Parents of a special needs child also have special needs. They need more flexibility to deal with the unknown and adapt to situations that are often completely different from what they expected, more time and money to take care of their child, more patience and understanding.
Most of us grew up in an environment that was “normal” and completely different from the life and situations that arise daily when having a special needs child. We were programmed to expect the same, and naturally, when we are faced with something different, we don’t know how to react and we may think we don’t have the tools do deal with it.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) studies the structure of personal experience and helps us first to understand and accept that that personal experience is what determines the way we act and react to the situations around us. It then helps us discover that, since they are OUR experiences and they belong to US, we can alter the way we experience any situation.
In my seminars I always mention that in the outside world, problems don’t exist. Everything that happens outside ourselves is nothing more than that: things that happen. It’s how we choose (unconsciously for the most part) to look and perceive what happens that makes it a problem in our version of the world.
Most of us end up adapting to the situation, and that is because (as one of NLP’s Presuppositions states), people have all the resources they need to make the changes they want. There’s almost always some level of resistance to change, and that’s one of the functions performed by what I call our “automatic pilot” (the sum of all the programs we’ve learned throughout our lives).
Although we have a brain and an incredibly powerful mind, we don’t use it as often as we think (or we only use it as often as we think). Most of what we regularly do throughout the day is routine, and we don’t think about it . . . because we don’t have to. Therefore, when we are faced with a new situation, we are forced to think about it in order to find the path to the best outcome. And that can be as stressful to our brain and nervous system, as lifting weights is to our muscles. In that situation, our auto-pilot always chooses the path of less resistance: what we already know. Even when we also already know that the outcome will not be what we want.
The good news is that once we become aware of the auto-pilot and accept that there are programs that guide our behavior, we can make the conscious decision to shut it off momentarily and pay attention and think about the choices and options available to us at the time that may lead us to the best possible outcome in any given situation. We do this often enough, and the auto-pilot will reprogram itself to shut itself off at those moments, so we can think clearly and adapt more easily to those new situations that are so different from what we grew up to expect.
Through NLP and personal experience, I’ve noticed that the brain doesn’t recognize the difference between reality and imagination. If you’ve ever had a nightmare and woke up feeling scared, you know that, too. You had to “convince yourself” that what you dreamt was just a dream, because you were having the same physical and neurological reaction as if it had actually happened. That’s how powerful our imagination is, and we can use that power to our advantage.
Imagine a future situation. Something that, even though you know it will happen, you don’t know how you will react. And imagine that the situation you are imagining is happening in a movie set . . . imagine that you are the main character, doing what you think you would do . . . and imagine you are also the director, looking at the scene. Do you like what you see? If you don’t, imagine that you (the director), walk up to the writer, who just happens to also be you, and request (or demand) a re-write. Imagine yourself (the writer) rewriting the scene . . . what would your character say and do so that the scene would look and feel right? Imagine you (the writer) handing you (the director) the new script, and imagine you (the director) giving you (the actor) the new dialog and instructions. Now imagine yourself acting that way, following the specific instructions that you (the director) gave you (the actor) . . . and notice that it feels much better than before.
If you can do that in your mind, you can do that in your life!