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Unleashing the Pirate in You: 5 Steps for Better Decision-Making

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You might never have realised it, but you have your own personal pirate. This is not a pirate who sails the seven seas hijacking treasure and burying it in a chest on a desert island; this one sail around your thoughts, ideas, and wishes, grabs a whole bunch of them and buries them in a box never to see the light of day again.

You might not know about the pirate directly, even though you will have felt their presence and the results of their plundering many times in your life.

  • When you wanted to tell somebody that you liked them but just couldn’t
  • When you wanted to complain but apologised instead
  • When you wanted to change your image but thought everyone would laugh
  • When you wanted to speak up but decided to keep quiet
  • When you had a great idea but then decided it was daft
  • When you didn’t put in for that job or promotion, you really wanted
  • When you realised you were ‘not all that’

Your own personal pirate is responsible for all those things and more because what they plundered was your greatest treasure – your confidence.

The stupid thing is, they don’t want it for themselves. They just don’t want you to have it. As to why, well, that’s the tricky bit because they probably haven’t the vaguest idea. They couldn’t have since they don’t exist other than as a rather strange idea of a robber in your mind that we’re going to use to try and get back some of what they stole.

They may not exist, but they represent someone else who did. Or maybe it even still does. A real person and not just a thought in your mind. We’re talking here about somebody – or maybe even several people – who worked hard to stop you from developing into the self-sufficient, pirate-free individual you were designed to be.

All you have to do is find out who that real person is or was – it will have been somebody from your early years and understand their motivation, and you’re on your way to making changes as huge as you want.

Before we do that, it’s important to recognise that they were trying to fulfil their plans, not stop yours. That might sound odd initially, but here are two completely different possibilities.

  • They thought you were a bit over-confident and might come to harm; as a result, so tried to clip your wings a bit. They thought the world was a dangerous place and so their plan was to keep you safe.
  • They had a low opinion of themselves and thought you were too big for your boots, a bit of a show-off. Their plan was to keep you in check so you didn’t make them feel even more inadequate than they already did.

On the other hand, of course, they might just have been nasty pieces of work who resented the way you were and the things you could do. Their plan was to keep you down because they didn’t like you.

Just about now, that pirate might have you thinking all this is nonsense, that you’re nothing special, and you should just accept it. But if so, that’s just the result of somebody else’s plan.

So, who on earth does that pirate represent? You might already know, and don’t doubt it for even a second if so. It wouldn’t matter even if you were completely wrong because it’s what your brain has taken on board that counts, not the reality. If your brain believes it, it will affect you in the same way and every bit as if it were true. We’ll have a look at what to do about it shortly.

But what if you just can’t think who that might be? Well, it was somebody, that’s for sure. It could be a family member, a teacher, the next-door neighbour when you were young, or somebody who had a sudden and profoundly upsetting effect on you.

Let them be in your mind because they can do no more damage now. Even if it was somebody who everyone else said was ‘lovely’, even it was somebody held in high regard by all who knew them, and even if you’re incredulous that it could be who you’ve just realised, the fact is that if your mind believes it, it is so.

This is very important. What you believe and feel causes problems, not the reality of how that belief got there.

So, what to do about it? Well, there are some therapy techniques that would have you conducting an imaginary conversation with that person, but that can get complicated and excessively emotional, so we won’t do that.

Instead, close your eyes and think of them. You might imagine them talking to you, or you might just see them looking at you – and you do need to see them connecting with you somehow. Don’t ask questions. Just recognise what you believe was their plan.

  • If it was to keep you safe, then it tied you up so tightly you couldn’t even move.
  • If it was to keep you down because they didn’t like you, it tied you up so tightly you couldn’t even move.

We can do a lot to get those bonds untied with a simple routine – you’ll need to learn it so you can do it every day for a couple of weeks to banish the pirate for good.

  1. See yourself from the outside, looking as if you already feel exactly how you want to feel and make it truly vivid. Store that image of the new self somewhere in your mind.
  2. Now think of a clock, any sort of clock, and as long as you can see it working, it’s perfect.
  3. Think of a time when you were feeling hopeless and fed up with yourself and got the strongest feeling you can find – if you can’t get it, and it’s okay; just the search will make this routine work.
  4. Now zoom in to the worst part of that situation, then imagine you can somehow stop time so that image is frozen solid. Notice the clock has stopped or stopped it dead in your mind if it hasn’t already. Everything is frozen except you, and you can now just shrug off those invisible bindings and adopt that new self you created in step 1.
  5. Now zoom right in to become that new self as you stride out of that frozen scene and vividly imagine yourself yelling ‘Hah!’ as you throw your arms up in triumph.


Repeat steps 3–5 at least three times every day – just before you go to bed is good. And every time you do it, know that you’re banishing that pirate further away.

Terence Watts is the creator of Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT).


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