Farts are just not funny, so don’t even think about laughing, not even smirking… Now, the fart has always been a source of embarrassment, so I thought its letters would be a brilliant way to explain the way our thinking often lets us down and embarrasses us.
Here’s the way many people process life: F.A.R.T.
This stands for Feeling, Action, Reflect, Think… and most people F.A.R.T. most of the time. By this I mean that they react to their feelings without thinking first. Somebody upsets them and they have an instant emotional response. This leads to later reflection on what happened, finally thinking about it over and over again, in a cycle of tormenting regret, anger, bitterness and other unresourceful states.
A classic example happened this Friday. My partner went the extra mile for a neighbour, who then complained that she hadn’t done enough!! The double insult of such ingratitude really stung my good lady… and it was delivered just as my partner was about to start out on a long and stressful journey. Quite a cocktail for potential disaster.
We’ve been together for seven years, and sometimes the hardest people to help are those you love most… so I knew what would happen:
Feeling: anger at the injustice; Action: unfit to drive with full attention, closing-down emotionally, vowing never to do a good turn again; Reflection: actual meditation on the outrage making the negative feelings stronger and stronger; Thinking: find a way to pay the neighbour back! Folks, this is “stinking-thinking”. Stinking Thinking leads to that “Sinking Thinking”… The only way is down…
Just rearranging the letters makes a world of difference. Putting the T after the F gives us FTAR… not so catchy but a better way to catch your behaviours before you act in a way you’ll come to regret. FTAR is a happier way to run your brain. We all are designed for stimuli to rapidly trigger associated responses – the associated responses we call feelings and thoughts. Feelings most often come first since our very lives may depend upon a rapid reaction to danger.
Part of our evolution as sentient beings, however, has allowed us to temper our feelings through thinking. Perception of an event transforms the impact of an event. When you are in love, you interpret (which is a form of thinking) events very differently from when you are looking for an excuse to criticise your partner! How many people cry out in exasperation, “I can’t do anything right!”? To a great extent, we could define this ‘thinking’ as “ascribing a meaning to something”. When you fall in love, any slight attention from the object of your desire is interpreted as keen interest!
In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, there is a saying: “Every behaviour has a positive intention.” This is a great belief to use in FTAR. If it is true, when you Feel offended, your first Thought can be, “So what is the positive intention that is driving this behaviour?” My Gran knew all about this kind of common-sense, practical wisdom. She’d say, “Count to ten…” That counting to ten allowed my logical mind to interrupt before the interpretation, and then re-evaluate the data provided by any event. FTAR is just a tiny bit more sophisticated. We think before acting so that we may choose the most useful response. I really like the idea of choosing a ‘response’ over a primitive ‘reaction’. Action then follows as the most appropriate behaviour, leading to positive Reflection afterwards on what went well and what could have been better.
In the build up to a big marketing event at my local music superstore, I’ve been helping out in the Café. Very, very rarely, we have rude customers… except I don’t. I don’t think people are rude – but their manner may be ‘inappropriate’. Having this belief means I’m not so easily offended, and can often choose a response that will turn the rude customer into a loyal one. (Don’t get me wrong, I still get upset, and some people turn out to be genuinely rude people! But they get more time to prove they’re really rude!)
OK, practically, what can you do in response to this blog? Just walk away with the school-boy giggling humour of thinking, “Did I just fart?” when you catch yourself reacting rather than responding… and then start to add the interrupting question: “What on Earth could be the positive intention behind this person’s bizarre behaviour!!!???” Put like that, it’s not too tree-huggy, is it? After all, surprise is far more positive than indignation.
[Afterword – Going Deeper
If you want to know more, my approach is part of a fresh blend of CBT1, NLP2, TA3, Multiple-Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence. I call it HARP™ – which stands for “Human Associative Re-Patterning. Why? Simply because through my years of experience in the practical applications of neuro-science and psychology I believe success comes down to the way we make patterns of associations and meanings that become patterns of behaviour (i.e. habits). I spent the best years of my life working alongside Buzan Centres in the UK. Tony Buzan’s Mind Mapping is my favourite form of Neuro Associative Mapping – a tree-like structure that show the links between ‘molecules’ of thought, mirroring the very patterns our neural-net creates when we think. I was also peripherally involved with Edward de Bono’s approach to Lateral Thinking. If Buzan mirrors the patterns of association, de Bono breaks the patterns with a view to creating new patterns that liberate – in short, “Re-Patterning”. Combine Buzan and de Bono’s insights with the practical psychologies of CBT1, NLP2, and TA3 – and you end up with the all embracing concept of Human Associative Re-Patterning, or HARP™!!
1 = Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
2 = Neuro-Linguistic Programming
3 = Transactional Analysis.
All are highly recommended disciplines for helping you excel in life.]