Once you learn how you use your body when in certain emotional states, you can return to those states, or avoid them, simply by changing your physiology. The challenge is that most of us limit ourselves to just a few habitual patterns of physiology. We assume them automatically, not realizing how great a role they play in shaping our behavior from moment to moment.
We each have over eighty different muscles in our faces, and if these muscles get accustomed to expressing depression, boredom, or frustration, then this habitual muscular pattern literally begins to dictate our states, not to mention our physical character. I always have people in my Date With Destiny™ seminar write down all the emotions they feel in an average week, and out of the myriad possibilities, I’ve found that the average is less than a dozen. Why? Because most people have limited patterns of physiology that result in limited patterns of expression.
TYPES OF EMOTIONS AN INDIVIDUAL MIGHT FEEL IN A WEEK : Stressed out, Frustrated, Angry, Insecure, Lonely, Bored, Miserable, Happy, Relieved, Loved, Excited, Joyous.
This is such a short menu of emotional choices when you consider the thousands of enticing states available. Take care not to limit yourself to such a short list! I suggest you take advantage of the whole buffet—try new things and cultivate a refined palate. How about experiencing more enthusiasm, fascination, cheerfulness, playfulness, intrigue, sensuality, desire, gratitude, enchantment, curiosity, creativity, capability, confidence, outrageousness, boldness, consideration, kindness, gentleness, humor . . . Why not come up with a long list of your own?
You can experience any of these just by changing the way you use your body! You can feel strong, you can smile, you can change anything in a minute just by laughing. You’ve heard the old adage, “Someday you’ll look back on this and laugh.” If that’s true, why not look back and laugh now? Why wait? Wake your body up; learn to put it in pleasurable states consistently no matter what’s happened. How? Create energy by the way you think of something over and over again, and you’ll change the sensations you link to that situation in the future.
If you repeatedly use your body in weak ways, if you drop your shoulders on a regular basis, if you walk around like you’re tired, you will feel tired. How could you do otherwise? Your body leads your emotions. The emotional state you’re in then begins to affect your body, and it becomes a sort of endless loop. Notice how you’re sitting even now. Sit up right now and create more energy in your body as you continue not only to read but also to master these principles.
What are some things you can do immediately to change your state and therefore how you feel and how you perform? Take deep breaths in through your nose and exhale strongly through your mouth. Put a huge grin on your face and smile at your children. If you really want to change your life, commit for the next seven days to spending one minute five times a day, grinning from ear to ear in the mirror. This will feel incredibly stupid, but remember, by this physical act, you will be constantly triggering this part of your brain and creating a neuro-logical pathway to pleasure that will become habitual. So do it, and make it fun!
Better yet, go out for a skip64 instead of a jog. Skipping is such a powerful way to change your state because it does four things: 1) It’s great exercise; 2) you’ll have less stress on your body than running; 3) you won’t be able to keep a serious look on your face; and 4) you’ll entertain everybody who’s driving by! So you’ll be changing other people’s states, too, by making them laugh. What a powerful thing laughter is! My son Joshua has a friend named Matt who finds it so easy to laugh that it’s infectious, and everyone who hears him starts laughing, too. If you really want to improve your life, learn to laugh. Along with your five smiles each day, make yourself laugh for no reason at all, three times each day for seven days.
In a recent poll conducted by Entertainment Weekly magazine, they found that 82 percent of the people who go to movies want to laugh, 7 percent want to cry, and 3 percent want to scream. This gives you an idea how we value the sensations of laughter over so many other things. And if you’ve read Norman Cousins’s books, or Dr. Deepak Chopra’s, or Dr. Bernie Siegel’s, or studied psychoneuroimmunology at all, you know what laughter can do to the physical body to stimulate the immune system.
Why not find somebody who laughs and mirror them? Have some fun. Say, “Will you do me a favor? You’ve got a great laugh. Let me try and duplicate it. Coach me.” I guarantee you’ll crack each other up in the process! Breathe the way they breathe; take on their posture and body movements; use the same facial expressions; make the same sounds.
You’ll feel stupid when you start, but after a while you’ll get into it, and you’ll both be laughing hysterically because you both look so silly. But in the process, you’ll begin to lay the neurological networking to create laughter on a regular basis. As you do this again and again, you’ll find it very easy to laugh and you’ll certainly have fun.
“We know too much and feel too little. At least we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs.” BERTRAND RUSSELL
Anyone can continue to feel good if they already feel good, or if they’re “on a roll”; it doesn’t take much to accomplish this. But the real key in life is to be able to make yourself feel good when you don’t fed good, or when you don’t even want to feel good. Know that you can do this instantaneously by using your body as a tool to change state. Once you identify the physiology attached to a state, you can use it to create the states you desire at will. Years ago, I worked with John Denver, a man who impresses me not only with his musical ability but also because his private persona is absolutely in line with his public image. The reason he’s succeeded is so clear; he’s such an incredibly warm and caring man.
The reason I was working with him was that he was experiencing writer’s block. We identified the times when he wrote his best songs, and discovered that their inspiration had come to him when he was doing something physical. Usually an entire song would flow through him after he’d skied down a mountain, flown his jet or his biplane, or driven his sports car at high speeds. Usually speed was involved, and the physical adrenaline rush, along with the experience of focusing on the beauty of nature, were all a major part of his creative strategy. At the time, he was experiencing a few frustrations in some areas of his life and had not been involved in the same intense outdoor activity. Just by making this change and getting back into a strong physiology, he was able to restore the certainty and flow of his creativity immediately. You and I have the capacity to make changes like this at any time. Just by changing our physiology, we can change our level of performance. Our capability is always there, and what we’ve got to do is put ourselves into states where it is accessible.
The key to success, then, is to create patterns of movement that create confidence, a sense of strength, flexibility, a sense of personal power, and fun. Realize that stagnation comes from lack of movement. Can you think of an old person, someone who doesn’t “get around much anymore”? Getting old is not a matter of age; it’s a lack of movement. And the ultimate lack of movement is death. If you see children walking along the sidewalk after a rain, and there’s a puddle in front of them, what are they going to do when they get to that puddle? They’re going to jump in! They’re going to laugh, splash around, and have a good time. What does an older person do? Walk around it? No, they won’t just walk around it—they’ll complain the whole time! You want to live differently. You want to live with a spring in your step, a smile on your face. Why not make cheerfulness, outrageousness, playfulness a new priority for yourself? Make feeling good your expectation. You don’t have to have a reason to feel good—you’re alive; you can feel good/or no reason at all!
FOCUS: THE POWER OF CONCENTRATION
If you wanted to, couldn’t you get depressed at a moment’s notice? You bet you could, just by focusing on something in your past that was horrible. We all have some experience in our past that’s pretty bad, don t we? If you focus on it enough, and you picture it and think about it, pretty soon you’ll start to feel it. Have you ever gone to an awful movie?
Would you go back to that awful movie hundreds of times? Of course not. Why? Because it wouldn’t/eel good to do this! Then why would you go back to the awful movies in your head on a regular basis? Why watch yourself in your least favorite roles, playing against your least favorite leading lady or man? Why play out business disasters or bad career decisions again and again? Of course, these “B” movies are not limited only to your past experience. You can focus on something right now that you think you’re missing out on, and feel bad. Better yet, you can focus on something that hasn’t even happened yet, and feel bad about it in advance! Though you may laugh at this now, unfortunately that’s what most of us do day to day.
If you wanted to feel like you were in ecstasy right now, could you? You could do this just as easily. Could you focus on or remember a time when you were in absolute, total ecstasy? Could you focus on how your body felt? Could you remember it with such vivid detail that you are fully associated to those feelings again? You bet you could. Or you could focus on things you’re ecstatic about in your life right now, on what you feel is great in your life. And again, you could focus on things that haven’t happened yet, and feel good about them in advance. This is the power that goals offer and why we’ll be focusing on them in Chapter 12.
WHATEVER WE FOCUS ON BECOMES OUR IDEA OF REALITY
The truth is that very few things are absolute. Usually, how you feel about things, and the meaning of a particular experience, is all dependent upon your focus. Elizabeth, the woman with Multiple Personality Disorder, had been in pain constantly. Her escape route was to create a new personality for each incident that had to be handled emotionally. It allowed her to change her focus by seeing the problem through “somebody else’s” eyes. Yet she still felt pain even after integration. It wasn’t until she learned how to control her state by consciously changing her physiology and her focus that she was able to take control of her life.
Focus is not true reality, because it’s one view; it’s only one perception of the way things really are. Think of that view—the power of our focus—as being a camera lens. The camera lens shows only the picture and angle of what you are focused on. Because of that, photographs you take can easily distort reality, presenting only a small portion of the big picture.
Suppose you went to a party with your camera, and you sat in one comer, focused on a group of people who were arguing. How would that party be represented? It would be pictured as an unpleasant, frustrating party where no one had a good time and everyone was fighting. And it’s important for us to remember that how we represent things in our minds will determine how we feel. But what if you were to focus your camera on another end of the room where people were laughing and telling jokes and having a great time? It would be shown to have been the best party of all, with everyone getting along famously!
