Log In

Reset Password

Trick the mind to dispel unwanted images

I was moving something very heavy last week when I accidentally ripped off my big toenail. I saw it flapping. All I could think was ‘Aghhhhh!’

Squeamish is an understatement. Just seeing the blood and the very wrongness of it turned my insides to jelly. It took all I had just to get to the car and get home.

After being patched up by a medical saint, with much whimpering from me, I was told it would ooze and be tender for a week and, perhaps by Christmas, I could consider peep-toe shoes again.

Yes it throbbed and I limped … but that wasn’t the worst of it. It was that every time I closed my eyes, all I could see in full-screen technicolour was my bloody, nail-less toe, which induced fear and panic. I interpreted it as pain.

I’m quite a visual person. I don’t watch horror movies as scenes of violence and gore somehow stay lodged in my mental image index and haunt me. It’s not uncommon.

People can hold on to images — real or imagined — words and feelings that when replayed can evoke strong emotional reactions as if they were actually happening at that moment.

This was the case with my poor toe. The idea of it was far worse than the reality, and I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about it.

Time to pull out some NLP tricks! Neuro-linguistic programming is a way of manipulating our thought and language patterns to induce positive change. What I needed was to scratch the image that kept appearing in my head.

There are several techniques for this. One simple distancing tool is to imagine that unwanted image as if we’re sitting in a cinema. Then imagine ourselves in the projection booth of that cinema, looking at ourselves watching it on the screen. This provides a sense of separation from the thoughts. We can further manipulate the distant screen image by making it dull, blurry, colourless, each change lessening its effect on us.

Another trick is to shrink the image into a tiny speck as soon as it appears and pop-up in its place a bright mental picture of something good. Keep repeating this, downsizing the unwanted vision, expanding the lovely image instead. This is what I did, replacing my ugly toe with a picture of my little boy giving me a hug. Again and again and again. With enough repetition, the positive replacement will become automatic and neutralise associated bad feelings.

A trick for combating unwanted feelings not directly related to images: firstly identify where in the body we’re experiencing the feeling. Physically put our hands there, imagine pulling that unwanted feeling out of ourselves (actually miming as if we’re doing it), scrunch it up and throw it away, stamping on it for extra effect.

There’s something incredibly powerful about engaging our body with our visualisations that speaks to our psyche. The simple action of pulling an imaginary bad feeling out of ourselves can actually provide a sense of instant relief from it. Sometimes it’s just the idea of something that’s causing us pain. If the bark is worse than the bite, try these NLP suggestions or contact me to discover further ways to leash-in unhelpful and unwanted thinking.

• Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on (441) 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com