Internal | External Processing
For a number of years, I would skydive for a living. Yes, some people do it more than just once.
It amazed me over the years of watching people doing their first tandem or student jump, in particular their reactions upon landing.
Some would jump for joy, screaming, ‘That was amazing!’
Others would say, ‘I've done it, never doing it again’, ‘I don't know why I did it! I'm scared of heights’.
Some could hardly remember the whole experience up until the time the canopy opened and then had limited time to embrace the whole sensation. Others would have so much adrenaline pumping through them, they would actually pass out.
It's a difficult way to land a canopy with one person having a snooze.
Some would be hesitant to leave the plane.
After climbing to 10,000 or 12,000 feet, it was only once on the ground that there was no more fear in their minds or bodies.
They could hardly remember that they really didn't want to exit that aeroplane.
One such incident was when I was filming a tandem. We had a young Scottish girl, with a very broad Scottish accent, sitting in the plane. Nervous, excited, terrified- hoping that everything would go well.
I exited the plane and hung onto the outside of the door; the tandem master moved towards the exit. As he reached the door, the young Scottish girl grabbed both sides of the door and screamed in her broad Scottish accent, “I cannae do it!”.
At this point, I realised that we were travelling too far from the drop zone, and motioned for the tandem master to exit the plane, but he couldn't get this young girl's strong grip from the door.
He stepped backwards, wrapped his arms around her arms, and then bundled out of the aeroplane. I followed, filming the whole adventure until her landing. After I landed and was waiting with her friends, they were all asking, how did she go? I said you will have to wait and hear about it from her.
As she landed, her friends rushed towards her. She was screaming, “That was amazing!”. One of her friends said, “Were you scared?” She said, “No, not at all. Never. It was awesome.” I then said, “Should we watch the tape?”
To her dismay, as I played the tape, you could hear her at the door, hesitant, with the evidence of her vice grip on the open aeroplane door. Screaming, “I cannot do it!”. She was overwhelmed at the time. But once she was in the air, falling at 200 kilometres an hour and then under the canopy, she could be seen enjoying and embracing the whole moment.
She could not remember at any stage, screaming out that she could not exit that plane.
This is what happens when your brain takes over your body.
The words fear, scared, comfort zone are used by people when they step into a realm that they are unsure of.
If you say you are scared, you will be scared. If you say you have a fear of something, even though, you've never been in that situation before, you will have fear.
Your comfort zone really is your ‘normal zone’. Stop saying comfort zone and learn how to think and act outside what is normal to you.
How you process your thoughts, especially under pressure will determine what and how you do most things.
When you, family and friends are allowed to process in the way that works best for them, communication will be more productive.
Even if it means helping someone through, over or around an obstacle or thought.
Strong family relationships come from understanding and respecting how each other thinks, and how they process information.
Some people are external processors. They tend to think out loud. The more an external processor talks and receives feedback, the more clarity they find.
Often, when an external processor is left alone in the midst of extreme emotions and unanswered questions, their mind can race, and emotions can overwhelm them. This type of person typically does best, talking to a trusted confidant with whom they can process their thoughts, fears, wants and options.
An internal processor is just the opposite. When they are facing extreme emotions and unanswered questions, they will need time alone to carefully think through the situation and their choices.
By giving them time to, ‘mull things over’ for a while and quietly ponder possible solutions, you will be helping them process.
The more an internal processor is forced to talk before they have had time to process, the more confused, frustrated and overwhelmed they will become.
So, what happens when a parent is an internal processor, and a child is an external processor or vice versa?
The internal processing parent can cause the external processing child to feel abandoned and helpless, as the parent retreats to calm down and find answers, and the external processing adult may back the internal processing child into a corner and cause them to shut down.
Awareness is the key to bridging the communication gap here.
For starters, parents need to be self-aware.
We need to understand how we process information and make decisions. Then, we need to become aware of how our kids operate.
External processing parents need to recognise when a child is shutting down. Then the parent can suggest the child find a quiet place and give them ample time to sort through their thoughts and feelings.
While the child is processing internally, the parent can privately process externally with a trusted confidant. Just be sure to set a time to return to the conversation and find a resolution for when the child is ready to have a conversation.
On the flip side, an internal processing parent needs to recognise when they themselves are becoming overwhelmed and must spend time alone to process the situation.
In this instance, a trusted adult that the child can call when they need to process a situation is warranted. Someone who shares the parents’ values and has the best interest of both the parents and child at heart.
It is better that the child seeks wise counsel from a trusted adult than turn to their friends who may not have the experience or the insight to guide them well.
While the internal processing parent is spending time alone, the external processing child can sort through their emotions and options with a wise sounding board, and both parent and child can set a time to come together again and finish the conversation.
The thought that many people have is that they, ‘can’t’ do something. By simply changing the words, ‘I can’t’ to ‘I won’t’, you will suddenly realise that you have a choice.
We are very quick to say we can’t do something when actually we are saying we are choosing not to do something.
In some instances, it is important to say, ‘I choose not to’, and own this decision. Often, however, the thinking of ‘I can’t’ is a lazy go-to.
See how it feels to think both ways:
I won’t _________________________________________________
Now you choose, is it that you don’t know how yet or is it that you are not prepared to try?
If you don’t know yet how to do something, then this is where you can easily change your thinking to a growth mindset.
Identify - who is an internal processor?
Identify - who is an external processor?
Discuss how you will think differently when you are addressing a situation with someone who thinks differently to you.
Who in your village is good for the external processing people to speak to?
Journaling is another great way to express what you are thinking.
Our “I CAN” FAMILY JOURNAL will help you ALL support and encourage the best possible thinking for a happy family creating opportunities for growth and celebrate achievements and triumphs.
Try this when you have a challenge or you catch yourself or a family member say, ‘I can’t do, be or have…….’
Get them to write what they just said, changing out ‘I can’t’ with ‘I can’.
I CAN _____________________________________________ when I ___________________________________________________________________
I CAN swim when I have my dad in the pool with me.
I CAN cartwheel when I practice every day at gymnastics.
I CAN eat broccoli when I mix it in with other food.
I CAN go on a date, when I know who it is and I trust myself.
I CAN get the job when I believe in myself.
ORGANISE YOUR FREE DISCOVERY SESSION