As I sit here typing, feeling the keys on my keyboard, it is easy to see just how I take my sense of touch for granted. Yet I can hardly imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have it. We are so reliant on our senses, the way they play a part in everything we do, and how interconnected they all are.
We also each have unique ways of using our senses, the importance and preference we will place on one or more of them. For instance if you focus on how I am communicating to you, connecting at a deep level, pitching it at just the right tone, perhaps warming to my language, I am sure it wont take you long to fathom out which words I have used that align to each of our main senses, and which ones you might use more often in your own language. Noticing how we use certain well known phrases such as “I hear what you are saying” “I see what you mean” “I feel you understand me better now” makes it even more apparent.
By listening out to which sensory words people use we can gain a better insight into what their preferred senses might be, allowing us to build even better rapport with them. This is most apparent when someone is talking about something really important to them such as an upsetting incident or a snippet of a wonderful holiday they had.
For the purpose of this article I would like to focus on the part our senses play when we use our imagination and our “sense memory”. When you close your eyes and think back to a good memory; a specific time on holiday, a moment when you were really happy or relaxed or confident you might initially get back that good feeling or perhaps a clear picture will come to mind easier.
Once you start to focus in on the memory, by trying to use your other senses such as being aware of what sounds or smells might have been around, you will then start to really build a much more intense experience, as if you were back there again. By doing this you will also then learn more about which senses are easier and harder for you to access. By recreating a sense memory you are allowing yourself to change your state of mind so you take on that state associated with the memory. Sometimes we access this sense memory without even realising it; the scent of freshly cut grass, the smell of wet paint or chlorine, the sound of a song not heard for a while; what feelings do they stimulate?
What if you could access a state of immense confidence, motivation, relaxation or happiness for example and do it instantly and easily? Imagine how helpful it could be when you are in a difficult situation or just need a boost.
Below is a simple, powerful and well established exercise that will allow you to create your own unique state which you can trigger off whenever you need. Please be aware this is not intended for severe phobias or anxiety. You will need a quiet place where you can spend ten to fifteen minutes on this:
1. Once you have established what state you would like to access, remind yourself of at least one, ideally two, strong examples of when you have really enjoyed that state in the past. Alternatively if you can’t think of an example how about imagining you are stepping into the shoes of someone who has that particular quality or even a use a scene from a film you know well.
2. Sitting or standing, with your eyes closed visit each memory in your mind as if they are individual movies. First of all imagine you are an observer of the memory, so see yourself and notice what else is happening in the image. See if you can slow everything right down before then stepping inside and experiencing it as if you are there, introducing as many senses as possible as described above, really taking the time to re-experience it and trying out the different senses to find which works best for you.
3. Do this again for each memory and this time try and establish at which point the feeling you are accessing becomes most intense. See if you can make it even more intense by imagining it’s a ball of energy and you can spin it faster and faster, increasing the feeling. The feeling will have a natural curve, with a point where it will peak before slowly dissipating. Once it does this open your eyes. You ideally only want to spend about a minute or so now practising on this.
4. Now to the main event; you are going to anchor the state to something physical. This will mean that when you want to access the feeling at another time all you need to do is use the physical anchor and the feeling will come flooding back. The easiest physical anchor is to press your thumb and forefinger together on one of your hands. With this in mind, stand up and imagine there is a small invisible circle on the floor in front of you that has a colour that fits with the feeling you are going to re-access. You are going to step inside the circle and immediately re access the first memory, this time stepping inside the experience immediately, focusing more on the feeling and allow the colour to flood your body too if you like. Once you get the feeling back to the point just before it starts to peak, press your thumb/forefinger together. Now really flood your whole body with the feeling, spinning it like before. Stay with it until it naturally starts to subside, making sure you release your thumb/forefinger at this point and step outside the circle. Shake your body and hands and have a quick walk about. Step inside the circle again for your second memory.
5. Do the whole of step 4 twice more, noticing that it should get easier and quicker to access the feeling.
6. Now all is left is for you to practise the anchor about once every couple of days for a week. This will make sure it becomes stronger and more of an instantaneous response. You can do it by stepping into the circle or simply practise it sitting down. After that think of it as your special state which needs to be kept fresh simply by using it regularly, about once every couple of weeks ideally. You now have an almost instant hit of sensory satisfaction!
If you liked this exercise there is another I have written, called change the viewing to change the doing which takes a similar approach.
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By Lawrence Michaels