What are Words Worth?
Tumbling stocks and shares, crashing house prices, previously unassailable institutions crumbling into dust and unprecedented turmoil. These are just a few of the media superlatives filling acres of newsprint at time of writing. What a grim picture is being painted in 2009.
As we enter the dark cold months of Winter filled with anxiety and trepidation is there any hope to cling to? Not if the doom-mongering British press has its way.
Newspaper journalists with a knack for exaggeration can forge successful careers out of their ability to turn a drama into a crisis with nary a thought for the impact on the national psyche. And there is a national predisposition for pessimism which means collectively we rarely, if ever, 'look on the bright side' except in times of dire threat to our lifestyles and wellbeing. The 'wartime spirit' is only seen or talked about in relation to times of extreme danger or deprivation. Goodness knows what happens to it in periods of peace and prosperity.
So is the media merely responding to our gloomy outlook or are they actually creating it? It's possible we might change our perspective if the story was told in a different way. Try this for size: 'Decisive politicians save nation's vital banking institutions'. Or how about: 'First rung of housing ladder finally in reach of young buyers'. Here's another one to ponder: 'Entrepreneurial new businesses thrive as jobless create their own jobs'.
A fundamental principle of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that how we talk affects how we think and feel which, in turn, changes outcomes. There is plenty of evidence to support this view socially, politically and economically as well as in terms of individual interaction. 'Golden ages' and 'political greats' are rarely recognised at the time and are often only acknowledged in sentimental retrospectives. Our ability to appreciate the good times is undermined by measuring good fortune against greater fortune only to find ourselves lacking. And the derision which politicians are treated with must be a significant discouragement to the most gifted, leaving governance of the nation to those with thick skin but less talent.
On a personal level, more and more people are leading lonely, solitary lives, locked in depressing isolation by their own limiting beliefs, verbalised internally with viciously destructive self-talk. The celebrity culture puts tremendous pressure on the vulnerable and insecure to meet impossibly unrealistic criteria in every aspect. Meanwhile, others race round a relentless hamster wheel of competitive acquisition, seeking validation in a new kitchen or pair of designer shoes.
Much of this hectic shopping for meaningful lives is down to the fabulous skill of advertisers. They not only create brands and define aspirations but generate belief in what is worthy through the simple power of words and imagery. This is an insidious, contemporary mass-hypnosis as powerful and skilled as any religious creed in dictating desires, beliefs and acceptable behaviour. It is confirmation that NLP works on many levels, creeping unrecognised through mainstream culture.
Understandably, the power to manipulate the chatter which defines our opinions and choices is regarded with suspicion and sometimes fear. It presents the potential to exploit the vulnerable and impressionable. But it can also empower both individuals and society with motivation, vision, creativity and drive.
So let's for a moment use the cynical process of spin but direct it away from commercial gain towards a fresh new concept of progress. For example, a good start would be for children to be nurtured and educated by parents and teachers aware of and responding to the cognitive differences between individuals. This is about using language to inform, support and guide according to a fairly basic sensory range of differing needs which can have a significant impact on learning ability.
Amateur parenting and one-size-fits-all teaching are symptoms of a fragmented social infrastructure where creativity is stifled and knowledge is no longer automatically passed between generations or community networks.
Then, take the economy and consider the potential benefits of a recession in clearing out all that is no longer functioning effectively. There were some gross imbalances which now stand some chance of redress. What we earn, how we spend it and who we give power to will all shift in the cataclysmic clear-out. Just like the Fire of London in 1666 cauterised the suppurating remains of the Great Plague in the disease ridden city streets, the financial calamity will pave the way for innovation and development.
On an individual level, that presents many opportunities to discover and tap into new skills. Institutions will have to be more open and responsive to gain respect and keep in business. And a better informed and more demanding public will no longer bankroll incompetence. The 'unwaged' may well find their benefits entitlement curtailed and public servants are very likely in for a savage cull as superfluous town hall jobs disappear from The Guardian recruitment pages. So, theoretically, it's wake-up time for the unproductive in our society. They'll benefit from gaining some NLP skills to convert inertia and entitlement into dynamism and motivation.
Another quiet revolution in the offing concerns the atrocious neglect of the infirm amongst the ageing population. It's true, some of the 'grey market' are having a ball and are perhaps the only generation in history to have seen a continuous improvement in their lifestyle. But others are not. So watch out, the Baby Boomers are coming and they are the best educated, most dominant and influential generation ever to approach retirement age. They will not tolerate an undignified demise in a wee-stinking armchair in the corner of the TV lounge at the 'Bide a While' rest home. This lot invented NLP and all its derivations and they will wield their powers to awesome effect.
The 'yoof of today' had better make the most of their temporary fecklessness and they are destined to be one of the hardest working generations in history. The responsibility is theirs to support a massive population of dependents. In short, resourcefulness is a necessity not an option so the language of NLP is going to be a key factor in shaping their destiny for an awesome life where failure is not an option. They need all our encouragement and positive support to talk them into being fighting fit for the challenges ahead.
2009 looks set to be a pivotal year of enlightenment and rejuvenation on global, national and individual levels. It's a year when so much of our wellbeing and stability depends on the brightest and best having the right resources to achieve transformation. In the meantime, all the rest of us had better figure out how to be the best we can possibly be to ensure we are ready and able to approach the challenges ahead positively and successfully.
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About Karen Martin
Karen Martin has many years experience treating a wide range of conditions and disorders. Anxiety in its many forms, from phobias to panic disorders, and behavioural change, like weight management and smoking cessation, are issues she specialises in and has a consistent track record of successfully treating.