This is why there is so much turmoil over “unauthorized” biographies: they are only one person’s perception of another’s life. And often, this view is offered by people whose jealousy gives them a vested interest in distorting things. The problem is, the biography’s view is limited only to the author’s “camera angle,” and we all know that cameras distort reality, that a close-up can make things look bigger than they really are.
And when manipulated expertly, a camera can minimize or blur important parts of the reality. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, each of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts.
MEANING IS OFTEN A MATTER OF FOCUS
If you’ve scheduled a business meeting, and someone is not there on time, how you feel is based strictly on what you focus on. Do you represent in your mind that the reason they are not there is that they don’t care, or do you interpret it as their having great difficulties in getting to the meeting? Whichever you focus on will definitely affect your emotions. What it you were upset with them, and the real reason they were late is that they were fighting to get a better bid on the business proposal they were bringing you? Remember, whatever we focus on will determine how we feel. Maybe we shouldn’t jump to conclusions; we should choose what to focus on very carefully.
Focus determines whether you perceive your reality as good or bad, whether you feel happy or sad. A fantastic metaphor for the power of focus is racing cars—a real passion for me. Driving a Formula race car can sometimes make flying a jet helicopter seem like a very relaxing experience! In a race car you cannot allow your focus to wander even for a moment from your outcome. Your attention can’t be limited to where you are; neither can it be stuck in the past or fixed too far in the future. While remaining fully aware of where you are, you have to be anticipating what’s about to happen in the near future.
This was one of the first lessons I learned when I started racing school. The instructors put me in what’s called a “skid car”—an auto-mobile that has a computer built into it with hydraulic lifts that can pull any wheel off the ground on a moment’s signal from the instructor. The number-one fundamental they teach in driving is: Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear. If you start to skid out of control, the tendency, of course, is to look at the wall. But if you keep focusing on it, that’s exactly where you’ll end up. Drivers know that you go where you look; you travel in the direction of your focus. If you resist your fear, have faith, and focus on where you want to go, your actions will take you in that direction, and if it’s possible to turn out of it, you will—but you stand no chance if you focus on what you fear. Invariably people say, “What if you’re going to crash anyway?”
The answer is that you increase your chances by focusing on what you want. Focusing on the solution is always to your benefit. If you have too much momentum in the direction of the wall, then focusing on the problem just before the crash is not going to help you anyway.
When the instructors first explained this to me, I nodded my head and thought, “Of course! I know all about this. After all, I teach this stuff.” My first time out on the road I was screaming along, and all of a sudden, unbeknownst to me, they pushed the button. I started to skid out of control. Where do you think my eyes went? You bet! Right at the wall! In the final seconds, I was terrified because I knew I was going to hit it. The instructor grabbed my head and yanked it to the left, forcing me to look in the direction I needed to go. We kept skidding, and I knew we were going to crash, but I was forced to look only in the direction I wanted to go. Sure enough, as I looked in that direction, I couldn’t help but turn the wheel accordingly. It caught at the last moment, and we pulled out. You can imagine my relief. One thing that’s useful to know about all of this: when you change your focus, often you don’t immediately change direction. Isn’t that true in life as well? Often there’s a lag time between when you redirect your focus and when your body and your life’s experience catch up. That’s all the more reason to start focusing on what you want quicker and not wait any longer with the problem.
Did I learn my lesson? No. I’d had an experience, but I had not created a strong enough neuroassociation. I had to condition in the new pattern. So sure enough, the next time I headed for the wall, the instructor had to loudly remind me to look at my goal. On the third time, though, I turned my head deliberately and consciously. I trusted it, and it worked. After doing it enough times, now when I go into a skid, wham! my head goes where I want it to go, the wheel turns, and my car follows.
Does this guarantee I’ll always succeed by controlling my focus? No. Does it increase my chances? One hundredfold! The same thing is true in life. In later chapters, you’ll learn some ways to make sure you condition your focus to be positive. For now, realize that you’ve got to discipline your mind. A mind out of control will play tricks on you. Directed, it’s your greatest friend.
“Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
The most powerful way to control focus is through the use of questions. For whatever you ask, your brain provides an answer; whatever you look for, you’ll find. If you ask, “Why is this person taking advantage of me?” you’re going to focus on how you’re being taken advantage of, whether it’s true or not. If you ask, “How can I turn this around?” you’ll get a more empowering answer. Questions are such a powerful tool for changing your life, I’ve reserved the next chapter to talk exclusively about them.
They are one of the most powerful and simple ways to change the way you’re feeling about virtually anything, and thus change the direction of your life at a moment’s notice. Questions provide the key to unlocking our unlimited potential.
