I have always loved the way when someone clears a bunch of negative emotions they do not just feel different on the inside. They also find people responding differently to them. It is one of the truly encouraging things about therapy with clients or on me. You cannot change other people. But it is surprising and delighting how much changing yourself seems to have changed others because they are reacting so differently to you.
It reminds me of the experiments I read about way back when I was a psychology student in which children started with new teachers with deliberately incorrect assessments from their old ones. Those whose new teachers thought they were doing better academically than they actually suddenly did better. And the ones who had arrived with a “bad” report mysteriously saw their usually good grades fall.
I have recently had my own experience of what happens when you give a dog a bad name.
My central heating system broke down and I had to do the whole call centre queueing, clicking and switching various things under instruction on the phone twice, and finally waiting for an engineer to call.
I could not quite believe how polite the call centre people were. I had this weird feeling that they were being almost too polite – though it seemed churlish to even think of thinking it. The first offered to wait while I went knocking on neighbours’ doors in search of an impossibly short screwdriver. A second walked me through an even more extensive series of checks and kept thanking me for my patience and cooperation. I wondered why. I had more to gain from being patient and cooperative than she did.
When the engineer was leaving next day, he showed me the job description on his handheld. It had a footnote that said: “Client is rude and abusive.” He had arrived in trepidation and found me so much not so he thought I should know what was on the system about me. “It must be a mistake, “he said. “You must get them to correct it.”
Suddenly the penny dropped. After the system was installed about 18 months earlier, I had to make an appointment for an inspection. For weeks I got letters saying if I did not arrange it soon the warranty would be invalidated while I was spending hours on the phone trying to get through to arrange the inspection. As I held on hoping to be answered eventually, I listened to the promise that emails were always answered within 48 hours so I sent a lot of them, too.
When I finally got an appointment and had to stay in for a 12 hour time slot for the engineer to come, he didn’t.
It was when I rang to ask why not and what would happen now, I struck someone so indifferent and unhelpful that I think the client did become “rude and abusive. “
So I complained about the label on my file and got an apology, and assurances that it had been removed and that call centre staff had been “reminded” what they could and could not record about clients. “Needs extra time to answer the door” yes. “Client is rude and abusive” no.
But it really was an eye-opener to experience the treading-on-eggshells response I had got from two different people in the call centre not to my being rude and abusive but to label that led them to think I just might be.
And it reminded me how therapy enables that to happen on the inside. When we use EFT to change the writing we have about ourselves on our own walls it does somehow communicate itself to others. Change it and we change the way others see us and respond to us and that makes us feel even better… A blessedly virtuous circle.