The Power Of Negative Directions

Robert Rickover writes: Most of us create excess tension somewhere in our bodies. If you have a pretty good idea where you’re habitually tightening up – could be your shoulders, your chest, your pelvis, whatever – you can use it for the little experiment below. If you’re not sure where to put your attention, put it on your neck.

Now walk back and forth across the room. When going in one direction, walk as you usually do. When you walk in the other direction, softly think “I am not tightening my (neck, shoulders – whatever region of your body you have chosen to experiment with)”.

The “I am not” part of this phrase is very important, but feel free to experiment with other words that mean something like “tightening” – maybe tensing, squeezing, compressing or any other similar word you like. Feel free also to experiment with other activities you do – speaking, chopping vegetables, whatever. Simply alternate between your usual way of doing them, and gently adding this self-directing phrase.

And remember a key word here is softly – whichever version of the phrase you are use is best conveyed to yourself without any pressure, detailed instructions or expectations.

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