*This is a reader contribution from the insightful Lillian Moon Lee.
Did you know that you can change your outlook on life simply by changing how you are standing? Don’t take my word for it, listen to this interesting talk by Amy Cuddy at TED about body language.
Let’s try an exercise in which you practice being “associated” and being “disassociated” in your body. The following is an NLP definition for disassociation.
Dissociation is the state of observing yourself as if you were an outsider. Seeing and hearing yourself from the outside, i.e. you can see you in your entirety, not the way you see yourself from within your own body. The effect of disassociation is to disconnect from emotion. (Knight, 2009)
When you are “outside of yourself,” you miss what is happening around you. These events can be big or small, such as a flower growing through the crack in the sidewalk or the laughter of children playing or feeling love when your baby smiles for the first time.
The first part of the exercise — disassociation:
- Put yourself in an uncomfortable position by standing or sitting in a slouched position with tensed muscles.
- Have your shoulders rounded and hang your head and keep looking at the floor.
- Make sure your face has a scowl on it and breathe short in and out breaths (3-4 seconds each).
- You want to get the full experience of being dissociated and looking pitiful, so see yourself from across the room.
- Think about being anyplace else but where you are, so remove yourself emotionally from the room. If you are having a conversation with someone, stop listening.
Some people stay in this state of disassociation all the time because it is a very familiar place to be, although not necessarily comfortable.
Now, whenever you are ready, let’s move on. The following is an NLP definition for “association.”
Association is the state of being inside your skin, seeing the world from your own eyes, hearing the world from your own ears, and feeling the emotions of the situation, whether current, remembered or imagined. (Knight, 2009)
Before we start the exercise again, please close your eyes and spell “Mississippi” backwards and out loud. Thanks! Now start the second part.
The second part of the exercise — association:
- If you are sitting down, stand up.
- Shake out your arms and hands and move your body, perhaps moving from foot to foot. The movement doesn’t have to be extreme, just enough to get your blood flowing.
- Now, stand up straight with your shoulders back and your head tilted back so your eyes are looking up.
- Look out a window or at an item you find interesting (keep your eyes off the floor).
- Make sure your body is comfortable and relaxed.
- Take three deep breaths lasting 5-8 seconds in and 5-8 seconds out.
- Now, put a smile on your face (my mother really did know best!).
Deep breathing can help you become and stay “associated”, if I’m in a lousy mood, I consciously use deep breathing of three long in and out breaths to calm and center myself.
My Tai Chi Master has spent years training his students to breathe deeply. He says most people breathe at a shallow depth of 3-4 seconds in and 3-4 second out. As we are practicing our tai chi movements, he has us breathing at a rate of 6-10 seconds in and 6-10 seconds out.
Check your breathing patterns. If you have a habit of shallow breathing, work on lengthening your breaths. Oxygen is good for your cells.
Some of my reasons for choosing to live an associated life:
- My focus and clarity are better
- I laugh more often and see the irony in life
- Making decisions is easier as I don’t miss important facts and details
- I take the time to notice and appreciate the small gifts of life, like my cat sitting in the sunshine streaming through my kitchen window
- My relationships are more fun and conversations have more depth and honesty
- I enjoy interacting with all kinds of interesting people
- My curiosity about all sorts of people, places, and things has increased
- I act sillier more often
- My creativity is blossoming
- My life feels more meaningful to me
Facing the world
It is your choice to be fully “associated” in your life. The next time you walk down the street, you can choose to hold your head high with a smile on your face. Whether the people you meet choose to accept your smile is not your concern. You are simply offering them a smile as your gift. It is their choice whether to receive your gift
Knight, Sue. NLP at Work: The Essence of Excellence (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, Boston, MA, 2009).
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), co-founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, is the study of the structure of subjective or internal experience. A simplified definition: Neuro refers to your brain, Linguistic refers to language and how you communicate with yourself and others, and Programming refers to how you code that information.
Want more happiness? Try reading the following: