When I was training as a kinesiologist in Paris back in the early 90’s, I was in a workshop where I once again found myself as the only English speaker in a class full of native French. We were studying how the effects that our subliminal messages and narratives could actually change our physiological functioning and psychological mood. Like hunger, thirst, or sexual arousal.
Here was the exercise. We were paired and Partner 1 had to chide Partner 2 with the kinds of negative childhood messages that once caused that person to cringe.
In a random sampling of what came up for people through these external messages that would go on to enjoy long careers as internal slogans, there were statements about essence.
“You’re a pig!”
“You’ll never succeed!”
“You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re a terrible kid”.
There were also statements about outcomes and consequences, usually involving punishment.
“If you don’t clean up your room, kiss your aunt, get straight A’s, you can’t go to the party on Saturday, you’ll never get a job…”
I watched people around me breaking into tears as they reverted back to those wounded places in their past.
I didn’t shed a tear.
The exercise didn’t have the effect on me that it seemed to produce in all of my other colleagues.
It wasn’t because I had a perfect childhood. It was because I didn’t speak French.
I hadn’t grown up French. I hadn’t heard those messages in French when I was a child, even if in some cases I was familiar with the message. I had grown up listening to Spanish and English. So the tentacular hold of those emotionally-stripping curses just rolled off me, like a water off a duck.
And it got me to thinking. What about, when we start to badmouth ourselves with old narratives and useless scripts , we simply imagined them as a foreign and unintelligible language and overrode the trigger?
It’s a technique I started to call “Flipping the Coin. “
When I no longer engage with or attach to the negative emotional language of the past or the feelings they produce, a whole new space for fresh ideas and present feelings and connections emerge.
Heads, or tails?
Eventually, we realize it is our call to make.