Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"An audience with Neil Paul: Creating positivity, productivity and inner-power!"

During April and May 2014, experienced addiction counselor and motivational speaker Neil Paul has presented five 'life-coaching' sessions at SHAFA HOME, Delhi. The sessions' themes have revolved around challenging negative thoughts & behaviours and developing the necessary skills to establish a healthy relationship with ourselves, our peers and our conception of a Higher Power. These sessions last approximately two hours and take a discussion-cum-Q and A format. Sessions are attended by all residents and staff members.
 In our first session we considered the various ways substance-abuse had affected our work-life, family-life and health. Several members were asked to stand and give a short introduction regarding the effect their addiction had in these three core areas of life. We learnt that not only had it affected our lives in these areas, it had also viciously corroded our rational thinking and problem-solving skills.
 Neil Paul incorporated aspects of 'cognitive psychology' to highlight certain ideas such as strengthening our internal locus of control and discerning short term vs. long term goal setting. He stressed that we needed to organise our "mind-clutter" and then re-structure our brain with clear, tangible and achievable objectives & goals. The session drew to a close with members giving a short speech on their dreams in life. Whether it was becoming a professional footballer, a travelling journalist or opening a hospital, it was evident to see that our shadowy pasts had not robbed us of the light for a promising future.    

          In active addiction, we filled our minds with negative self-agreements such as how useless we were and our inability to be productive members of society. Neil Paul's second session aimed at eradicating our false justifications, in order to rebuild our self-esteem and confidence. With the collaborative efforts of one of our senior counsellors, a slide-show presentation highlighted positive vs. negative attitudes, the 3 types of behaviour: passivity, assertiveness and aggression and "how to assertively say no". One resident asked how to be assertive successfully. Many of us felt that in asserting our needs we fall short of our intention by coming across as threatening and arrogant. In an animated and heated discussion, we could figuratively feel light bulbs switch on above our participants' heads as they learnt a variety of techniques to identify 'relationship-forging' and 'relationship-destroying' manners of behaving. The discussion then transiently progressed to the topic of assertion. We were given a list of implementable strategies on how to assertively and firmly decline a request without offending or disrespecting our peers.
          Both staff and residents alike experienced the second session to be tremendously useful! Life in active addiction skewed our ability to firmly say "no" when faced with situations compromising our physical and emotional well-being. 
Neil Paul's third session involved us listening to four short stories entitled "Where's God?", "The Monkey And His Apple", "Death At A Funeral" and "The Learned Pandit". The purpose of this exercise was to consider the underlying message behind each tale. Essentially we were encouraged to utilise our mind and embrace a new outlook on life. After mentally digesting each story, several members stood up and briefly explained what they had learned. One expressed “to harness positivity and triumph over personal strife, we have to remember our Higher Power is constantly protecting us...we need to strengthen and renew that relationship on a daily basis". Another member told the group "if we want to maintain that feeling of joy, we need to make a solid effort to be grateful, when life throws sour lemons at us as well when life is fantastic". The resounding notion from our members was that we needed to constantly remember nobody can hinder our personal growth but us. Only we are in charge of our thoughts, feelings and actions. Nobody else can be blamed for our shortcomings. Personal responsibility is the key to breaking free from the shackles of our past failures. 

So far, our residents and staff are deeply impressed with Neil Paul's sessions. We feel they echo the SHAFA ethos of pro-activity, reliance upon the individual's own abilities to progress in life and willingness to accept feedback in order to further our personal growth. If we can act upon these points, then the sky is the limit for us!

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