Through my work at Fairford leys and schools I’ve noticed a regularly occurring issue amongst teenagers:and younger children being able to take responsibility for their emotions. What I’ve noticed with a lot of the young people that I have been working with through NLP4Kids/Aylesbury Therapy for Kids seem to have this idea that their emotions and their thoughts are caused by the circumstances in their life.

Now, whilst that may be true to a certain degree, the challenge with subscribing to that particular belief, and believing in that idea, is that you limit your own personal power to be able to turn situations around and do something about it. It limits your ability to be able to think differently, and feel differently, because you have given responsibility for controlling those things to the circumstances that are happening outside of you.

Here’s what I mean…

You can’t change your family, you can’t easily change your school and you’re probably stuck with the siblings that you’ve got – all of the things that irritate and annoy us in life, we can’t really do an awful lot about. They are what they are. As you grow older and you are able to take more personal responsibility for where you live, who you live with and what your circumstances are you can begin to change those things on a practical level. But assuming that you are not suffering from any kind of abuse, until then you are stuck with what you’ve got. We may not like them, but unfortunately, they are what they are, and we must accept them as they come.

If we take on the mindset of ‘I don’t like the people that I’m around/the school that I’m in/the family that I’ve got and that makes me depressed/anxious/stressed’ then what we are essentially saying is that because of these circumstances I end up with these feelings; I can’t change these circumstances, so I can’t change these feelings. And that is not an empowering place to be.

So, here’s what I’m proposing. You may not be able to change the circumstances that you are in, but you can, most certainly, take control of your mind power, your thought processes, your self-talk, your emotions and your feelings. You may not know how to do it yet, but I assure you that you do have the potential to be able to do it. The key question to get you into that mode of thinking is a question that beings with the word ‘how’. It’s all about ‘how will I do this? How am I going to change that?’

When you ask yourself ‘how’ questions it puts your brain into a thinking mode which causes you to explore and look for answers in the world around you. We very often get caught up in the ‘why’: ‘Why did this happen?’, ‘why can’t I change that?’, ‘why did it have to be me?’ All of these questions give us a very insular focus and thinking about the doom and gloom. A ‘Why’ question usually gets us looking backwards and usually negatively; a ‘How’ question gets us looking forwards and thinking about what’s out there in my future that can help impact positively upon my circumstances. ‘How’ is a very positive question.

It’s not about ‘why am I stuck in this’, it’s more about ‘what am I going to do about it? What action can I take here?’ As soon as you take that personal responsibility you take back some of your power in those circumstances. You empower yourself to be able to move and change things – and even if you can’t make as big a change as you might like to make, you can at least change the way that you think about your circumstances. That might mean that you start to look upon them more positively, or you start to see what the payoff will be from going through a tough time right now. How is this going to serve me later in life? How is this going to do me right? How is this going to make me stronger?

Start thinking about how you can take responsibility for your thinking and your thoughts in spite of your situation rather than thinking about why it is you can’t.

The original version of this article was written by Gemma Bailey, director
It was republished and rebuilt with additional content by IAN DAVIES