Ever wonder how some people who have gone through real hardships can be happy, while other people who have had a relatively even ride through life can define their life in negative terms and feel it has been full of unhappiness?. In this video renowned psychologist Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. Kahneman is famous for co-inventing behavioral economics, the study of human irrationality as it applies to economics and how we make decisions.
As NLPers it has lots of useful insights for us as to how anyone can experience ongoing happiness. Go watch it below - whether you are a coach, therapist or unofficial people helper this video will give you many ideas on how to help yourself and your clients experience more happiness right now.
Making it practical:
So Daniel covered a lot in his presentation - couple of the high points of note were:
"We don't choose between experiences but between memories (and anticipated memories) experiences"
Next time you find yourself feeling an emotion that you describe as unpleasant, especially if you have wanted to shift it but are struggling remember that chances are you won't remember it most likely a few hours or days from now. So let is move through you and fizzle into the abyss.
As Marcus Aurelius Augustus, a former Roman Emperor put it:
"Reflect on the rapidity with which all that exists and is coming to be is swept past us and disappears from sight. For substance is like a river in perpetual flow, and its activities are ever changing, and its causes infinite in their variations, and hardly anything at all stands still: and ever on our side is the immeasurable span of the past and the yawning gulf of the future, in which all things vanish away. Then how is he not a fool who, in the midst of all this, is puffed up with pride, or tormented, or bewails his lot as though his trouble would endure for a great while?"
A great saying and a great example of elegant language usage. Fact is .. whether we are dealing with ourselves or with a client, all we have is the current experienced moment - which Kahneman defines as 3 seconds or so long, with everything else that is going on being a choice we make between memories (which the brain "makes up" and re-presents to us) or anticipated memories.
This brings home another important point - whether you are happy when you think back about your life, the last year or even last month has a lot to do with what and how you are comparing stuff. If you want to help yourself or a client feel better about their life .. then help practice changing 1) what you are comparing yourself, your life to and 2) how you are running that comparison at a representational level.
Become like your very own Michelangelo of your mind. Paint the stuff you would like to feel better about with richer and more intense colors making it truly compelling and satisfying and the stuff you had been comparing yourself to as that of a scene of a non important, nondescript event. The exact coding of this will vary for person to person, so figure out what works well for you. (And if you don't know how to do this, feel free to leave a question below and I'm happy to give you some suggestions.)
"Being happy in your life and being happy about your life, are two very different concepts…"
As NLPers this points first and foremost to our awareness of the affect of language… and being conscious of what presuppositions you are using in your speech when you are communicating with someone. Asking someone "are you happy in your life?" vs. "do you feel happy right now?", vs. "are you happy about your life?" - are all very different questions. Knowing what the likely effect you will create when you ask a question is very important - especially since every question you ask anyone will have the function of directing their consciousness in one way or another and evoke all kinds of associations and with them states.
Kahneman statement also points us to notice how we are accessing our sense of "happiness". Wellbeing and happiness are two different concepts. And if you feel unhappy about something, go in search of some other references you can draw on. Intentionally direct your consciousness.
This process helps illuminate beneath the surface of the statement - "In life, (some) pain is necessary but suffering is optional". As strange as that may sound, even in apparent hardship you can have moment by moment happiness.
Three things influence how the Remembering Self remembers: changes, significant moments and endings
We can think of these things are the markers the "remembering self" uses to track and index what we remember of the millions of moments that we have in a decade.
Embedded in all of that I think there are a couple of other filters that drive what gets remembered - such as first and foremost does the said change affect you? In order to define something as a significant moment, someone had to first label it as "significant" relative to some comparison (perhaps the other events in ones life). As story tellers, anytime we can tell a story that the listener can directly relate to or see themselves in it, the effect of that story will be much greater than if a person has no connection to it (conscious or otherwise).
The third marker, endings, influence how the Remembering self remembers. This also plays an important role in many contexts from persuasion to creating change to leaving a lasting impression etc. If you want someone else to remember you or some key learning point, then make sure that you do something that is
1) a noticeable change in the status quo that captures the other person's attention
2) significantly changes their state or a long held view on something (ideally for the positive - if you want them to have a positive association to you)
3) had some form of specific instruction or frame of reference included in it that you would like the person to take on board
4) is linked to some form of environmental trigger that you know the person will see/be in the presence of at a later point (so that it triggers them to re-call back or remember that situation with you and everything that went with it)
Learning NLP has always been focused in the doing rather that the theory so have fun applying whatever resonates most for you from this post. If you put into practice the one habit of connecting more consciously with the "experieicnign self" and being more aware and intentional about what gets called back on by the "remembered self" you can literally transcend hardship and experience much greater happiness and moment by moment joy.
Wishing you much happiness in all you do.