I want to share with you a really powerful way that you can work with a client who is in panic about time ticking.
Often this relates to relationships. When a client comes to you and they are panicking that they haven't found the love of their live. Or they haven't had children, and they feel like time is passing by and it is urgent that this happens. And they come to you with that state of fear and panic.
Perhaps it is another type of family-related issue and they are really panicked that an older relative, a parent for example is elderly, and they worry that time is ticking to heal a relationship rift between them and their parent. There is this real fear that their parent is going to die without something being resolved and that feels really time pressured.
Or perhaps it is at work and they are not getting promoted, so they feel like they are being overlooked or passed over. They really want to move ahead with their career and they feel like time is ticking to move forward.
As soon as you identify that your client has come to you with a panic-time-related issue, here is a three-step process that you can use with them.
Step 1: Identify the belief under the panic
Underneath any panic there are certain assumptions that generally haven't been questioned.
For example, in the situation where someone is panicking that they haven't had children yet, perhaps they have assumptions like, 'you need to have a partner to have children,' or one that is very common is that there is a time limit, 'you must have children before you are thirty five.'
These are underlying beliefs. Panic cannot exist without these beliefs as the foundation sitting underneath. So help your client to list out those beliefs.
Step 2: Pin down when they first inherited the belief
Once you have got those beliefs listed, then ask them these kinds of questions:
"When did you first believe this thought?"
"Where did you get this from?"
"Who did you inherit this from?"
And the key when you are working with a client in this way, is to help them access curiosity rather than blame.
This is not like, "Well my mum told me this and so my mum was wrong!" Not at all, this is about curiosity. For instance, "Oh yeah, we used to talk about this at school, that if we'd not had kids by 35 we were going to sell everything and go on a cruise. That was the age we set as school friends. That's curious. I hadn't seen that before. So that was a belief that we inherited."
... or it was a magazine... or it was a teacher at school... it was a grandparent...
It is a kind of enlightening moment for a client when they realise they weren't born believing these thoughts.
At some point they believed this thought for the first time, and they've kept it ever since. So help them to identify the origin of each underlying belief.
Step 3: Help them question if the belief still belongs with them
You can then ask your client, "Does this belief serve you? Does it belong with you? Does it fit you? Is it true for you?"
You can really interrogate with them whether this is a belief that they want to hold on to. Often they won't have even questioned it.
My wife and I, we both have this crazy habit of accumulating what we call freebie clutter — little sashets of shampoo and conditioner that we pick up at healthfood stores, or a neigbour once had a pair of curtains that they didn't want and we just took them on. We didn't question, "Hang on a minute, does this actually belong with me?" So we now say to each other, "Beware, beware freebie clutter!"
Don't take on something that doesn't belong with you, that doesn't fit with you, that has no place with you
I like to think of these beliefs like family heirlooms.
Whether it was actually from your family or from someone else in your past, they pass down generations. They pass from one person to another, without anyone actually ever questioning, "Hang on, does this fit, do I want this?"
"Do I want to hold this belief that people can't have children over 35? Is that a belief that belongs with me?"
So those are the three steps you can take with your client.
You can ask them to identify their underlying beliefs and help them to do that.
You can then help them to get curious about where they inherited these beliefs from.
And then you can help them to really look at, "Do I want to keep these? Do these belong with me?"
One you've gone through that three step process, your client will have found a way out of panic by getting to the very basis of what's causing the panic, and then they can get free from that.
This interview has minor edits for clarity.
Corrina Gordon-Barnes is a relationship coach.