In order to feel an overall sense of contentedness and happiness it is a good idea to deal with our negative emotions. If these are left unchecked they will prevent us from feeling positive. This webpage gives advice on how to stop or reduce your feelings of sadness or unhappiness, that are often caused by other people, using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
Emotional difficulties are a major problem for autistic people like us. Sometimes we can overreact to small and trivial things. Other times we build up emotions over such a long period of time, without anyone realising we are in deep distress, then explode when we release them.
I’m the type of person that holds my emotions in. Luckily it never gets to the point that I have ever hurt anyone, and my last outburst was a couple of years ago. In addition, I have never had an outburst in public (such as school, college, university and work). But I have come to tears at work, college and school when I have been so upset and angry about a situation I was in. Fortunately, I managed to keep under control. Hopefully you can too by following this advice and reading the right kind of books.
How Other People Can Make You Unhappy
Have there ever been times when you have gone to work, school or college where you have been full of happiness and such a positive outlook on life. Then one or two people say a few things to you and you are totally unhappy and depressed. People, with their words, have this enormous power to affect you in such a drastic way.
One of my favourite mind management books is called A Chimp Paradox. In this it’s described that out of every five people in the outside world: one will like you, three will be indifferent (so don’t really have an opinion about your either way) and one will not like you no matter what you do. If you expand this, for example, out of every 25 people you interact with on a daily basis 5 will not like you at all, and probably never will. That is their choice, and their choice is fine. The key thing to remember is: do not waste your time and effort on trying to change them (it is almost impossible). Accept they do not like you and try to interact with them as little as possible. The times you do interact with them, by choice or necessity, will often open you up to these emotionally hurtful exchanges.
In general, men hurt other people by using physical violence. That will mean the more obvious acts such as hitting, pushing, barging and shouting. Aside from this, there are subtle things such as: frowns, snarls, false banter, fist clenching, showing teeth or getting up close and personal. They will use words sometimes such as swearing and name calling but all of it is very easy to identify. Apart from a male trying to falsely befriend you, it is very obvious when they are trying to intimidate and hurt your feelings.
The proportion of women that are nasty or try to hurt your feelings, do this almost exclusively with the words and the actions these words cause. A typical female will not be able to beat a typical male physically. So they need to use psychology (whether consciously or unconsciously) in order to exert some control over both males and females. They are masters at this skill and have practised it over decades from the moment they start school (at the age of about 4) until their current age.
Usually the subtler their actions, the more hurtful they will be. It hurts even more if they convince you that you are friends, then they make you unhappy intentionally. You may not even realise they are out to hurt you until it is too late. But just knowing this, arms and defends your emotions. Here are a few techniques they use:
- Talk behind your back. Being kind and friendly when they talk to you directly, but talk negatively about you (or calling you names) to other people behind your back. So more people dislike you.
- Excluding you from the group (either obviously or subtlety) E.g. when you are sitting around a table together then they whisper to a person at their side but don’t talk to you. Or you don’t get invited to social gatherings outside the workplace.
- Indirect bullying. For example, if you are leaving for work a bit earlier than usual, one person will say to their other friend “I wish I could just walk out of work early.” Or, one person saying to another in your hearing range “Don’t you find some people in this place are lazy.”
- Making comments about another person that are intended for you. They will say something to you like “why does John wear such plain clothes, he should have a splash of colour.” when they are actually talking about you. Or “Don’t you just hate it when people like Paul don’t clean their cups up after themselves.” When you might have a dirty cup in front of you that needs washing.
- Spreading rumours about you to other people (true or false).So when they talk to a friend behind your back saying something like “I’ve been to her house before and it is absolutely disgusting and filthy. She never looks clean.”
- Telling people about your personal information. Being your friend, gaining your trust, then tell other people things you told them in confidence.
- Gossiping about others to get you to join in. Calling other people names and disrespecting them in order for you to eventually join in and give your opinions. Then telling that person what you said about them. Making this person dislike or even hate you.
- Taking the credit for something that you did.
- Whispering in groups in front of you then pointing and/or laughing at you.
All of these things, and more, are designed to affect your feelings. If they succeed in this then they win (it is just a game). Just remember you are in control of how you feel. Using Neuro Linguistic Programming can help you to win in these little battles, until they know that what they say cannot affect you. Then eventually they don’t bother trying.
It is also worth noting that being autistic often means (if you are like me) you get things wrong sometimes. In a way being over paranoid. I have unfortunately lost a few friends in this way. You believe people are talking behind your back and laughing at you when they might not be. In other cases, they might be having a laugh and joke at your expense and you feel they totally dislike you as a person. In reality they still like you a lot, but find an aspect of you irritating or unusual. Or it is just a prank/joke/laugh that has gone a bit wrong or out of control. Unless it is blatantly obvious, there could be a chance that things may not be what they seem to you. Remember nobody has got the power to read minds, and by being autistic we normally read body language incorrectly. So if you are uncertain, give the benefit of the doubt as much as you can, especially if the price is losing a good friend or two.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
NLP is a technique that recognises that us, as humans, have a learnt behaviour and if something happens to us a few times we will automatically believe the outcome will be the same again. It is very much like a computer or a robot in that if a button is pressed, the computer (your brain) decides what should happen and then that action is performed. These actions are programmed into us and learnt over our lives. NLP teaches you to recognise this and instead of having an instant automated response, you can control how your brain acts on certain information which in turn will control your responses. If a person says nasty and hurtful things to you then you can control this and choose not to feel upset or hurt.
Basic NLP Techniques to Control Your Feelings
I have read a few books that cover NLP, some in chapters, others are whole books about the subject. One I really recommend is “How to take charge of your life – the user’s guide to NLP.” It provides some really good NLP techniques. The book is over 100 pages long, so short and easy to read for a book, but much better than this single web page could ever be. One of the techniques from this book are summarised and adapted below.
You will have many negative experiences in the past, such as being bullied or hearing a hurtful comment made about yourself which is stored in your brain. Some recent and some really old. They will be stored as pictures or videos that you can replay over and over again. If your autistic like I am you are likely to play them back in your mind much more often than most people. I myself, as well as the other autistic people I work with on a daily basis, will verbally repeat some of these negative experiences several times in a day. Things I often hear include tellings-off from parents or negative exchanges with their friends.
For this to work, you need to think about a time from your past where you experienced another person saying something hurtful to you. This will be stored in your mind as an image, or video with sound. When you replay what was being said, it will probably be loud. When you replay what was seen, it will probably be in bright colours and large. All of these past experiences are catalogued in your brain this way. Ready for you to access as frequently or infrequently as you desire.
All these bad or hurtful videos and images can be changed. First of all, replay the experience (your memory) again in your mind, and notice all of the sounds. Then gradually turn the volume down. This should instantly make you feel better. Then you will notice all the bright and bold colours in the video. Change them to black and white. Afterwards imagine you are watching the scene back on a TV screen. Then slowly make it smaller and smaller until you can barely see it. Finally push the screen back away from you until it is in the distance. If needed, repeat this several times.
I have done this technique to a large number of my bad memories from the past and it certainly worked for me. In the same book written by Richard Bandler. He said that you can do the opposite for the good times you have. Make these videos louder, with punchy colour and increase the size. This will make them much more intense. When I tried it I could genuinely feel my happiness levels increase.
This is just one of the many things that you can do to take control of your thoughts and feelings to make positive changes in your life. There are many more if you can access an NLP book from the library, or by purchasing one.
Book: How to take charge of your life – the user’s guide to NLP, written by Richard Bandler
Book: The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness, written by Professor Steve Peters.