Change your mind and keep the change

Head1
This is the fifth in a series of articles which teach you how to cut out worry, obsessions and any other kind of negative thinking which triggers anxiety, panic, or stress – about which I have written elsewhere – 30 great ways to reduce stress.

In this article we are focusing on the third step in the 4-step method I am showing you.

The four steps are:

  • Change Position
  • Change Attitude
  • Change Focus
  • Practice Mindfulness

The third step entails changing the focus of attention away from the obsessive, worry, panicky, depressing, addictive thought and towards another activity that engrosses Headmind attention.

For some people this step can be difficult to achieve at first, simply because they have spent so long listening to their negative headmind tapes that they have been conditioned into taking them seriously and, as a result, they automatically have an anxious/depressive/addictive reaction.

Just last week I worked with a 67-year-old client who, since the age of 14, had reacted to every encounter with a stranger with the tape ‘She won’t like me because I am stupid and don’t know what to say’. Not surprisingly, after 53 years of listening to this stuff, she had a minor panic attack going into any new gathering of people. Over time her anxiety response had become pre-programmed on the lines of:

Meet new people > Listen to tape > Wait for panic attack > Seize up > Give up and go home

This programming can be broken up though and sometimes that can happen surprisingly quickly. However, for most people, breaking the pattern can take time, self-discipline and practice. Bear this in mind when using any of the ideas and techniques below: daily practice is essential. Don’t wait for anxiety attacks to happen to you before working with the four steps; practice on minor worries and obsessions three or four times a day and then build up to bigger ones.

The key to making a change of focus work is that you must select an activity which fully absorbs the Conscious Mind in a way that is more compelling than listening to the worry, obsession, guilt-trip etc. You don’t in fact need a technique to do this, useful as those can be. All you need are your ordinary daily activities.

Here are the most popular:

  • Exercise
  • Music (preferably loud!)
  • Social contact (includes texts/emails)
  • Meditation
  • Yoga/Tai Chi, etc
  • Dance
  • Entertaining DVDs
  • Creative tasks
  • Satisfying chores
  • Games (of any kind)
  • Engaging with anyone or anything that makes you laugh

Remember that speed is vital. Do not dally with the thoughts but ignore them and throw yourself into activity. As a general rule, activities that keep you grounded in Bodymind work best, particularly (hard) exercise, dance and laughter.

Some people find that reading books or other intellectual tasks such as research or problem-solving works for them. My experience is that this doesn’t work for the majority because the new focus may not be completely fascinating, thereby giving Headmind space to wander off back to listening to those old tapes again. A similar objection applies to watching TV programmes or doing household chores.

If you are experienced in meditation then that is an excellent way to refocus. If you are new to meditation, or if you are dealing with particularly loud worries and obsessions, then you should use an auditory tape (I provide two for you to use below).

As an alternative to meditation you might consider using a Binaural beat program. I have written about these elsewhere and you can purchase some good ones using the box on the right hand column.

Finally, you could use a relaxation tape or a meditational tape

Here is a short relaxational tape:

Relaxation

And here is a longer, meditational, tape based on sensory awareness:

InYouButMoreThanYou

 

 

 

Killer ways to stop negative thinking

Images3
This is the fourth in a series of articles which teach you how to cut out worry, obsessions and any other kind of negative thinking which triggers anxiety, panic, stress, depression or addictions in you.

In this article we are focusing on the second step in the 4-step method I am showing you.

The four steps are:

  • Change Position
  • Change Attitude
  • Change Focus
  • Practice Mindfulness

The key to making Step 2 work is to change your reaction to the negative thought. Typical unwanted reactions include getting upset, anxious, uptight, depressed, panicky or frightened. Others include getting obsessional or compulsive – as happens in many types of addiction in which the individual believes she has ‘no choice’ but to go ahead and indulge. Often, these reactions are so automatic that we are only dimly aware of the triggering thought (or image). That is why it is important to identify the relevant Headmind tape which is triggering the reaction.

We are looking to replace those reactions with boredom, ridicule or contempt.

Consider, for a moment, your attitude to a worry that you don’t have but someone else has. For example:

This plane is about to blow up

I just caught a disease from shaking that man’s hand

The government is spying on me

Unless you are one of the few that take these thoughts seriously your probable reaction to hearing about them will be incredulity. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ you might say to yourself. You might go on to wonder: how on earth do people learn to think like that?

