Some days you look for inspiration for a blog post, and some days it just hits you out of the blue, like a lightning bolt.
And so it happened today. I was out walking, taking in my usual countryside walk across the woods and playing fields - which I am so lucky to have close by during these times of restricted movement. I walked past a family with kids playing, and I must admit I didn’t take too much notice, at first. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to see here.
Then as I walked away towards my homeward path, I heard the father shouting loudly and angrily at his son, no more than 7 years old: “You’ve ruined everything! You’ve ruined everything!”
I have to admit I was horrified. I kept walking, but my conscience wanted to go back and educate the father on more positive ways of talking to his child. You see “You’ve ruined everything” is a powerful idea. A very powerful negative idea. Throughout our lives we take on new beliefs and ideas, based on our life experiences, some good and some bad. But never more so than during our early, formative years. It is said that between the age of 0-7 we have no filters in our brain to challenge an idea, good or bad. So, most of what is said to us then is simply accepted, unchallenged into the unconscious mind, and new beliefs are formed which drive our behaviours throughout our lives.
As I walked away I was already feeling sympathy towards that child, picturing him in front of a therapist many years later, perhaps even decadees later, ruminating on all the times in his life when he had played out that powerful idea that he “ruins everything.” All the situations where he had sabotaged his own success, his unconscious mind loyally carrying out his orders according to that belief, all the potentially wonderful moments that had turned into disasters, and all the unhappiness that had caused him and the people around him.
You see as a therapist myself I help people who are suffering unnecessarily in their life, who are deeply unhappy, with symptoms of anxiety or depression, or who are behaving in ways that are counterproductive to their own happiness and in some cases self-harming.
What I spend a lot of time doing as a hypnotherapist, is “dehypnotising” people, in a very safe and natural state of hypnosis, from the negative beliefs they have taken on board as children, freeing them from the negative emotion from past events, allowing them to finally be the free, happy, authentic versions of themselves.
So as parents and people working with children, particularly very young children, we have a responsibility to choose our words and our language very carefully. And if you have any doubt about the validity of what I am saying, ask yourself what negative statements or ideas you are frequently playing in your own mind, and where they came from. Most of us have been heavily influenced by what ideas were fed to us as children, sometimes with extremely negative consequences which can last well into adulthood.
A wise person once said: “Speak to your children as if they are the most magical people on earth, and that’s what they will become.”
I’ve no idea what the small boy had done today to be told he had ruined everything, but I do know the power of those words and worry how he must have felt and whether these words will stay with him and have long lasting repercussions. I asked myself what words the father could have used instead, irrespective of what the boy had done. Perhaps something like “Let’s be kind to each other, so all of us can continue to have a nice day.” Or “rather than this behaviour, I’d like you to behave more like this, because.”
“You’ve ruined everything” is such a powerful emotional statement I wondered what the father had indeed ruined in his own life. If life is a mirror, and perception is projection, we are only ever reflecting outwards what is going on within ourselves. In case you are yourself in danger of taking on those words as a belief, just in reading this blog post, I advise you switch it immediately for something positive as you go back to your day. Rather than “I’m ruining everything”, how about “I’m doing the best I can each day” or "everyday I'm getting better and better." These are my words, you come up with your own replacement.
Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Its not always easy to find the right words, particularly in emotionally charged moments, and none of us are perfect at this. We are human. We make mistakes. But just being aware of the impact our words can have on others, means we can all start to choose kinder more empowering words and phrases, more consistently and more often.
Paul Hewitt is the founder of Mind Olympian, a specialist organisation which helps sports people and people from all walks of life improve their results and overcome mental health issues so they can lead happier, more productive lives.