Strategies for Healing
Once upon a time, some years ago now, I was diagnosed with a virulent breast cancer. It was at a very demanding time in my life; I was the main earner in the family and had young children to support. I worked hard, at all hours and all over the place, to run my market research consultancyóbelieve me, market research happens at some very unsociable hours and places. Photos taken at the time show me looking tired, overweight, and stressed. Sense of humour: nil.
My saving grace was NLP. I was in the middle of a Master Practitionerís training course at the time. NLP made me aware of all the great resources I had to choose from to make me better. It offered effective strategies for
succeeding in whatever one chose to do, which in my case, was surviving cancer, growing, living, learning and becoming a much more joyfulóand relaxedóperson. NLP is based on modelling excellence in others, so itís learning thatís available to everyone; and itís been shown to workóthatís how something becomes part of the body of NLP knowledge. And because whoever uses it is a unique being, s/he can make the NLP they do especially their own.
I want to go through a few of the things that really helped me. There are many, many, so thereís a short reading list at the end. And if youíre still interested perhaps you may want to try a taster course and follow up from there. Itís all very well reading about NLP but you really have to do to take it on boardóhave it Ďin the muscleí as they say, an idea that makes me laugh, but better believe it.
When I heard the diagnosis, I was shocked. I had honestly never realised that I might die. Am I the only person who thought herself immortal? It seemed so unfair when I had so much to live for, especially the kids. And yet the recommended treatment of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy was convincing of a real and serious threat which, even if I survived, would cost me dear in terms of overall health.
At the same time, I knew that for me to survive, to succeed, to live well, I had to be in the best and most resourceful conditionóhighly motivated and positive about the situation. Actually, I think Pollyanna had the right idea. Life shows us that feeling bad and being negative tends to drag us down, make us feel powerless and generally take our attention away from looking for ways to help ourselves. Apart from that, itís so depressing! I wanted to find this a timely call to positive action.
First, I started to look for meaning in the situation, to make sense of this cancer. Why me? Viktor Frankl believed that manís main motivational force is his search for meaning; it helped him and others stay alive in concentration camps, and it resonated with me. I wondered what had been missing in my life, or where perhaps at some level I hadnít been paying enough attention. There were two things: one was that I was too busy and under too much stress generally, and had been for a long time; the other was that I really had lost the plot with the spiritual side of my life, my cosmic reason for being.
Why not me, after all? Perhaps I am especially able in some way to succeed in transforming these problems into gifts, and to use them to help me become whole, so that I can pass on valuable lessons. I had plenty of resourcesóincluding NLP. I come from a family of strong people including a grandmother who survived breast cancer 50 years ago and lived to a good age. Others had survived, too: Robert Diltsí mother survived a much nastier cancer and lived to tell of her experience of NLP and how it helped her survival. In a way, this cancer was offering me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the time and trouble to really clear my life out, to put old wrongs right, to sort out who I was, to be whole again as perhaps I hadnít been before. In other words, it became easy and hugely worthwhile to me to reframe the situation wholeheartedly.
Did this mean disregarding the darker sides of reality? I donít think so. It is good to be aware that life is finite and to appreciate the present as it is. Hope is a great feeling in itself. In fact, faced with the alternative, itís the only reasonable choice to make, perhaps regardless of the circumstances. Where hope feels great, despair feels awful. In the course of my treatment, I encountered all kinds of obstacles and reminders that Ďlife ainít easyí, but it was easy to see my life and survival as a meaningful challenge.
Strategies for Achievement
How exactly was I going to go about the challenge? What resources did I need to achieve my outcome?
Strategy, for such it is, is a big subjectópossibly, the subject that NLPís all about. The fundamentals are straightforward, though. When you look at what works for you, when you analyse what sorts of approaches lead you to successful outcomes with issues or problems, you also become aware of the personal strategies you have that are effective. You also start to understand what strategies donít work, and thus what to avoid; and you notice where there are gaps and no effective strategies. Those are the places to learn about the strategies others use to succeed, which you can model and use, too. When you donít have a successful strategy for something you need, look for examples and adopt role models from other people.
I became aware of what worked best for me from my own repertoire. and I explored, Ďtried on for size,í and modelled strategies that worked for people I admired and liked. As it happensóand it may be different for youómy strategy is to be open to and explore everything I can (as a researcher), select (using my range of criteria), and engage with what feels / sounds / seems right for me, bearing in mind my outcome of joyful wholeness. I embarked on a fascinating voyage of discovery--physical, emotional and spiritualófrom which I have never returned, and never will, because I enjoy it so much. I also act as a guide for others who are interested.
For the record, my journey included the physicalódiet change, more exercise, doing more of what I enjoy and less of the rest; and the psychologicalódealing with old scores and painful issues and learning forgiveness. Now, I just donít carry around emotional baggage any more, because itís huge and heavy and takes up far too much mental space. Most rewarding, though, was the spiritual: Iím still and always will be learning about the beauty and power of the greater spiritual universe we are all part of. Through my friends in churches, I know how effective is the power of prayer; and after benefiting greatly from hands-on healing, I am now a healer myself.
Creating the Future
I used to think that you just lived life, or perhaps even that life just lived you, and there werenít too many choices about it. However, one of the really important ideas that attracted me in NLP is the importance of imagination as a tool for creating the futureóspecifically your future, as you want it. Hitching your wagon to a star is a lovely idea and, in the modern world, thereís plenty of evidence of the positive power of imagination to achieve great outcomes - in sports and executive coaching, for example.
There are a number of good NLP tools in this areaósuch as creating the future with Time Lines (Tad James), and the SCORE (Robert Dilts) and the Dancing SCORE (Judith Delozier) models. You can read about them in some of the books I recommend.
When I was dealing with cancer, I found the Dancing SCORE model especially relevant, because dance is expressed physiologically, with the whole body. I was sure about how positive my head was, and I also wanted to be confident that every single cell in my body was consonant with my outcome of clearing out cancer and healing perfectly. It seemed to me that my whole body, in dancing, was expressing itself kinaesthetically with that outcome too. Call me literalóand re-reading this, I obviously am!óit still makes sense to me. I could, and did, dance my healing SCORE often, everywhere possibleóin the park, in the house, at workómaybe dozens or more times a day. I still do, occasionally, although I have other dances too now.
Starting this story as a stressed-out being, Iím enjoying Ďhappy ever afterí as these changes of direction lead to the richer, more adventurous life I want. I have embarked on a new career as a traineróNLP of courseóand Iím a healer, a sometime guide, and a wise, or wiser, woman. I hope not to sound smug. My kids think Iím a hippy with some very strange ideas. The house is no tidier but my friends and family are and always have been marvellous. The challenges are there daily, as change moves me beyond comfort zones but hey, thatísówonderfully, wonderfulólife!
Introducing NLP, by Joseph OíConnor and John Seymour
Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton
Changing Belief Systems, by Robert Dilts
Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality, by Tad James and Wyatt Woodsmall
The Secret of Creating your own Future, by Tad James and Richard Roop
Reframing, by Richard Bandler and John Grinder
Tina Berry lives in London with her nearly grown-up family. Until recently a planner and researcher in advertising and business, she is now an NLP trainer, passionate about helping people fully realise their positive potential.
Photo Courtesy of morgueFile.
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Article Copyright © 2006 Tina Berry. All rights reserved.