Identity Shift – a whole new way of pulling the rug out from under you

So there I was in the middle of San Francisco, in this area called the Tenderloin, only a year ago I was staying in a Hostel in the area and I was terrified. I was never terrified in this area before but now, 9am in the morning it was the most terrifying place on the planet for me. What made it worse was there no one even around to make me feel scared to be there… it was just an empty street on a sunny San Francisco Sunday morning.

A year before I was just starting to learn NLP and I had no idea what the work would entail of me or that I was going to even be a practitioner at all. I honestly thought at that point I would just go and find out what NLP was about and maybe I could collect it like the other trainings and assessments I had. I never expected to change the very core of who I am and who I know myself to be.

A year before I wasn’t scared, because I knew I could look a person in the eye and know what they were all about. I knew I could read their behavior, know what there were going to do before they were going to do it and I knew my gut would tell me to leave well in advance of me getting into any trouble. As the months unfolded I found out that what I had was an adaptation to being in a place where my brain thought I was continually unsafe. My brain was always in assessment of other people’s experience and actions. In NLP Marin/NLP Vancouver terms we call this being in the switch position. What I was unaware of was how much it affected my perceptions of life and my world around me.

So this how it works: When we are first born we are switched into our mother’s experience of the world since she is our source of survival. During this time our brains are developing our own survival systems. Our survival system develops until we’re about 2.5-3 yrs old. Once developed we start having memories of being individuals unattached from our families somewhere between 3-5yrs old.  If our mother wasn’t safe – like, she didn’t bond with us or reach for us during the first couple years of our life we remained shifted into her and learned how to shift into others to constantly assess our safety with others.

My own experience of this was, I used to tell people, I hated going to the mall because there was something about the energy in the mall that really tired me out. What my brain was doing was checking in with everyone one I passed (no wonder I was tired!) to make sure they would not attack me. I also had the same experience  with bars – I loved people (I’m a total extrovert!) but random unfocused energy, tires me out… so being in a class room meant that people were focused on one thing, which made it easy to be there. So my 5 degrees were easy, I felt safe in school and a class room because people were focused. Being in a relationship with someone was a huge task because I always needed to take care of them and their needs before my own – it was like I was beacon for their negative or positive energy. This went way further but I didn’t realize how deep it ran until I had the choice and flexibility.

The first exercise in which I was in the self position I nearly threw up. The best way to describe this is really good grounding. Similar to what is possible to reach in yoga -unfortunately I could never sit for yoga. And, I would say if you can’t sit for yoga, find a way where you can clear you mind and get grounded so you can start practicing this. If you’ve ever experienced being around a person that seems spiny or flighty they are most likely experiencing life in the switch position.

Over the months of NLP training I kept trying to move myself from one position to the other and be able to experience what others were feeling and what I was feeling. With a little success but still with major nausea. As we were getting prepared to write the Master’s Final Exam and I was attending any study session I could and have people over to practice on and be coached by and something switched… It was a week before the exam people started noticing something really different about me that they couldn’t put their finger on. People started asking my opinion, saying things like, “there is something about you” and all of the sudden I was an authority. The people I was working with on NLP determined I had to anchor (when you anchor in NLP it means we are taking a specific feeling and making it available in other circumstances) my ass to the chair so I (well, my energy) wouldn’t jump out – because they could feel my energy there and then it would disappear as I was programming. After anchoring my energy to every chair I sat in, a light turned on… all the sudden my skin felt different. I couldn’t hear other people’s feelings unless I was focused on hearing them… I was focusing on what I wanted and it was different… even an orgasm with my husband was my orgasm, not his for the first time. I was present in my life in a way I had never been present before… and I had a different concentration level and was willing to ask for things I needed rather than hide… Even now, I have people ask me how I know things, how I can have this much depth in my practice even though I’ve been practicing for such a short time ) about 3 years), how can I experience their feelings, how do I know their  gestures are them re-living some horrible experience… I say it’s an educated guess, it’s how I was trained to do this. It was Carl and Michelle’s doing…but really, I know it was the integration of the NLP material and my willingness to go there to be pushed to have an identity shift as apposed to a belief shift or a capacity shift or a behavior shift. This single shift created many belief, capacity and behavior shifts.

So now downtown San Francisco, Tenderloin, a place that didn’t scare me, didn’t even bother me at night now at 9:00am scares the sh-t out of me… Even if I’m on a bus or in the BART going through the area… and for once, I think that’s what I’m supposed to feel as a female going through a tough area of town.

All in all, I think the shift was worth while…

Tracy Joy,

Founder of NLP Vancouver