Monday, 12 April 2010

Drop the Ball

I was once given a small book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Sweaty Chicken Soup - or somesuch. I forget what exactly. It was a (mutters) Self Help Manual, full of wistful photographs of tanned, lean-limbed people and postive suggestions.

However, one page did prove useful. I read it whilst I was waiting for someone. (The gasman, the postman, Leonardo - again, I forget who exactly.) I stored the information in my constantly churning tombola and it floated to the surface at just the right moment several years later ...

... Last summer, in fact, when I was sent on a training course with an organisation who are the subject of much internet chatter. Are they the Illuminati? The Masons? Blue Lizards who've puffed molecularly and - one could say - spectacularly out of long-dormant volcanoes? I can't say more than this as they are dreadfully litigious. What do I care? I met some nice people and had several good lunches.

On the third day, a session with NLP practitioners was scheduled. I can't help feeling that NLP is money for old rope. If I remember rightly, the NLPer said the physical reaction for fear is the same physical reaction for excitement: increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shallow breathing. It is only the label that Society has given the reaction which differentiates between pleasure and anxiety. I must retrain my brain not to accept negative labels. Next time someone runs at me brandishing a machete screaming 'I'm going to chop you up into little pieces' I must remember to tell myself that I'm excited. Excited.

Anyway, we were put into pairs and instructed to reflect each other's insecurities and anxieties but in a positive manner, in order to stop them being insecurities and anxieties. Well, that was the theory.

I was paired with a lovely chap. Let's call him Lorenzo (for that was his name). English was not his first language, although he spoke it very well.

Lorenzo: I am anxious about my workload. Everyone comes to me with their problems. They are piling up on my desk. I don't have time to do my own work. I am drowning in problems.
M (WHISPERING): What am I supposed to say?
Lorenzo (ALSO WHISPERING): I don't know. I wasn't listening to the instructions.
M (WHISPERING): Something to do with reflection ...?
Lorenzo (WHISPERING): Bravo! Yes, you must repeat back to me.
M (WHISPERING): But if I reflect your problems back at you, it'll be awfully depressing.
Lorenzo (WHISPERING): This is true ...
M (WHISPERING): Shall I improvise?
Lorenzo (WHISPERING): Yes, but you must do it quickly because that woman is watching us.
M (LOUDLY): Tell me your problems, Lorenzo. What is troubling you?
Lorenzo: I have too many problems to deal with! People come to me: I can't do this, I can't do that. What should I do about this and that? My desk is overwhelmed with problems! I cannot work for problems!
Lorenzo: Yes?
M: You must visualise all these problems as balls.
Lorenzo: Balls?
M: Yes. All these problems are balls. Some are little balls, some are big balls.
Lorenzo: The problems are balls?
M: Yes, balls. People are throwing your their balls. And you are catching them.
Lorenzo: Yes, this is correct.
M: And now your arms are so full of other people's balls that you are not able to handle your own balls.
Lorenzo: This makes sense.
M: You are being buried by other people's balls.
Lorenzo: Yes!
M: Your own balls are being neglected.
Lorenzo: Yes!
M: So, when someone throws you their balls, either drop them -
Lorenzo: Drop them?
M: Or stroke them gently and throw them back.
Lorenzo: Stroke them gently ...?
M: Yes. You must never grasp anyone else's balls firmly. A gentle, fleeting touch and back they go.
Lorenzo: But - this is genius! Cara, grazie mille! You have changed my life!

Minutes later we regrouped and were asked to report back on what we had learned from the exercise. Lorenzo was very excited.

'It has been life-changing!'

The NLP practioner beamed.

'Moptop has told me I must stroke other people's balls lightly as then I will be able to handle my own balls with confidence.'

The beam vanished.

Who says self-help books are a waste of time?


  1. I'm guessing that your hosts weren't Freemasons or the Royal Lifesaving Society.

    Snorty funny. Just 24 hours ago I was in a conversation with another blogger about NLP, a concept I'm only vaguely familiar with but after her recommendation, thought I might look into to, but which I can now never take seriously because of you. Along with Leonardo. Little by little you are destroying everything I held, hold and might possibly, in the future, have held dear.

  2. And, Deborah, don't forget the healing power of crystals ...

  3. I misread your first sentence as The Seven Hobbits of Highly Effective... so I'm making my own jokes here (I am reminded of your folk night) - not that your jokes aren't very, very good! At least you didn't tell him he must free himself of balls...

    p.s. gyrind - you have the BEST Word Verifications!

  4. Ooh, I like the idea of a self help book based on hobbits. Shall we write it?