It’s exactly that kind of attitude you now need to adopt towards the negative thoughts you have yourself. Remember that, by definition, all worries and obsessions are a kind of fantasy. They have no bearing on reality at all.

There must be hundreds of techniques you can use to change your attitude to the tapes in your head. I am going to mention just three tried-and-tested routines that work for most of my clients.

1. Ridicule

The first way is to make the tape (once you have identified it using this article) comical.

Think of someone who is absurd. That could be someone you have met but it could be a film or TV character. Now imagine that the ‘tape’ is being replayed back through that character’s voice in your head. It helps to exagerrate the ideas in the tape so that they sound ludicrous.

For example:

HomerOriginal tape = “It’s all going to go wrong”

Edited tape = “It’s going to be a total disaster”

Homer’s tape: “It’s not only going to be a disaster but you are going be seriously damaged and in need of psychiatry for the rest of your life. “

When using this method it helps to laugh. It doesn’t matter if the laughter sounds forced – just laugh (you can think of something genuinely funny at this point if it helps).

2. Contempt

Replaying dismissive remarks to yourself about the ‘tape’ works here. For example;

There it goes again. Really don’t have time to listen to this.

Same old same old rubbish. Time to move on.

This is getting boring. I have better things to do.

You can get aggressive about it, too. Once you identify the contents of the tape you say (out loud if you are on your own) things like:

What a load of crap!

Complete bollocks!

Fuck that!

(Anglo-Saxon swear words are particularly useful here as those add force to your new attitude).

3. Boredom 

BoredomIn a less dramatic way boredom is often the most effective response to negative thoughts. The reason for this is that boredom, when listening to tedious, repetitive people who talk rubbish is an emotionally intelligent response dictated by Bodymind. Think of the most tedious conversations, school lessons and lectures you have ever sat through. You didn’t bother trying to work out whether there was any sense to what was being said. Instead, your body pressed the ‘OFF’ button and sent you to sleep.

You can use a variation on the first technique here. Instead of replaying the tape using a comical voice you can use the voice of someone you know (or whom you have watched) who is deeply boring. Be sure to edit the voice so that it sounds slow, monotonous and, of course, tedious. You can help the process along by yawning out loud while you are doing this.

A lot of people burst out laughing when they try to do this – a good sign that the technique is in fact working.

The next article concentrates on Step 3 – Changing Focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mind control

Mind parasites

This is the third in a series of articles that teach you a new method on how abolish worry, anxiety, obsessions, OCD, and addictive thinking patterns. In  fact, any kind of repetitive, boring, disturbing thought pattern that keeps you enslaved to the Chatterbox inside your Head.

To recap: the four steps in this new method are:

  1. Change Position
  2. Change Attitude
  3. Change Focus
  4. Practice Mindfulness

I have before written a similar article on this subject called Do You Control Your Mind Or Does It Control You?

In this post I am focusing on Step 1 in the four steps: Change Position

In this step your job is to distance yourself from your thoughts. However ‘real’ they might seem negative thoughts do not in fact belong to you. They have their origin somewhere else – in the conscious mind – ‘Headmind’ – in fact. And Headmind is stuffed full of ideas it has adopted fron other, mostly, dysfunctional, people as well as from mistakes it makes about everyday life and past experiences which it refuses to relearn.

I covered most of these mistakes in my previous article in this series: How to Stop Worrying. But the basic mistake Headmind makes when faced with any challenging situation is to replay old, unhelpful, stories from the past which give you the idea that you are a complete mess. These ‘Headmind tapes’ are like a record stuck on the groove that tell you over and over again that you are facing disaster.

The Change Position step encourages you to see that the tapes are coming from IT rather from you. YOU are not your MIND. Instead, YOU are a sentient, living, emotional person grounded in the moment who needs have no fear of what your mind is trying to do to you.

To make this step work you first need to identify the content of the Headmind tape and I refer you to the previous article in this series in order to get some more help on this. Once you have identified some destructive thinking patterns you are in a good position to identify the tape contents.

These ‘tapes’ are repetitive, conscious, or semi-conscious, ideas which trigger anxiety. You will know they are running because you will suddenly notice that you are getting uptight, frightened, obsessed, panicky or worried. Your job now is to analyse the tape.

This may take some practice and the fourth step, which relates to practising Awareness, is crucial here. I will elaborate more on that step when I get to it but here is a previous article on the subject here. Be aware that these ‘ideas’ may not be thoughts as such. Instead they might take the form of images or self-dialogue which you hadn’t realised (until you practised Awareness) were there at all.

