This is the question I got recently from a client. I must confess it left me a bit surprised which probably explains the silence that followed.“I have surely seen the human mind growing and refining in clients, but I cannot see how you can actually rewire such a complex system in 10 minutes”, I replied.
The client went on to explain that he read about different techniques promoted by other therapists and got me thinking. These situations are common in the therapy space. Clients come sometimes with some (unrealistic) expectations which become real obstacles in their healing and development.
Some clients listen to our explanations whilst others are too stuck in their mind programming and spend no time looking within if they don’t get the results they expect immediately. In this instance, the client accepted my comments and used his judgement to assess how reasonable and achievable was a complete brain rewire in 10 min.
We spoke about the physical brain and the mind and we explored his view on their functioning. We both agreed that neuroplasticity is a reality that can can help us improve our lives, but when the client realised how much time he needed to learn to function that way, he accepted that a full mind makeover in 10 min would be virtually impossible.
I wanted to get a sense of his needs and I asked him what fueled this desire to rewire his brain in 10 min and what was it for. The client confessed he wanted to be able to work more intensely to perform some massive changes in his executive role in a multinational companyand also to sharpen his memory and concentration to finish his MBA in a very short period of time.
That was quite a high stake, but this is not unusual, I see it often. To be completely honest, I’ve seen it in me as well. I was there, so I understand it from the inside out.
We looked at his dreams and the client, a perceptive and open young man, discovered quite soon in the process that he did not need any of those objectives for himself, but wanted to impress his father who was a harsh, distant yet very successful business man.
I thought his drive was understandable providing his demanding family environment and we started working towards rewiring his brain. We spent much more than 10 minutes working together on that matter, but in the end the client achieved more than he came for.
We introduced him to mindfulness and daily habits of meditation which helped him become present to his inner experience and relax from the inside out. We then explored his mindset and how it developed and searched to find out if his beliefs were still aligned with the man he was becoming at this stage of his life. He reconnected with his emotions and spirituality and addressed some of his unhealthy thinking patterns. Gradually the client gained more understanding around his behaviours and clarified his aspirations for the future.
The client improved his self-esteem, confidence and sense of self and started to own his life and become authentic even in from of his father. That brought some tension between them, but the client wanted to be himself and needed to feel free so he broke through his fear and did not allow his father to intimidate him anymore. It took the client a few good sessions to move through this process, but at the end he felt grounded within himself, he felt proud of his growth and his mental wellbeing improved significantly, making him feel happier and more excited about life.
I supported him make a plan of action and get clarity around his professional objectives in his work and we tackled the procrastination in his MBA course which was rooted in his fear of failure instilled in him by his demanding father. With patience and self-care, the client started to design his own life and live it well, in his own terms. This is a success story which I feel will extend its ripple effect outside in the outer world. The client is now interested in becoming a coach himself and I can see how his life experience will help others in the future.
In any helping profession, practitioners are faced with clients that expect outcomes they cannot offer. Sometimes, it is difficult for practitioners to say they cannot deliver what the clients request, but it is better to say no then to offer them a deceptive and short-lasting change. Real transformation requires time for reflection and understanding of our own development as well as healing, acceptance and forgiveness of the past. It requires time to find clarity and direction in the future and a new way of thinking and behaving in life. We can definitely rewire our brains when we are willing to invest in our mental wellbeing.