I See Dead People: How To Deal With Defunct Relationships

“Ghost Stories” courtesy of Nendo/Wallpaper

“I see dead people.”

Do you remember the film that came from? It was the The Sixth Sense and the little boy was Haley Joel Osment.

There is a good chance that you see them too. Really.  They may not have zombie faces or hide under the bed in the shadows but I guarantee – you do see them.

And possibly all the time.

What do I mean?

Well, first I don’t mean that you see ghosts or spirits. I’m talking real people who you have known.


Only for a minute. Read on.

Have you ever wondered how you determine the quality and importance of the relationships you have with people in your life? (I just ‘know’ is not good enough here.)

How do you know?

  • Who is important in your life?
  • Who is not?
  • Who you are close to?
  • Who you are not?
  • Who you fear?
  • Whom you feel powerful around?

How do you know? Why is it important to learn how you know?

Generally, when life is sweet and you get on with everyone, it doesn’t really matter.

But…it becomes important when a relationship with another person is significantly affecting you or affecting them – and you need to know how to change the dynamic between you so you can feel and relate to them differently.

It becomes even more important if that person is no longer alive.

Then you are seeing dead people. And it’s a problem.

Do you know anyone who is still controlled by the memory of an overbearing deceased parent, or who responds badly to certain members of people groups because of an experience they had in the past?

I know someone whose parent (now deceased) tried to crush any spirit of independence out of them because of the parent’s inability to cope with ideas different than their own.

However, for years after the parent died the person continued to relate to people in their life in terms of the way the parent had treated them. It took years of counselling and cognitive change work to update their references for how more ‘normal’ people related to each other.

So what is going on?

Each and every one of us carries everyone we know around us in what Lucas Derks calls our ‘social panorama’. This is a psychological type of personal space, created from inside our head, but projected around us like holograms that are invisible to everyone except us.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.

So, imagine for a minute that all the people who you have ever come into contact with (and your concepts of those you haven’t) are stored in a psychological landscape around you (your psycho-scape).  They are in front of you, behind you, to the left and to the right, far away, near, floating above you, and standing as tiny figures below you. Yes, I know this sounds a bit weird but it gets weirder because it is true!

Ask yourself: Where is my mother in relation to me? Point to her. Even if you can’t ‘see’ her in your mind’s eye, point to her.

Now your father.

Now any brothers and sisters.

Now your best friends.

Notice how near or far they are from you, Is there anyone you are currently feeling ‘distant from’? Chances are they are located physically further away from you than someone you feel ‘close to’

(Isn’t it fascinating that our words reflect our internal experience?)

The people you know (whether dead or alive) exist as living memories in your head. And when you change how you re-represent the memories to yourself, you change the quality and meaning of the relationships you have with them in your head.

Yes, you can stop that person who bullied you at school from still affecting your confidence in speaking up.

You can forget that ex-boyfriend or girlfriend more easily.

You can change your relationship with authority figures.

So you want to know how?

The basics are very easy. Pick someone whom you don’t feel like you have an equal relationship with. Or you feel intimidated by.

1. Ask yourself “Where about’s is this person in relation to me?” Either close your eyes, or just point to where you sense they are.

How big are they in relation to you? It doesn’t matter if they are actually taller than you, just identify if they are taller in your head.

How close or far away?

Are they facing you?

2. If they are facing you, use your imagination to turn them away. If they are too close to you, move then away – try 50 feet for starters.

3. If they are bigger than you, shrink them down. Try the same height as you to start with, and then make them really, really small. And adjust as necessary.

4. If you want them out of your life, put them way past the horizon.

Now I don’t guarantee this will work every time for everyone. There are sometimes higher frames of mind that prevent the change from sticking and that’s when you need help from an experienced coach (like me!!).

Never-the-less, spend some time playing around with the sizes and locations of the people you know. For example, if you want to feel closer to someone, identify a person (perhaps your best friend) who you are close to and move the new person next to or very close to the best friend. How does that feel?

Sometimes, groups of people are represented as symbols. I have an amusing story about this one. I did some exploratory work with a guy who had an attitude with the police. When he looked inside his social panorama he saw a giant pig looming over him (In our country, ‘pig’ is a derogatory term for policeman) and started laughing.

There is a lot more to say about the Social Panorama but it is a fascinating subject. Start experimenting and remember you can always put people back where you found them. You can also get the book Social Panoramas which has a lot more explanations and exercises.

You now have a tool to change some of the dynamics between you and those you carry around with you!

If YOU are a professionals who procrastinates, then give me a call about a free Explore your Breakthrough session. I helped ambitious people (in most walks of life) get unstuck, start moving and taking action. You can find the details at

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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