Think, Feel, Relax, Rehearse
by Graeme Kapono Urlich
Having personal boundaries has come up in discussion recently, mostly in the context of rules that people
have about how other people should treat them. Other boundaries may be about what we are prepared to do, or
not, but this doesn’t seem to get talked about as much. Quite often they involve double standards but this
article isn’t about that.
Boundaries to me implies creating barriers so personally, I would set standards for how I would prefer to be
treated because, we will inevitably encounter situations where these standards will be broken.
What many people fail to do when setting boundaries, is determine what the appropriate responses to them
being broken would be. The more rigid the rules, the stronger the reactions tend to be.
Often boundary setting comes from the experience of having none, or insufficient confidence to assert them,
and being treated badly so there is often a lot of built up anger or hurt behind it. Any time we come across
someone or something that we have built up a strong resistance to, and a strong reaction to, it will tend to
resurface. Often people hit redline immediately with just a mild reminder.
When people and situations crop up that even remotely remind us of an incident, we are likely to respond the
same way unless we have developed an awareness of it and have done something about programming a new
response. I wrote about this in What’s In A Name, where someone had treated
me badly and every time I met someone with the same name, or even heard the name, I felt as if I was being
treated badly by this person briefly.
One of the techniques I used to reprogram this is “Think, Feel, Relax”, which I learned during my training
with Huna International. This consists of using a memory to
trigger and retrain the physical part of the reaction. There is always a physical component to a thought or
Think, Feel, Relax.
Get as relaxed as possible, physically and mentally, I usually use piko piko breathing for this, and notice
how you feel physically. Next, think about the person or situation that you want to change your reaction to
for a few moments. Notice the change in your body. I don’t think too much about the thoughts that come up
initially because these will be easier to deal with when the physical response is changed.
Once you have an idea of how you responded physically, typically there is an increase in physical tension,
shift your attention to something beautiful and do what you can to relax that away. If you get such a strong
reaction to the memory that this is hard to do, then the process may need to be broken down into smaller
aspects of the issue first or using a technique like The One Inch Belief to bring background tension down
enough to use TFR effectively.
Once relaxed again, think of the memory and notice the physical response. If it is even slightly less, some
progress has been made. If it is greater then, as above, some other techniques may need to be used first or
instead of TFR. Dynamind Technique is very useful and effective as well.
Typically, on recalling the memory the second time, there is a reduction of the level of tension that is
triggered. By repeating the process in brief rounds, always finishing with the relaxing phase, it is
possible to get to a point where you can recall the memory and have no increase in tension. In this more
relaxed state we are able to look at the rules and reactions we have with more presence and awareness.
In this more present and calm state we can decide if our rules are reasonable in the first place, if they
are effective and consider what the most effective responses will be, taking into account the context, if
they are broken. Responses may need to be different depending on circumstance. It can take some effort but
when we can get into the habit of observing ourselves like this we can build up framework of thinking that
will reduce the number of times boundaries get crossed and to handle it better when they do. Building
confidence and self-esteem is always a foundation for this.
This technique can be used for a number of things. One lady I taught it to, used to get headaches anytime
she went near a church. This was based on childhood experiences. By imagining going near a church, feeling
the tension and relaxing over and over, she eventually was able to physically go into a church without
getting a headache. Another person was similarly helped with a fear of flying.
Alongside TFR we can use a process that doesn't change the memory as such, but uses the memory to rehearse
staying relaxed and then choosing a more appropriate response, the one we would have liked to have chosen so
situation resolved more favourably, not only for us but for everyone involved. By doing this often we
eventually develop the habit of reacting that way, or closer to it each time it happens.
If Ku, the body mind, doesn't have rehearsed behaviours available as a response, we will often go
into confusion or pick a pattern that sort of half worked before, sometimes as a child, or pick up the
nearest equivalent from a source of significance to us. Sometimes, in a desperate attempt to have some power
in the situation, we go ballistic.
We can also use role models for this. If we have friends or know of celebrities etc. who seem much more
confident and handle challenges more easily than we have historically, we can pay attention to them and
replay their behaviour in our minds. The more we do this, the more Ku will adopt the behaviour.
We may not handle every situation as well as we would like to but with practice, we will find ourselves
gaining confidence in these situations, we will fear certain people, types of people and situations less and
less, and we will encounter them less and less.
This works the same way as it does for athletes when, for example a high diver or toboggan driver might
rehearse what they are planning to do in their imagination before they go ahead with their event. Divers
start out with basics and, as they develop basic skills, are able to expand their performances to more and
more complex dives. The same is true in life. From Small Beginnings, we can build a more harmonious life.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (September 2023)