I’ve been reading about a fascinatingly counter-intuitive technique for calming disruptive children and improving behavior long term. Instead of imposing increasing discipline against which the child kicks and rebels, spiraling behaviour even more wildly out of control, a new technique developed by a psychologist called Oliver James applies reverse psychology to improve behaviour. By suspending discipline for a set period of time (say an afternoon or a weekend) and letting the child be in control of everything and choose exactly what they do and where they go, the psychological reset button is somehow pushed and children are far more willing to accept regular boundaries and parental control afterwards.
It works because they child feels an intense, condensed experience of feeling completely loved and completely in control. They have exclusive attention of the parent for this period, and the results melt way issues around neediness and anger.
James calls this technique Love Bombing. Which is the catchiest of titles, and made me feel somewhat sad that I was not a moody tweenager playing up who needed a good dose of love bombing. Damn!
But…then again…why not? There are ways in which I do rebel every day! I may not behave as I think I should given the mass of internal rules I generate for myself. About food choices, or going to the gym, or getting particular chores done that I can procrastinate on and generate a huge well of resentment. More laundry to do? Now? Really? Nooo. I can be stamping my feet in my head! Maybe I am not so far away from the stroppy tweenager at all?
Some clients also set some incredibly rigid boundaries with themselves. They must exercise every day. Or Eat Perfectly. All. The. Time. Or their email inbox MUST be under control at all times. Or they are not a good mother if little Johnny doesn’t eat organically at every meal. Whatever. We are all a seething mass of internal rules and boundaries, some of which cause us tremendous stress and we can kick and fight against them on a daily basis.
When I am under the gun at work and life feels like one long list of “shoulds” I turn things on their head. Instead of forcing myself to work harder, later, be more efficient for godsake, I Love Bomb myself instead. Just stop. Press pause. Give myself a set period of time to just Do Whatever I Like. Choose what feels like joy right now. A walk. A yoga class. Painting. Calling a friend. Baking. A massage. And throw myself into the deliciousness of the Love Bomb. It’s tremendously stress relieving. And it works. All that resentment and force start to dissolve. My internal tweenager becomes placid once more. When I return to the task at hand it’s always easier, and that chapter almost writes itself or whatever task just gets done. Rather than always pushing harder, the counter-intuitive Love Bomb is absolutely the way to go.
Action Step: Give yourself permission for a Love Bomb next time you are stressed or resentful. Set a period of time when you can Do Whatever You Want. Dive into the deliciousness of the love and control of doing what you want not what you feel you “should”. Be ready for your resentment and fatigue to have melted away with this psychological reset.