Do you control your mind – or does it control you?

Robot

This is yet another addition to the lenghthening list of articles on controlling Headmind that have appeared on this blog.

It seems to be the one problem most people struggle with in therapy and in life:

  • Eliminating negative thoughts
  • Ignoring the Chatterbox
  • Laughing off worries
  • Heading off panic attacks
  • Forgetting guilt
  • Putting the brakes on obsessions
  • Doing the dirty on perfectionism
  • Postponing procrastination

So I am continually being asked for more techniques on how to control what some people like to call ‘Rational Mind’ when it is doing dumb, stupid, things. And I agree that it helps to have a variety of techniques on offer so that if one does not work something else will. So I am going to share one of my recent discoveries with you.

It came about when I was looking up one of my favourite works – The Wasteland – by T.S. Eliot and I was reminded that Eliot had, in fact, had a nervous breakdown shortly before completing the poem.

I then learnt that Eliot recovered from his breakdown in a sanatorium in Lausanne during the summer of 1922 while under the supervision of Dr Roger Vittoz, who treated anxiety problems by teaching his patients how to control Headmind with the aid of specific techniques devised by him.

His premise is that anxious people have lost control of their own minds and are paying attention to garbage. When they learn how to edit out negative words, objects, images and statements and replace it with their own content they get back control. Many of his exercises seem quite trivial at first but if you practice doing them every day for, say, a few weeks, the accumulative effect is that one is back in charge. And I can vouch from personal observation that some of the exercises work very quickly indeed.

One of them works like this.

Write out a worry statement. For example:

I CAN’T COPE WITH OTHER PEOPLE

Now imagine that you are flashing up each letter on a screen, one by one, until you have the complete statement.

Now delete each letter of the statement one-by-one, working backwards.

Next, you replace the first statement with something more empowering. For example:

I AM LEARNING HOW TO COPE BETTER

And then you ‘flash’ each letter of that statement up on the screen until it is complete. Look at the statement for a few moments, and then decide on one thing you can do in order to act on it.

Like all Vittoz’s techniques, it works on repetition. So use it every time you catch Headmind giving you a hard time with that particular worry.

If you would like to get a free copy of the English translation of Vittoz’s book on mind control  – How to Control Your Brain at Will then you can download it from here.

 

