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May, 2018

Doctor of the Soul: How Un-Learning Negative Conditioning Releases Potential and Increases Creativity

In a recent group session several of my clients indicated they had not had become as successful personally or professionally as they had hoped. I asked Frank, a noted musician, what his dream was when he started playing. “ To be great, one of the very best, I never got their, so every night I play I know I am just mediocre or I suck, I thought I would be the handsome guy on stage and now I am bald and old”.Mary, a high school teacher, said she understood. “I always thought I would get a doctorate and teach in a college, I got my masters but never applied beyond, I knew I would never be accepted, I have let my struggle with my weight and my career dominate my life”. Both Frank and Mary have grown up feeling less than. Neither received the love and understanding they needed in childhood and as a result excelling in the world became a fantasy they thought would bring them the self-esteem they had always been missing.

Bad to Great

It is quite common for children who are conditioned to feel inadequate to imagine if they do something great it will compensate for the bad feelings they have lived with since childhood. In reality neither Frank nor Mary are as bad as they think they are, nor are they as great as they wish to be. This desire to excel results in perfectionistic thinking and creates a false idea of what produces self worth and a sense of calm within. It is critically important to remember whatever is learned can be un-learned.As Frank and Mary begin to realize they are valued for whom they are not just for what they achieve and how they look both have begun to feel more worthwhile. In-group sessions they are valued for their insight, compassion and unusual range of empathy. Both have suffered so they understand the importance of empathic listening, as they seldom felt heard, understood or validated. One of the greatest accomplishments we can achiever interpersonally is to give what we never received.As a result of their giving natures they are receiving positive feedback from others in group consistently. They are essentially un-learning what they had initially came to believe about themselves, and realizing they have worth that has been undiscovered for many years. Achievement and appearance have value but neither can make up for the hurts we suffered earlier in life.

                  Un-Covering vs. Criticizing

People who come to see me often think I am going to tell them what is wrong with them. In fact I am far more interested in un-covering what has always been right with them, hidden by negative conditioning. When we lift the veil of distorted conditioning and distorted beliefs we are free to release our inherent abilities. So often in my practice people tell me what they can’t do and so often, after old conditioning is replaced by truthful feedback, they realize their conclusions were based on looking into the mirrors of early authorities. These were people who could not provide them with an accurate view of themselves.

                          Emotional Freedom  

The process I am highlighting takes time and patience. Our hurts are recorded in a deep part of the brain to protect us from future injury. Unfortunately when we record these hurts they are accompanied by false ideas about ourselves. We cannot untangle these beliefs alone, we need feedback from those who can provide objective feedback. Thus the value of having reasonable people in your life that will enter into reciprocal, truthful relationships with you. We get what we give. Remember good friends tell us what we need to hear not what we want to hear.

     Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

 Author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience.

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