One of the best illustrations of this is the story of a young man who grew up in Alabama. About fifteen years ago, a seventh-grade bully picked a fight with him, punched him in the nose and knocked him out. When the boy regained consciousness, he vowed to get revenge and kill the bully. He went home, grabbed his mother’s .22, and set out to find his target. In a matter of moments, his destiny hung in the balance. With the bully in his gun sight, he could simply fire and his schoolmate would be history. But at that very instant, he asked himself a question: What will happen to me if I pull the trigger? And another image came into focus: a picture as painful as any imaginable. In that split second which would take the boy’s life in one of two very different directions, he visualized, with chilling clarity, what it would be like to go to jail. He pictured having to stay up all night to keep the other prisoners from raping him. That potential pain was greater than the anticipation of revenge. He rearmed his gun, and shot a tree.
This boy was Bo Jackson, and as he describes this scene in his biography, there’s no question that at that pivot point in his life, the pain associated with prison was a force more powerful than the pleasure of satisfaction he thought killing the other boy would bring. One change in focus, one decision about pain and pleasure, probably made the difference between a kid with no future and one of the greatest athletic success stories of our time.
“As the fletcher whittles and makes straight his arrows, so the master directs his straying thoughts.” THE BUDDHA
IT’S NOT ONLY WHAT YOU FOCUS ON BUT HOW . . .
Our experience of the world is created by gathering information through the use of our five senses. However, each of us tends to develop a favorite mode of focus, or a modality, as it is often called. Some people are more impacted, for example, by what they see; their visual system tends to be more dominant. For others, sounds are the trigger for the greatest of life’s experiences, while for still others, feelings are the foundation.
Even within each of these modes of experience, though, there are specific elements of pictures, sounds, or other sensations that can be changed in order to increase or decrease the intensity of our experience.
These foundational ingredients are called submodalities.* For example, you can make a picture in your mind and then take any aspect of that image (a submodality), and change it to change your feelings about it. You can brighten the picture, immediately changing the amount of intensity you feel about the experience. This is known as changing a submodality. Probably the greatest expert in submodalities is Richard Bandler, co-founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The lineage of experts on this dates back to the foundational work on the five senses done by Aristotle, which categorizes perception models. You can radically raise or lower your intensity of feeling about anything by manipulating submodalities. They affect how you feel about virtually anything, whether you feel joy, frustration, wonder, or despair. Understanding them enables you to not only change how you feel about any experience in your life, but to change what it means to you and thus what you can do about it.
One image I’ve found very useful is to think of submodalities as the grocery store UPC bar codes, those clusters of little black lines that have replaced price tags in just about every supermarket you patronize today.
The codes look insignificant, yet when pulled across the checkout scanner, they tell the computer what the item is, how much it costs, how its sale affects the inventory, and so on. Submodalities work the same way.
When pulled across the scanner of the computer we call the brain, they tell the brain what this thing is, how to feel about it, and what to do. You have your own bar codes, and there is a list of them coming up along with questions to ask to determine which of them you use.
For example, if you tend to focus upon your visual modalities, the amount of enjoyment you get from a particular memory is probably a direct consequence of the submodalities of size, color, brightness, distance, and amount of movement in the visual image you’ve made of it. If you represent it to yourself with auditory submodalities, then how you feel depends on the volume, tempo, pitch, tonality, and other such factors you attach to it. For example, in order for some people to feel motivated, they have to tune in a certain channel first. If their favorite channel is visual, then focusing on the visual elements of a situation gives them more emotional intensity about it. For other people it’s the auditory or kinesthetic channels. And for some, the best strategy works like a combination lock. First the visual lock has to be aligned, then the auditory, then the kinesthetic. All three dials have to be lined up in the right place and the right order for the vault to open.
Once you’re aware of this, you’ll realize that people are constantly using words in their day-to-day language to tell you which system and which submodalities they are tuning in. Listen to the ways they describe their experience, and take it literally. (For example, in the last two sentences I used the terms “tuning in” and “listen”—clearly these are auditory examples.)
How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t picture doing that”? They’re telling you what the problem is: if they did picture doing it, they’d go into a state where they’d feel like they could make it happen.
Someone may have once said to you, “You’re blowing things out of proportion.” If you’re really upset, they may be right. You may be taking images in your mind and making them much bigger, which tends to intensify the experience. If someone says, “This is weighing heavily upon me,” you can assist them by helping them feel lighter about the situation and thereby get them in a better state to deal with it. If someone says, “I’m just tuning you guys out,” you’ve got to get them to tune back in so they can change states. Our ability to change the way we feel depends upon our ability to change our submodalities. We must learn to take control of the various elements with which we represent experiences and change them in ways that support our outcomes. For example, have you ever found yourself saying you need to “get distance” from a problem? I’d like you to try something, if you would. Think of a situation that is challenging you currently. Make a picture of it in your mind, then imagine pushing that picture farther and farther away from yourself. Stand above it and look down upon the problem with a new perspective. What happens to your emotional intensity? For most people, it drops. What if the image becomes dimmer, or smaller? Now take the picture of the problem and make it bigger, brighter, and closer. For most people, this intensifies it. Push it back out and watch the sun melt it. A simple change in any one of these elements is like changing the ingredients in a recipe.