30 great ways to reduce Anxiety and Stress

Bong1I have been working a lot recently in Reverse Therapy with clients who are stressed or anxious and am frequently asked for my list of remedies that work for either. So here goes:
  • Learn how to control Headmind. See previous articles on this subject, in this blog here.
  • Exercise. Few things can help relax you more quickly than a bit of vigorous exercise. Whether you box, jog or play a game of tennis, aerobic exercise will release endorphins, thereby improving your mood, eliminating tension and giving you a natural high. 
  • Meditate. When you think you are getting overwhelmed,  take at least ten minutes out to clear your mind of worries and meditate. If you have trouble doing it alone, try using a guided tape, or a Binaural Beat CD.  
  • Focus on the breath. Concentrating on your breathing is a powerful way to promote inner calm. Increase the number of counts as you breathe out, and then in, from 3 to 8. Then reduce the count from 8 back to 3, slowly. This is one of the oldest known meditational techniques in history: at least 4000 years old. 
  • Use Yoga. You can learn how to use Yoga from a group or personal instructor, or even from a DVD. Our work in Reverse Therapy shows that Yoga is an exceptionally effective antidote to Headmind-produced stress.
  • Use Tai Chi. See previous item as similar advice applies.
  • Focus on an Eye-Movement Program. You can learn how to do this by going to a an article I wrote about how to do that here.
  • Take a Break. Force yourself to break away from what is bugging you and do something pleasant that is completely unrelated.
  •  Slow down. Most people when they get anxious do everything faster, so deliberately slow down your movements, and the speed at which you are doing things.
  • Talk slowly. See previous item. Speak at 50% of the speed at which you were talking before, with frequent pauses in between sentences.
  • Think slowly. This is usually effective while you are taking a break. Slow down the speed at which Headmind is racing around its worries by recalling a calming memory, situation or person.
  • Let the past go. If you’re stressing out about something bad that happened yesterday then keep your attention on the here and now. Focus on something important to you and ‘drown out’ the internal control freak who wants to keep going over problems.
  • Let go of the need for control over events.  You can’t control the events that happen to you; only your response to those events. Focus on what you can do, rather than what is not in your power to do.
  • Laughter. A good laugh releases endorphins. So either mix with people who make you laugh or watch one of your favourite comedies.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine. Caffeine is a unnaturally strong stimulant and adds existing anxiety, making you worse than otherwise. If you’re stressed then avoid drinking coffee and other caffeine-based beverages.
  • Use lavender oil. Research suggests that lavender oil is one of the most effective calming agents available. One reason for its effectiveness is that it works through the olfactory centres in the brain; smells are particularly powerful.  Try lighting a candle or putting some lavender oil on your skin, or in a bath to help you relax.
  • Drink green tea. Green tea contains theanine, an amino-acid which improves mood and reduces arousal.
  • Use herbal supplements. If you’re into natural remedies you may want to consider taking some herbal supplements like valerian root or passion flower. Both of these were extensively used in the Middle Ages as natural tranquillizers.
  • Eat dark chocolate. For reasons not yet clearly understood, dark, bitter, chocolate increases endorphin release. Chili has a similar effect.
  • Take a shower or bath. This does not work for everybody but many people find that bathing increases calm. That may be because of the slow down-effect noted elsewhere in this article/
  • Get a massage. See last item. But effectiveness of this strategy depends on the skill of the masseur or masseuse – so select your practitioner wisely. But you can also use self-massage or the EFT movements.
  • Create variety. If you love to browse bookstores, take long walks in the park, or if you have a favourite hobby, or game, then take more time out of your day to do those things.
  • Work at simple chores. This doesn’t work for everybody but many of my clients find that some chores help then wind down. For me it is washing up the dishes but others report that gardening, hoovering, cleaning, tidying up or clearing things away, make them feel better afterwards.
  • Spend time with a pet. Playing with, walking focusing on your pet’s needs is a useful distraction from worry – it also tends to raise endorphin release.
  • Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. When you’re faced with what looks like an overwhelming problem, focus on small, concrete, steps you can work on today, rather than worrying about ‘big’ solutions that might never happen.
  • Avoid people who make things worse. If you are indulging in worry yourself then avoid other people – no matter how well-meaning – who worry, exaggerate problems, have doom-laden opinions, or who keep asking you ‘whether you are going to be ok?’.
  • Put on some music. Music is another powerful trigger for endorphin release. Always keep your favourite tracks available to you on your ipod whether you are at home, out and about, or at work. It only takes 5 minutes.
  • Ask for help. If you really just have too much on your plate then don’t hold back from asking people for help. Too often, anxious people are people with a banana which dictates that asking for a help is a sign of weakness. Do not make that mistake.
  • Use the word ‘No’ more often. It’s simple, powerful, and incredibly effective when you are up against it. if you have a phobia about it, try practicing it when standing in front of the mirror.
  • Make time to be with people who love you. This is possibly the most important item on the list. Do it now.

 

 

 

 

 

How to crush perfectionism

Grabit Perfectionism is a great example of the way in which Headmind can push us into anxiety and illness. And it also reveals a lot about the way Headmind is set up. Namely, that it doesn’t belong to us and does not have our personal interests at heart. That it works through a ‘pushy’, inner voice that acts like an impersonal control freak. Always compelling us to spend more time on tasks than is really warranted.

My readers will understand that, for these reasons, I kept putting off and putting off writing this article in case I got it all wrong and made myself look like an idiot…….

But seriously, perfectionism can get at people in different ways. And these styles are closely related to what I have called bananas elsewhere in this blog.

  1. Bananas about failure
  2. Bananas about approval
  3. Bananas about weight/appearance
  4. Bananas about power
  5. Bananas about being sexy

And many other things besides.

The first thing to get clear about is that Perfectionism is a type of obsession. An obsession comes about because Headmind is worried about something. In the case of perfectionism the worry is that the person can never get it right and will therefore be criticised, rejected and hurt. The basis for this problem is conditioning. Somewhere along the way the child’s Headmind picked up the script ‘No matter how hard you try you will never be good enough’.

A lot of people blame Parents for scripts like these although, in my experience, Teachers and Priests are often the usual culprits. The pity of it all is that there is absolutely no need for anyone to worry about having to get it all right. If you are out of your depth on something then Bodymind will trigger the fear signal to tell you to go and ask a few questions or get some help.

But this move is is disallowed by Headmind – the Perfectionist cannot ask for help because that would be to admit failure – imperfection. So he has to do it all by himself. In later life Headmind keeps playing these scripts every time a new challenge comes up. So each time the person settles down to do some work Headmind triggers the worry first, and then the obsession with ‘getting it all right’. With the sub-script – ‘work harder, you miserable failure’. That can get very scary. But each time Fear is created to remind us to get some help that is interpreted by Headmind as fresh evidence that the person is ‘imperfect’ triggering the script all over again.

