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Lesson twenty: Identifying Associations

In lesson 19, I explained how negative associations may be giving you the impressions that new beliefs are incorrect. This class focuses on tips for uncovering your associations – think of it as the unofficial third process that works in tandem with the other two.

Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. Choose a subject and put positive associations on one side and negative on the other. Here are some suggestions based on readers and students I’ve worked with:

Honesty, compliments, decision-making, disappointment, change, conflict, anger, happiness, Christmas, birthdays and other celebrations/events, criticism, boundaries, expressing feelings and opinions, saying no, expectations, having needs, and sex.

Look for where a negative meaning about you has been assigned. This is an opportunity to work on the reasoning and beliefs. You may also find it useful to look at where the decision to respond to ______ with your typical thoughts, emotion, and action responses stems from.

Also look for generalisations. Evaluate whether the association you have is true of all circumstances. Turn generalisations into statements with context – there are certain conditions that reflect the true context.

For instance, if you dated a few people who were Future Fakers, you may have a negative association with compliments and feel distrusting of people who talk about plans.

It is true that when people talk up the future to get what they want in the present that you should have a negative association with this but not all compliments or talk about plans is negative. You would then know that you need to look at what were the indicators of insincerity and going too fast. After all, if you were in a mutually fulfilling involvement with somebody who had shown that their actions and words matched over time, it would be foolhardy to bag and tag them as a Future Faker next time they referred to plans.

Look for blind spots. Are there positive associations that you’ve been tripped up on? Sexual intimacy is a prime example of this. If, for instance, you associated that with the existence of emotional intimacy, it would have a knock-on effect of you making a number of assumptions that aren’t true. You would then need to add context to ensure that you could differentiate between the two things and look for the indicators of emotional intimacy. Intelligence and appearance are two other big blind spots.

Here’s what it all boils down to: If the association (positive or negative) isn’t true for all contexts and conditions, you shouldn’t have a blanket response.

Work out reminders for each area to help you be conscious, aware, and present. For criticism, for years I’ve asked myself: Is this person my mother? Unless it is her or there are genuine similarities, I have to wake up and listen.

When people send passive aggressive or even aggressive emails, I now remind myself with “Don’t respond immediately. It’s a shady email”.

Rewrite these associations in mini scripts that tell you the correct version of events. Repeat the script each time you are confronted with these associations, and you will gradually start making the new association. “No, it’s not true that only shady people compliment me. Yes, it is true that X used compliments to ______ but they did this along with ___ and _____. Not all people who compliment me have an agenda and are trying to manipulate me.”

By understanding your associations, you now know your cues and triggers – when you experience these in future, you can remind you to ask yourself whether your fear is based on a real or imagined threat and also to be aware of the conditions. What is really happening here?

The more instances that you do this, the faster your response is each time.  You can also use one of the processes to work through any beliefs attached to the association(s).

To help you keep track of progress, check here if you have completed Lesson 20

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