They’re definitely going to alter what you finally experience in your body, Although I spoke about submodalities in great depth in Unlimited Power, I’m reviewing the topic here because I want to make sure you grasp this distinction. It’s critical to understanding much of the other work we’ll be doing in this book. Remember, how you feel about things is instantly changed by a shift in submodalities. For example, think of something that happened yesterday. Just for a moment, picture that experience. Take the image of this memory and put it behind you. Gradually push it back until it’s miles behind you, a tiny, dim dot far off in the darkness. Does it feel like it happened yesterday, or a long time ago? If the memory is great, bring it back. Otherwise, leave it there! Who needs to focus on this memory? By contrast, you’ve had some incredibly wonderful experiences in your life.
COMMON EXPRESSIONS BASED ON:
Visual Submodalities— That really brightens my day. That puts things in a better perspective. That’s a top priority. This guy has a checkered past. Let’s look at the big picture. This problem keeps staring me in the face.
Auditory Submodalities— He’s constantly giving me static about that. The problem is screaming at me. I hear you loud and clear. It brought everything we were doing to a screeching halt. The guy is really offbeat. That sounds great.
Kinesthetic Submodalities— That guy is slimy. The pressure’s off/the pressure’s on. This thing is weighing on me. I feel like I’m carrying this whole thing on my back. This concert is really hot! I’m absolutely immersed in this project.
Think of one right now, one that happened a long time ago. Recall the of that experience. Bring it forward; put it in front of you. Make right, and colorful; make it three-dimensional. Step into your body were then and feel that experience right now as if you were there. Does it feel like it happened a long time ago, or is it something you are enjoying now? You see, even your experience of time can be changed by changing Submodalities.
CREATE YOUR OWN BLUEPRINT
Discovering your Submodalities is a fun process. You may want to do this on your own, although you may find it more fun to do with someone else. This will help with the accuracy, and if they’re also reading this book, you’ll have a lot to talk about and a partner in your commitment to personal mastery. So very quickly now, think of a time in your life when you had a very enjoyable experience, and do the following: Rate your enjoyment on a scale from 0-100, where 0 is no enjoyment at all and 100 is the peak level of enjoyment you could possibly experience. Let’s say you came up with 80 on this emotional intensity scale. Now, go to the Checklist of Possible Submodalities (page 169), and let’s discover which elements are apt to create more enjoyment in your life than others, more pleasure feelings than pain feelings. Begin to evaluate each of the questions contained in the checklist against your experience. So, for example, as you remember this experience and focus on the visual Submodalities, ask yourself, “Is it a movie or a still frame?” If it’s a movie, notice how it feels. Does it feel good?
Now, change it to its opposite. Make it a still frame and see what happens. Does your level of enjoyment drop? Does it drop significantly? By what percentage? As you made it a still frame, did it drop from 80 to 50, for example? Write down the impact that this change has made so you’ll be able to utilize this distinction in the future.
Then, return the imagery to its initial form; that is, make it a movie again if that’s what it was, so you feel like you’re back at 80 again. Then go to the next question on your checklist. Is it in color or in black and white? If it was in black and white, notice how that feels. Now, again, do the opposite to it. Add color and see what happens. Does it raise your emotional intensity higher than 80? Write down the impact this has upon you emotionally. If it brings you to a 95, this might be a valuable thing to remember in the future. For example, when thinking about a task you usually avoid, if you add color to your image of it, you’ll find that your positive emotional intensity grows immediately. Now drop the image back down to black and white, and again, notice what happens to your emotional intensity and what a big difference this makes. Remember to always finish by restoring the original state before going on to the next question. Put the color back into it; make it brighter than it was before, until you’re virtually awash in vivid color.
In tact, brightness is an important submodality for most people; brightening things intensifies their emotion. If you think about the pleasurable experience right now, and make the image brighter and brighter, you probably feel better, don’t you? (Of course, there are exceptions. If you’re savoring the memory of a romantic moment, and suddenly turn all the lights on full blast, that may not be entirely appropriate.) What if you were to make the image dim, dark, and defocused? For most people, that makes it almost depressing. So make it brighter again; make it brilliant!
