State management in a crisis

Are you acting or reacting? (State Management through a teenager’s eyes)

My youngest daughter, Hannah, is 17 and has been working on finding her way in the world. She is busy being an entrepreneur and working hard to share her message that yes, one person can make a difference. She is also directionally challenged, so the whole experience of driving has been, shall we say, interesting?

Well, in late August 2015 she was driving home from having brunch with a friend and she was hit by another teenage girl. She was terrified, called me crying and asking what to do. Now, in a previous life I owned an insurance agency and I always taught my girls what to do in case of an accident. Take pictures, get to a safe place, exchange information, etc. I drilled this into their heads from an early age. Yet, in a time of crisis, Hannah had no recollection of what I had always taught her.

Fast forward almost two months. She was on her way to the chiropractor for a follow up to her accident, almost ready to be released from care. I was working at home when my phone rang. It was Hannah. She was crying. She had been hit. AGAIN! This time she was rear ended while sitting at a stop light.

She was also asking what to do if she was in a car accident. Now I was baffled. Not only had I taught her from a young age what to do when you’re in an accident, I had also reminded her a short two months ago. And she had actually done what she’d been told! She knew this. She had done it. Recently!

Yet here she was, in the moment of an accident, crying and confused about what to do.

This got me to thinking about state management. And how amazing it would be for her to be able to manage her own state, regardless of outside input from the world. You see, Hannah has always been a bit anxious. It’s just her personality, and we love and accept that about her.

But now, in this moment, her anxiety is interfering with her being effective in the world. And that is not very useful at all. Not for her. Not in times of crisis like an accident.

So I spent some time thinking about her car accidents and her reactions to them. I put some thought into how I could help her be more effective should a similar situation arise in the future.

So I started working with her to imagine the accident. I asked her to remember her reaction to the accident, and how she behaved and acted afterwards. I asked her to think of ways she wished she had reacted, to be more effective and in control.

We spent some time together imagining a different outcome. We not only imagined a different outcome, we worked on feeling it. Truly experiencing what it would be like to be in control of her reactions. We did this several times over several days.

It was fascinating to watch her as she ran through this exercise. Her entire body changed over the course of repeating this exercise. She went from her full body tensing up at the initiation of the exercise to holding herself with confidence and security when thinking about it. Her skin color gradually changed with repetition. Her eye movements shifted. Her tiny facial muscles changed in the way they acted as she thought about the accident.

There have been several other processes we’ve worked on over the last couple of months, but this one seems to have been one of the most powerful we’ve used.

You see, this single exercise has allowed her to feel empowered in case of an accident. By imagining herself acting appropriately she has the confidence to drive again. To not be afraid. To be confident and, because of that, a safer driver.

We all have times in our lives that we wish we were in better control of ourselves and our actions. I think we have all had the experience of having something happen to us and not being happy with our reactions.

So just for a moment, I ask you to think of one of those times. A moment when you might have reacted in a way that didn’t make you feel wonderful about yourself. Maybe you were embarrassed about the way you handled a situation. Whatever the specifics, you were less than pleased with your behavior.

Imagine for a moment that you had reacted in a way much more powerful. A way that allowed you to be proud of your reactions, and your behavior. Imagine knowing you did the very best and if you had it to do over again you would react the exact same way.

That is the gift we can give to our children, our friends, our families and our clients. That is the power of NLP and what it can do for you.



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