Now, if you spend too long doing the same thing over and over again then Bodymind is going to create the emotion known as frustration. That will be prompting you to give yourself a break. But when Headmind notices frustration coming up, it misinterprets that as fresh evidence of failure. So the script gets triggered again, and again and again. I will write more about the solution to perfectionism and other obsessional states in a later blog. But the first step towards breaking free of the trap is to disobey the script, own up to being ‘a failure’ and go and have some fun instead.

Back to bananas


Banana It's been building up for a while, but I have been getting more and more stuck in Headmind and the dis-ease state, due to the fact that I haven't written anything on this blog for over two weeks.

So the banana about having to be clever kicks in and Headmind gives me a hard time about ending up as a failure:

It tells me: 'You must write something good, soon, son, or your dreams about this blog are all going to end up in smoke…'

Which tells me that even the best of us get sucked in to obsessive-compulsions. After all, why the hell should I write something if I have nothing to say?

Similarly, with some of your own bananas:

  • Why should you try to please people who care nothing about your efforts?
  • Why should you get together with people you care little about?
  • Why should you read a blog page that bores you?

Now that I have got that off my chest then I can go back to writing new articles without thinking that I need to appease the Internal Control Freak.

And immediately I write that, I get, first a release, and then a creative idea: Why not write about the Enneagram?

Think I will start on that now….

But meantime, I am humbly reminded that the battle against the obsession to be more than we can be never lets up.

And – please – if you are getting impatient about the delay in my posting new articles on here, then let me have your wishes and creative ideas rather than your complaints.

50 things to do about Anxiety

In my business – Reverse Therapy – we can never have too many answers to the question:

What do I do when I get anxious?’

or

“What should I do about Stress?’

If we use the terms ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ interchangeably (as I do) then we are talking about the Number One most common mental health problem in the world right now.

Readers of this blog frequently send me links to other websites and, where I think the content is good, I am happy to recommend them to my other readers.

Today’s suggestion comes from Kelly Sonora and relates to 50 different ways to stay calm if you are anxious.

Having worked with this problem for exactly 20 years (my first-ever case in therapy, in June 1988, suffered from panic attacks) I can tell you that the advice is all good, although, naturally, not all 50 of these will work for everyone.

50 Quick and Easy Ways to Calm Your Anxiety

Good reading!

How to make guilt work for you

Guilt, as most of us usually experience it, is not a good place to be. It tortures us, leaves us thinking we might be worthless, traps us in self-doubt, and paralyses our ability to act.

It seems to me that there is still a lot of wrong thinking about guilt and that confusion gets in the way of our being able to do something about it.

The most important error people make is to label Guilt as an emotion. It is in fact a distortion of emotion. The ego distorts emotion by getting obsessive about it instead of taking action and letting it go. When it produces guilt it mixes up emotion with unhelpful ideas like sin, self-blame and self-punishment.

The three major emotions that get distorted in guilt are fear, remorse and disgust. You could be experiencing, one, two, or all three of them at the same time.

Fear is there when there is a possibility that you may be found out. That your career, your relationships, your reputation or your friendships may be in jeopardy. Bodymind may be signalling you either to protect yourself or come clean.

Remorse is really a variation on the emotion of sadness (all the emotions work like this – consider them as having different keys, with sadness modulating into pity, love, empathy, compassion, grief, and remorse). Remorse is your body’s way of telling you that it is time to make amends for your bad behavior. To be more attentive, loving, forgiving, generous or honest with the other party.

Disgust comes up when the action you took is repulsive in some way – potentially harmful to you or to other people. Your body needs you to make a decision and sever yourself from that situation for good.

Headmind distorts these emotions through worry, self-blame and by mixing up our identity with our behaviour. This also gets complicated by religion gone wrong – the myth of sin, divine judgment, and hellfire. This feeds the illusion of free-will: that we have complete control over our actions and can choose what to do. The reality is that we will always do what seems most desirable at the time given our current state of knowledge.

Here is a little process you can do to reverse out of guilt:

1. Identify the moment in time just before you did what you did. Relive that moment again in your visual and auditory imagination. Notice that you are just about to engage in the behavior you associate with guilt.

2. Now go into your body at that moment in time before you ‘decided’ to go ahead with the behavior.

3. Staying in your body in that moment notice that – given the situation, the knowledge you had at that time, and the state you were in, you could not in fact have done anything else. (If you had known any different, remember, you would not have done it).

4. Tell yourself: ‘I make mistakes sometimes but I am not a bad person’

5. Fully realising your limitations in that moment, notice that you didn’t actually have any guilt at that time.

6. Finally, decide what you want to do about your emotions – fear, remorse, or disgust. And take appropriate action.