CHECKLIST OF POSSIBLE SUBMODALITIES
9. Specific focus?
10. In picture
13. Particular color
15. Special trigsger
3. How it’s said
11. Certain words
14. Special trigger
1. Temperature change
2. Texture change
6. Location of pressure
12. Size/shape change
14. Special trigger
Is it a movie or a still frame? Is it color or black-and-white? Is the image on the right, left, or center? Is the image up, middle, or down? Is the image bright, dim, or dark? Is the image lifesize, bigger, or smaller? How close is the image to you? Is the speed of the image fast, medium, or slow? Particular element focused on consistently? Are you in the picture or watching from a distance? Does the image have a frame or is it a panorama? Is it three-dimensional or two-dimensional? Is there a color that impacts you most? Are you looking down on it, up, from side, etc.? Anything else that triggers strong feelings? Are you saying something to yourself or hearing it from others? What specifically do you say or hear? How do you say or hear it? How loud is it? What is the tonality? How fast is it? Where is the sound coming from? Is the sound in harmony or cacophonous? Is the sound regular or irregular? Is there inflection in the voice? Are certain words emphasized? How long did the sound last? What is unique about the sound? Anything else that triggers strong feelings? Was there a temperature change? Hot or cold? Was there a texture change? Rough or smooth? Is it rigid or flexible? Is there vibration? Was there an increase or decrease in pressure? Where was the pressure located? Was there an increase in tension or relaxation? Was there movement? If so, what was the direction and speed? Quality of breathing? Where did it start/end? Is it heavy or light? Are the feelings steady or intermittent? Did it change size or shape? Were feelings coming into body or going out? Anything else that triggers strong feelings?
Continue down your list, noting which of these visual submodalities changes your emotional intensity the most. Then focus on the auditory submodalities. As you re-create the experience inside your head, how does it sound to you? What does raising the volume do to the level of pleasure you feel? How does increasing the tempo affect your enjoyment?
By how much? Write it down, and shift as many other elements as you can think of. If what you’re imagining is the sound of someone’s voice, experiment with different inflections and accents, and notice what that does to the level of enjoyment you experience. If you change the quality of the sound from smooth and silky to rough and gravelly, what happens? Remember, finish by restoring the sounds to their original auditory form so that all the qualities continue to create pleasure for you.
Finally, focus on kinesthetic submodalities. As you remember this pleasurable experience, how does changing the various kinesthetic elements intensify or decrease your pleasure? Does raising the temperature make you feel more comfortable, or does it drive you up the wall? Focus on your breathing. Where are you breathing from? If you change the quality of your breaths from rapid and shallow to long and deep, how does this affect the quality of your experience? Notice what a difference this makes, and write it down. What about the texture of the image? Play around with it; change it from soft and fluffy, to wet and slimy, to gooey and sticky.
As you go through each of these changes, how does your body feel? Write it down. When you’re done experimenting with the whole checklist of submodalities, go back and adjust until the most pleasurable image re-emerges; make it real enough so you can get your hands around it and squeeze the juice from it!
As you go through these exercises, you will quickly see that some of these submodalities are much more powerful for you than others. We’re all made differently and have our own preferred ways of representing our experiences to ourselves. What you’ve just done was to create a blueprint that maps out how your brain is wired. Keep it and use it; it will come in handy some day—maybe today! By knowing which submodalities trigger you, you’ll know how to increase your positive emotions and decrease your negative emotions.
For example, if you know that making something big and bright and bringing it close can tremendously intensify your emotion, you can get yourself motivated to do something by changing its imagery to match these criteria. You’ll also know not to make your problems big, bright and close, or you’ll intensify your negative emotions as well! You’ll know how to instantly shake yourself out of a limiting state and into an energizing, empowering one. And you can be better equipped to continue your pathway to personal power.
Knowing the large part that submodalities play in your experience of reality is crucial in meeting challenges. For example, whether you feel confused or on track is a matter of submodalities. If you think about a time when you felt confused, remember whether you were representing the experience as a picture or a movie. Then compare it to a time when you felt that you understood something. Often when people feel confused, it’s because they have a series of images in their heads that are piled up too closely together in a chaotic jumble because someone has been talking too rapidly or loudly. For other people, they get confused if things are taught to them too slowly. These individuals need to see images in movie form, to see how things relate to each other; otherwise the process is too disassociated. Do you see how understanding someone’s submodalities can help you to teach them much more effectively?
The challenge is that most of us take our limiting patterns and make them big, bright, close, loud, or heavy—whichever submodalities we’re most attuned to—and then wonder why we feel overwhelmed’ If you’ve ever pulled yourself out of that state, it’s probably because you or somebody else took that image and changed it, redirecting your focus. You finally said, “Oh, it’s not that big a deal.” Or you worked on one aspect of it, and by doing so, it didn’t seem like such a big project to tackle. These are all simple strategies, many of which I laid out in Unlimited Power. In this chapter, I’m expecting to whet your appetite and make you aware of them.
