Revel in your imperfections. Be entertained by your problems. And know that once you looked ahead and wished you were where you are now. And once again you will look back and smile.
Negative practice is an evidence-based technique that I like to use in my speech therapy sessions. Once a client has mastered a new way of doing something then I will have them intentionally go back and forth between the old and the new way. By doing so they experience a clear contrast between the two. This in turn builds improved self-awareness as well as control over their own communication. It can be very empowering for the client. Let me give you an example.
I recently completed therapy with an adult who came in with an /s/ sound distortion. (Use of the slash marks indicated a phoneme, or sound, as opposed to a letter.) After I had taught her the tongue position and airflow for her “new” /s/ and she had practiced it successfully in various word positions, I began to have her say the words the “old way.” She was amazed at how she could go back and forth between the new /s/ and old /s/. She also began to report that the new way felt more natural while the old way felt odd and more forced. Here is a picture of her old tongue position (top) and her new tongue position (bottom) for /s/.
I was recently using negative practice with a voice client and it struck me that negative practice helps us in life from time to time as well. Not that I recommend intentionally returning to bad habits. I wouldn’t tell a recovered smoker to pick up a cigarette just to remind himself of how good it feels to NOT smoke. But sometimes situations arise that offer us a glimpse of just how far we have come. A friend of mine might have had one of these moments recently. He posted this on Facebook:
Sometimes the gross makes us appreciate the good that we have been taking for granted.
This also makes me think of the strange tradition we have of following Thanksgiving with Black Friday.
I wonder what the shoppers’ spirits experience as they navigate between the sensations of gratitude and kinship versus the feeling of coveting and competition. Or for some I’m sure it is the opposite. Perhaps Thanksgiving is a lonely time while being in the midst of others at the mall provides a sense of community.
Either way, perceiving that contrast is what opens a door for self-awarenss and understanding of what is a better way for the higher self. Just like my client became aware of her communication and identity as an actress and speaker.
As a last illustration… I heard a song on my iTunes recently that took me back. It was a song that I used to listen to during meloncholy times. I remember I would listen to it over and over because the sadness felt good. It wasn’t a great choice for me to indulge in a darkness like that–it certainly didn’t seem to help much–but it was a time in my life when I had very few other ideas of what to do with my sadness. When this song came on the other day I could feel that sweet sadness began to drip over me again and sure enough, a part of me wanted to melt into it and indulge in that melancholy. But you know what? There is a “new way” that I’ve become much more accustomed to. That I have practiced and trained for. That I have mastered to some extent. I know that telling myself that things WILL pass, making a call to a friend, meditating, lighting a candle, smiling, having a cup of tea, playing a favorite uplifting movie and painting while my cat sleeps next to me and while life goes on in the big city outside my balcony door…well, that all is part of my new way. And one thing that I know that I know that I know: that old way can’t hold a candle to my new way.
So, dear readers, try to notice your moments of negative practice that present themselves to you. When you are reminded of an old habit or pattern that isn’t beneficial to you, recognize how good it feels to NOT do that anymore. Commend yourself for having developed a new way. Give thanks for the chance to see the contrast. Ask for more and more growth and less and less gross.
Here’s to that. More growth and less gross for each of us.