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Epictetus and the sneeze

As I sit here, reflecting on the day, I'm wondering how you are feeling about an innocent sneeze. Once upon a time, not so long ago, you could sneeze and someone around you would respond with 'bless you', whereas this morning it was greeted with a cry from the study of 'call the hazmat team, I've found patient zero'. Covid-19 has taken over the world, or at the very least the media. You know its getting a little crazy when the CEO of the supermarket emails you to urge you not to panic buy. I can't think he has checked his database recently because I rarely shop there, and I very much doubt there is likely to be a run on garlic bread and pouches of dog food!

I'd just taken the dogs out for a walk. We had been admiring the spring morning. The wild garlic is coming up, the curlews are back and the otter was making its way upstream close to the river bank. The river was flowing quickly after the rain overnight, and there is some blue sky for now. Frogs are back in the pond, and clumps of frog spawn are beginning to appear. Lambing hasn't yet begun this far into the dale, and the sheep are grazing lazily in the fields. Coming back in from the walk, I wiped the mud from their paws and left the wellies in the porch. And then it appeared, the sneeze. It really was an innocent sneeze. A change of temperature sneeze, not one likely to decimate the population.

And whilst I know that Covid-19 will be devastating for some families, and sensible precautions are necessary, on the whole we do seem to have a struggle being 'sensible'. It reminded me of a quote from the Greek Stoic Epictetus who said:

“It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Our reactions, our unconscious behaviours, seem almost outside of our control. Indeed many people believe that they have little or no control over how they react. However the simple truth is, we all have a choice about our reactions. We can stockpile toilet roll at the first sneeze, or we can carry on admiring the spring day. We can panic over the lack of dried pasta on the supermarket shelves, or we can wonder if this might be a good time to learn how to make fresh pasta.

How are you reacting to the Coronavirus news? Are you in the selfish stockpile gang? When you were gathering up your supplies, what consideration did you give to more vulnerable people? Are you in the judging gang? Have you been looking at other people's trolleys and 'tutting' at their greed? Did you stop and consider they might have been buying for their elderly neighbours? Whatever your response - have you realised you are neither right nor wrong, you're just responding?

In Neuro Linguistic Programming #NLP we learn about where these responses come from and what we can do to change them. There is a focus throughout on raising awareness of moving from the effect side of life, responding to situations, over to the cause side. When we view life from the cause side of the equation, we realise all of the things we do have control over, and how we can behave differently. There is a wonderful tool used in coaching called Perceptual Positions. It involves asking questions about a scenario from three different positions: your own perspective, the perspective of another person involved in the scenario, and then the 'fly on the wall' watching the interaction.

a) How are you behaving?

b) How are you feeling?

c) What do you believe about the situation?

d) What’s important to you?

e) What is there for you to learn?

f) How has your perception changed?

Try them out. See if your perception changes. And if you want to find out more, we have an NLP Practitioner course starting in late April. Contact us for more details. And yes we still plan to go ahead. Hand sanitisers are on standby...

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