CHANGE YOUR STATES AND YOU CHANGE YOUR LIFE
You can now change your state in so many ways, and they’re all so simple. You can change your physiology immediately just by changing your breathing. You can change your focus by deciding what to focus on, or the order of things you focus on, or how you do it. You can change your submodalities. If you’ve been consistently focusing on the worst that could happen, there’s no excuse for continuing to do that. Start now to focus on the best.
The key in life is to have so many ways to direct your life that it becomes an art. The challenge for most people is that they have only a few ways to change their state: they overeat, over drink, oversleep, over shop, smoke, or take a drug—none of which empower us, and all of which can have disastrous and tragic consequences. The biggest problem is that many of these consequences are cumulative, so we don’t even notice the danger until it’s too late. That’s what happened to Elvis Presley, and that, unfortunately, is also what’s happening every day to so many other people. Picture an unfortunate frog in a kettle being slowly simmered to death. If he had been dropped into a fully boiling pot, the shock of the heat would have caused him to jump back out immediately—but with the heat slowly building, he never notices he’s in danger until it’s too late to get out. The journey toward Niagara Falls begins when you don’t control your states, because if you don’t control your states, you won’t be able to control your behavior. If there are things you need to accomplish but you can’t get motivated, realize you’re not in the appropriate state. That’s not an excuse, though, that’s a command! It’s a command to do whatever it takes to change your state, whether it’s changing your physiology or your focus. At one time, I put myself in a state of being pressured to write my book; no wonder I felt it was impossible! But then I had to find a way to change my state; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this today. I had to be in a state of creativity, a state of excitement. If you want to go on a diet, it’s not going to work if you’re in a fearful state, or a worried state, or a frustrated state. You’ve got to be in a determined state in order to succeed. Or, if you want to perform better on your job, realize that intelligence is often a factor of state. People who supposedly have limited capability will find their talent shooting through the roof if they get into a new state. I’ve demonstrated this many times with dyslexic people.
While dyslexia is a function of our visual faculties, it’s also a function of our mental and emotional states. People who are dyslexic do not reverse letters or words every time they read something. They may do it most of the time, but they don’t do it all of the time. The difference between when they’re able to read clearly and when they reverse letters all comes down to state. If you change their state, you immediately change their performance. Anyone who’s dyslexic or has any other state-based challenge can use these strategies to turn themselves around.
Since movement can instantly change how we feel, it makes sense for us to create lots of ways to change our state with one, singular movement in an instant. One of the things that most powerfully changed my life was something I first learned years ago. In Canada I found a man who was breaking wood karate-style. Instead of spending a year and a half to two years to learn to do it, with no martial arts training, I simply found out what he was focusing on, how he was focusing (the brightness and so on) in his head, what his beliefs were, and what his physical strategy was—how he specifically used his body to break the wood.
I practiced over and over his physical movements identically with tremendous emotional intensity, sending my brain deep sensations of certainty. And all the while, my instructor coached me on my movements. Barn! I broke through one piece of wood, then two pieces, then three pieces, then four. What had I done to accomplish this? 1)1 raised my standards and made breaking the wood a must— something I previously would have accepted as a limitation; 2) I changed my limiting belief about my ability to do this by changing my emotional state into one of certainty, and 3) I modeled an effective strategy for producing the result.
This act transformed my sense of power and certainty throughout my whole body. I began to use this same “wood breaking” sense of certainty to accomplish other things I never thought I could do, breaking through my procrastination and some of my fears easily. Over the years I continued to use and reinforce these sensations, and I began to teach them to others, even children, eleven- and twelve-year-old girls, showing them how to increase their self-esteem by giving them an experience they didn’t think was possible. I eventually started using this as part of my video-based Unlimited Power seminars, conducted by my franchisees, our Personal Development Consultants around the world.
Often in 30 minutes or less they are able to help their participants to overcome their fears and learn how to break through anything that stops them in their lives. After breaking the wood, they learn to use this experience to give themselves the sense of certainty that is necessary in pursuing anything they want to achieve in life. It’s always fascinating to see a huge man who thinks he can do it with just brute force get up there and miss, and then watch a woman half his size and muscular tone break through in a heartbeat because she’s developed the certainty in her physiology.
“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” ALDOUS HUXLEY
You’ve got to realize that you must take conscious control of running your own mind. You’ve got to do it deliberately; otherwise, you’re going to be at the mercy of whatever happens around you. The first skill you must master is to be able to change your state instantly no matter what the environment, no matter how scared or frustrated you are. This is one of the foundational skills people develop in my seminars. They learn how to quickly change their state from being afraid and “knowing” they can’t do something, to knowing they can do it and being able to take effective action. Developing experiences like this in which you change quickly gives you tremendous power in your life—something you can’t fully appreciate until you really try it for yourself.