Some common ‘tapes’ include:

  1. An image of something terrible happening to you
  2. The thought that you cannot bear what is ‘about’ to happen
  3. The idea that you are going to ‘pay’ for past mistakes
  4. Self-talk that you are useless, worthless or otherwise fucked-up
  5. Flash-backs to past traumas
  6. Injunctions to ‘get it right or else…’

Once you have identified the crap that Headmind is relaying on to you the next step is simple. And that is change position; to distance yourself from it, treating as something alien to you. A good way to do that is to engage in some self-dialogue:

  1. The Chatterbox is working overtime today…
  2. Those stupid tapes are playing up…
  3. The Control freak is off on one…
  4. There it goes again…

This step is immediately followed by the next step: Change Attitude, which is closely linked. More on that in the next article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to stop worrying

Worry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the second in a series of articles which teach you how to eliminate negative thinking.

Bad thinking habits, sometimes known as cognitive distortions, trigger worry, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, depression, guilt, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and a host of other problems.

Treating these problems have attracted lots of books and a variety of methods for overcoming them, including the Linden method and other techniques borrowed from NLP and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). These, and many other approaches, including Dale Carnegie’s 1948 classic ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ provide lots of workable ideas through which you can defeat anxiety. My approach, however, focuses on the core insight that worries, being fantasies, are best ignored. And that you need to be spending less time in Headmind.

As related in my previous articles there are four mistakes that people make around worries and obsessions:

These are:

  • Getting sucked in by anxious thoughts
  • Being frightened by them
  • Not knowing what to do about them
  • Living too much in the head

The four steps in the method I am explaining in these articles address all four problems.

To recapitulate, these are:

  1. Change Position
  2. Change Attitude
  3. Change Focus
  4. Practice Mindfulness

Before using the method, however, there is an important preliminary which you need to work through first. Which is to distinguish between Worries and Concerns.

Briefly, worries are fantasies while concerns are problems you can influence.

A worry typically has one or more of these features:

1. Predictions of disaster:

Examples: I will lose my job/have a breakdown/get ill again

2. Hopelessness

Example: I won’t be able to cope

3. Over-generalization

Example: I always mess things up

4. Exaggeration

Example: I am a complete failure

5. Perfectionism

Example: I can’t make any mistakes

6. Musturbation:

Example: I must get it right

7. Self-judgment

Example: It’s all my fault

6. Focusing on the negative:

Example: It happened last week, the month before that, twice last year and again this morning at 10 o’clock

Notice that worries aren’t about anything that has actually happened. Instead they are a kind of nightmare in which it is assumed that anything that can go wrong will go wrong and what’s more will always go wrong (Murphy’s Law may be a joke but quite a lot of people with anxiety disorders treat it as revealed truth).

There is no point in arguing with this kind of thinking as so many cognitive-behaviour therapists believe. Doing that is the equivalent of trying to argue with the psychotic on the street corner who wants you to come and hide with him because the world is about to end. The only thing to do about worries is treat them with the contempt they deserve.

But one reason why even daft worries get taken seriously is that they get mixed up with concerns. And because concerns are real then worries can seem real too.

For example. I might have a concern about this article: namely, that it won’t be readable. Were that the case then there are a number of things I can do about that: read examples of good writing and imitate them, get a friend to check it, use a thesaurus, rewrite it, etc. But the associated worry ‘I will never learn to write‘ gets off on the genuine concern that I am finding this particular article hard work. And so I fall into the trap of taking it seriously.

In this series I am teaching you a four-step method through which you eliminate worries such as these. However, to make it work you first have to address any concerns. Doing that may eliminate the worry all by itself. For example, rewriting this article and getting some good feedback makes the earlier worry sound ridiculous.

Here are a few more tips to help you distinguish between the two:

  1. If it is a worry it will frighten you; if it is a concern it will focus you
  2. Concerns foster decision-making; worries foster paralysis
  3. Worries leave you powerless; concerns alert you to what to do next
  4. Concerns focus on potential solutions; worries on disasters
  5. Worries are all about the past and future; concerns are about the here and now
  6. Concerns have an emotion behind them; worries are empty
  7. Worries tell you that you can’t cope; concerns tell you that you can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new solution for anxiety, worry, obsessions and lots more besides

Obsess
Research shows that at least 10% of the population, at any one time, suffer from an anxiety disorder. But if you take into account the figures for those experiencing stress-related problems – which are clearly related to worry and anxiety – the figures are likely to be far higher. And most of us have problems with negative thinking: gloomy thoughts about the future, guilt over the past, the idea that we can’t cope with the present and obsessions about having to get it all right.

