We’ve all had people who positively influenced our lives. Perhaps a neighbor spent time with you when your parents were going through a nasty divorce.
Or a seventh-grade teacher encouraged you to become a scientist. Each of these personal icons played a key role in determining who you would later become as an adult.
The length of time we spent with these folks varies. A loving grandparent may have lived until your adulthood. The father of your best friend could have taken you on a weeklong backpack trip. A stranger may have offered a kind word to you on the street then disappeared forever into the crowd.
Regardless of the circumstances, the impact remains the same. We are better, happier human beings because we’ve connected with someone else. We feel more hopeful about our futures. We possess skills and knowledge we wouldn’t otherwise have. We’ve incorporated facets of someone else and refined them as our very own.
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Best of all, we are inspired to perform the same kindness for others within our sphere.
My dear grandmother-in-law had the ability to make me feel as if I was perfect. She seemed to adore me just the way I was. I didn’t need to improve or change. I reveled in her attention. Today, I try to repay the favor and make others feel just as loved when they’re with me.
There’s no limit to our number of personal icons. We can have as many as we’ve encountered along the way. In fact, the more we include in our psychic tally, the more we can draw from as various situations arise.
Even if the person is no longer living or hasn’t been a part of our lives for decades, we can still reclaim the feel-good memories that he or she imparted to us. Every time we hearken back to those special moments, it’s as if they’re happening in the present tense.
We feel as safe, nurtured and loved as if our icons were actually talking to us today.
In fact, our brains can’t differentiate between current events and imagined ones. Replaying those long-held mental tapes produces the same emotional effects as when we originally experienced them. We’re comforted and encouraged all over again. The love and support still reside within us.
It’s no surprise that collecting personal icons pays big dividends for our health. Studies show that visualizing calm and pleasant images lowers blood pressure, relieves stress and actually promotes physical healing. When we allow ourselves to recount our personal treasures, we’re taking care of ourselves the way that they took care of us.
Don’t think that those all-important voices from our past don’t affect what we do today. Asking, “How would my personal icon advise me on this issue if she were here today?” can provide answers to difficult questions or shore up our faith when times are bleak.
Using personal icons
Wondering how best to use those special influences in your life?
Start with these ideas:
Identify someone who’s been particularly special. Scan through the years and note who stands out as a shining star. Remember how you felt when you were together. Hear the words that he or she spoke.
Embrace the details. Images are richest when they’re packed with meaningful data. Notice how your icon looked, dressed, spoke, walked and laughed.
Note which specific characteristics were most meaningful to you. Did this person tell you that you were intelligent? Did he or she inspire you to leave an abusive boyfriend? Focus on the key events that significantly altered the course of your life.
Recall your personal icon often. Grant yourself ample permission to savor just what this person meant to you. Especially when life is unusually trying, allow your pleasant memories and personal guidance to pull you through.
Keep your list updated. Personal icons aren’t just found in our childhoods. There are oodles of folks who inspire us every day. Tune in to those serving in that capacity now and add their names to your Personal Icon roster.
Then call on their inspiration as you need it to feel good throughout the day.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com