The second skill is that you should be able to change state consistently in any environment—maybe in an environment that used to make you uncomfortable, but in which you can now change your state time and again, conditioning yourself until you feel good no matter where you are. The third skill, of course, is to establish a set of habitual patterns of using your physiology and focus so that you consistently feel good without any conscious effort whatsoever. My definition of success is to live your life in a way that causes you to feel tons of pleasure and very little pain—and because of your lifestyle, have the people around you feel a lot more pleasure than they do pain. Someone who’s achieved a lot but is living in emotional pain all the time, or is surrounded by people in pain all the time, isn’t truly successful. The fourth goal is to enable others to change their state instantly, to change their state in any environment, and to change their state for their whole life. This is what my franchisees learn to be able to do in their seminars and in their one-on-one work with people.
So, what do you need to remember from this chapter? All that you really want in life is to change how you feel. Again, all your emotions are nothing but biochemical storms in your brain, and you are in control of them at any moment in time. You can feel ecstasy right now, or you can feel pain or depression or overwhelmed—it’s all up to you. You don’t need drugs or anything else to do it. There are much more effective ways and, as you learned in the chapter on beliefs, drugs can be overpowered by the chemicals you create in your own body, by changing your focus and the way you’re using your physiology. These chemicals are much more powerful than virtually any outside substance.
“Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm.” RALPH WALDO EMERSON
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL GOOD?
On a business trip to Toronto, I felt physically stressed because of intense back pain; As the plane descended, I began to think about what I needed to do when I got to my hotel. It would already be 10:30 p.m., and I had to be up early the next morning to conduct my seminar. I could eat something—after all, I’d had nothing all day—but it was awfully late. I could do my paperwork and watch the news. In that moment I realized all of these actions were merely strategies for getting out of pain and into some level of pleasure. Yet none of them were all that compelling. I needed to expand my list of ways to experience pleasure, regardless of the time or place.
So do you know how to make yourself feel good? This sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? But really, do you have a set of specific and empowering ways to make yourself feel good at a moment’s notice? Can you accomplish this without the use of food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or other addictive sources? I’m sure you have a few, but let’s expand the list. Right now, let’s identify some of the positive choices you already have for making yourself feel good. Sit down right now and write down a list of things that you currently do to change how you feel. As long as you’re making a list, why not add some new things you may not have tried before that could positively change your state as well? Don’t stop until you have a minimum of fifteen ways to instantly feel good, and the ideal would be at least twenty-five. This is an exercise you may want to come back to again until you have hundreds of ways! When I made a list for myself, I realized that playing music was one of the most powerful ways I could change my state quickly. Reading was another way to feel good because it changed my focus, and I love to learn—especially reading something instructional and informational, something I can immediately apply to my life. Changing my body movements is something I can do instantly to break out of a limiting state and into a resourceful one: exercising on my StairMaster™ with the music cranking full tilt, jumping up and down on my rebounder unit, running five miles uphill, swimming laps. Here are some others: dancing, singing along with my favorite CDs, watching a comedy film, going to a concert, listening to informational audio tapes. Taking a Jacuzzi, a warm bath. Making love with my wife. Having a family dinner where we all sit down at the table and chat about what’s most important to us. Hugging and kissing my children, hugging and kissing Becky. Taking Becky to a movie like Ghost where we sit in our seats, in puddles of tears. Creating a new idea, a new company, a new concept. Refining or improving anything that I’m currently doing. Creating anything. Telling jokes to friends. Doing anything that makes me feel like I’m contributing. Conducting any of my seminars, especially huge ones (one of my favorite submodalities). Polishing up my memories, vividly remembering a wonderful experience I’ve had recently or in the past within my journal.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PLAN FOR PLEASURE, YOU WILL HAVE PAIN
The whole key here is to create a huge list of ways to make yourself feel good so you don’t need to turn to those other ways that are destructive. If you link pain to the destructive habits and more and more pleasure to these new empowering ones, you’ll find that most of them are accessible most of the time. Make this list a reality; develop a plan for pleasure for each and every day. Don’t just randomly hope that pleasure will somehow show up; set yourself up for ecstasy. Make room for it! What we’re talking about, again, is conditioning your nervous sys- tem, your body, and your mental focus so that it searches constantly to see how everything in your life benefits you. Just remember that if you continue to have a limiting emotional pattern, it’s because you are using your body in a habitual way, or are continuing to focus in a certain disempowering way. If it’s your focus that needs to be shifted, there is one incredible tool that can change it instantly. You must know that.. .
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