Positive Experiences: A Chance to HEAL

By Doug Robinette

October 26, 2019

I was privileged, in my career, to work for two organizations that offered fantastic opportunities, and cultures that fostered regular feedback. Some of that feedback, of course, was constructive in nature, and I certainly benefited from that. Mostly, I worked for good bosses, who also gave positive feedback. Over time, I began to realize that the constructive feedback stuck with me (or perhaps TO me – like a magnet), while the positive feedback “bounced off”. When the good stuff came, I would say things like – “no big deal”, or “just doing my job” or “my pleasure”. But what I FELT was discomfort.

Then I switched careers and went into executive coaching, and two things happened that shed more light on this strange phenomenon. First, I earned a certification in the use of an emotional intelligence tool called EQIA. The tool is extremely useful for many reasons. In this case, it helped me make a connection between a behavior of mine (difficulty in receiving positive feedback), and an underlying emotion – shame. Through the tool, I learned that people who have high access to shame often have difficulty receiving positive feedback – aha!

Second, fast-forward a few years – I am at a coaching conference listening to Dr. Rick Hanson, an American Psychologist, and he begins to lecture about the brain and some of its hardwiring. He starts with a brief discussion about the brain’s negative bias (which all of us who’ve been exposed to the Healing Care model are familiar with), and then moves to the fact that for some of us, receiving positive feedback is very difficult. He has my attention!

He explains a little model he created that can help with this challenge – the HEAL model.

It goes like this:

  • When we Have a positive experience,
  • We should Enhance it, then
  • Absorb it, then
  • Link it to something negative from our past

I’ve used this technique many times over the years since then, and it does work. For me, it goes something like this:

  • I notice that someone has said something to me, or encouraged me in some way, or that I did something well…H
  • Then I look at it from different angles – what did it mean to the other person? My organization? What specifically went well, and why?...E
  • Then I meditate on those things, contemplate them, let them sink into my bone marrow – I marinate in the feeling of the moment…A
  • Then I think about what this experience tells me about things I may have believed – for example, “I’m not good enough”, and how the experience reveals truth…L
  • Doing this with Jesus, in Safe Place, and hearing what He has to say, is even more impactful – HEAL on steroids!

Notice how this fits so well into our Healing Care model:

  • There is a wound that leads to a lie of “not good enough”
  • We know that one of the things that’s needed to begin healing is “positive episodic memories”, and yet for some of us, those positive episodes stick to our brains like Teflon – that is, not at all
  • This is a simple technique we can use, that incorporates important elements of the Healing Care model – recall that episodic memories involve:
    • Images
    • Feelings
    • Our 5 senses
    • Behaviors
    • Meaning

All of which are present in Hanson’s technique - with the addition of Jesus and Safe Place.

Guess what? You don’t have to wait for a new positive experience to come along. Simply recall one that happened recently (and hasn’t yet been dumped from your right brain’s episodic memory bank). Using that experience, try the technique out, and see what happens.

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