1 powerful way to raise self esteem: a psychotherapist explains
Quitters Friday followed by Blue Monday reflects the reality that January can be a challenge for many of us. Feeling low can make us negative about who we are, or rather who we think we are.
We beat ourselves up for not sticking to our New Year’s resolutions and our already fragile self esteem crashes through the floor. Low self esteem merely fuels the fires of low mood, and so the downward spiral continues.
Cutting into the loop
I was asked recently how to raise self esteem. There are many ways, but the one I am about to describe is particularly effective as it engages the right brain hemisphere and bypasses the resistant ‘yes but’ defences of the left. The left brain has long since formed a belief system around the personality of the person and continues only to look for the evidence it is correct.
The resistance-busting technique is called ‘The overheard conversation’ and begins by relaxing the client very deeply and accessing an area of consciousness that sits between wake and sleep. The brains of people who are in this hypnogogic-hypnopompic state are noted to have alpha and theta waves present. Alpha waves are associated with deep relaxation and theta waves are associated with accelerated learning…or insight.
Recent research shows the moment of insight occurs in an area of the brain just above the right ear, known as the anterior superior temporal gyrus. Much has been written about the mechanism of insight, but it’s true to say, a paradigm shift can occur in seconds and, when it does, the results can be dramatic. That is what happened for my client Joan, anyway.
Joan had been traumatised in childhood. We had to do some specific work around those incidents to bilaterally integrate the old memories. But, even though that work had been successful, Joan was left with very low self esteem. She had a perception of herself that allowed others to continue to bully her, especially at work. Joan’s self image had been formed during her unhappy childhood. The messages she had received back then from the people around her had programmed a negativity that was resistant to logical challenge. Quite simply, she was running outdated software and it was time to upload something new!
Once relaxed, and with the defensive left hemisphere distracted and disengaged, I spoke directly to Joan’s right hemisphere in a guided visualisation. Guided visualisation is like walking someone through a dream and is a powerful mechanism for change.
This is what I said to Joan with the embedded messages in bold:
A guided dream
‘‘Joan, I wonder if you could imagine turning up at a gathering. Lots of people you know are there and they are people whose opinion you value. Notice what the room looks like, the sounds of voices chatting. As you take a glass of orange from a waitress, perhaps notice the coolness of the glass against your hand, the citrusy fragrance of the drink and the fruity taste of the orange as you take a sip. And as you drift around the room, feeling relaxed, and wondering which group to join, you begin to pick up fragments of conversation from those around you.
‘Look, there’s Joan. I’m so pleased she came. She’s lovely to talk to. She’s one of those people who actually listens and is interested in what you have to say.’
‘Yes, she’s got a great sense of humour too. She’s fun to be around.’
‘It’s no secret Joan had a difficult child hood. Isn’t it amazing how she’s turned her life round? I was reading about that. It’s called post trauma growth. Some people emerge the other side of difficulties stronger in so many ways.’
‘I don’t think Joan quite realises how much she is respected around here. She’s bright and she’s a people person too. That’s a powerful combination.’
‘She’s certainly a tenacious lady. I think she’ll do well here.’
‘Do you think she’ll get promoted?’
‘She certainly deserves to climb the ladder. She understands at a very deep level. Look how much time she’s spent on learning and self development. We need more like Joan on the management team.’
‘Looking good too….’
‘Yes, always smartly dressed but it’s her bubbly personality that really lights her up.’ ‘
I know what you mean…’’
I saw Joan one week later. She’d noticed a shift.
‘I think I’m being more assertive’ she told me ‘but in a good way.’ It’s strange really but the better I feel about myself, the better other people seem to treat me.
Strange, isn’t it?’
‘I think you understand at a very deep level’ I responded.
I had a feeling our work was almost done.