On that subject the National Institute of Mental Health – NIMH – calculates that around 1% of the population in the USA suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – or OCD – (that’s over 3 million people). But millions more are bothered by obsessions about work, about our personal appearance, about our success or failure in life and anything else that might have to do with the Ego. Incidentally, obsessions are also the driver for addictions to drugs, alcohol and gambling, about which I wrote in my last series of articles.

I have recently been carrying out renewed work with clients suffering from chronic worry, panic attacks, OCD, negative thoughts and anxiety. As a result I have been refining my method of working with these problems. The next few articles show the way out.

The method comprises four basic steps as follows:

  • 1. Change Position
  • 2. Change Attitude
  • 3. Change Focus
  • 4. Practice Mindfulness

For any worry, obsession or negative thought you first change your position to it. Instead of identifying the thought as coming from you, instead you change to seeing the worry as coming from IT – meaning Headmind at it’s worst.

Next you change your attitude to these ‘Headmind tapes’. Instead of getting upset by them you learn how to get bored with them, or to laugh at them, or to treat them with the contempt they deserve.

Then you change your focus of attention, immediately engaging Headmind with something focused, productive, entertaining or calming to do.

Finally, you practice Mindfulness on a daily basis. This could entail Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qui Gung, Sensate focusing or a myriad other ways of focusing on Bodymind or on present moment awareness. This isn’t strictly a ‘fourth step’ but a way of making the other three steps easier to practice.

More on this method in the articles that follow.

So stay tuned.

Getting rid of your bananas

This is the follow up to the blog I posted last Saturday – Why people get Obsessional. In that post I describedEscape_2
how people get trapped trying to hold on to their cherished ‘bananas’. In this one, I describe how you can break free of them.

When you get rid of your bananas life will become a lot less stressful and a lot more serene. You will also feel a lot less obsessional and driven. When you stop wasting time on bananas you will free up your energy for the things that matter most to you.

  1. The first step towards getting rid of bananas is to understand how they got installed in you and why you need not be bound by them.
  2. The next step is to train your awareness on yourself.
  3. The third step is to identify the bananas themselves, and the damage they do to you.
  4. The fourth step is to take ownership for the needs denied by the banana
  5. The next step is experiment with a different way of life.
  6. A potential sixth step is to start doing the opposite of what your banana forces you to do.
  7. The final step is to practice living spontaneously, free from rules, in line with what your emotions and gut instincts guide you towards doing in the moment.

How bananas get installed.

Like all worries, bananas are created by conditioning, trauma-reactions and identification.

Most bananas originally belonged to other people – a parent, a teacher, a friend or even to to people you never met – writers, gurus and celebrities you read about. After a while their thoughts became yours because you imagined you would get their approval if you did that. You don’t in fact need anyone’s approval. Nor do you need their limiting beliefs.

Some bananas were adopted at an impressionable age when you saw other human beings doing things that scared you. For example – bullying, rage, rejection, abuse, punishment. Your Headmind then decided that you must NEVER again do what seemed to provoke that particular reaction – expressing love, asserting yourself, being honest, etc.

The most important reason your bananas are there, however is that you identify yourself as having to be perfect: a perfect daughter, perfect parent, perfect at your job, perfect lover, and so on

When you see that your compulsions are based on a fantasy then you immediately begin to separate from them. When you see the frustration, anxiety, misery and illness these obsessions create for you, then you have a powerful incentive to free yourself from them.

Awareness

Those of you who follow Reverse Therapy will practice staying in Bodymind, becoming aware of your aliveness in the ‘Now’. Tuning in to your deepest emotions, feeling and intuitions about what is truthful, loving and ‘right’ for you and others in that moment. Learning to distinguish between the promptings of Bodymind and the compulsions of Headmind.

Identifying the Bananas you have

The simplest way is to consult a Reverse Therapist. If you want to do it yourself then you have to start noticing where, and with whom, you are most driven and compulsive. In which situations you are most likely to ignore your feelings about things and do what others want. Or the areas where you keep making the same mistakes, over and over again. Bananas always take the form: ‘I must always….’, ‘I must…’, I must never…’, ‘I should…’, ‘I should never….’. ‘I have to….’

You can’t eliminate a banana you don’t know you have. Unfortunately, it is harder to see your own bananas than other peoples’, simply because your Head thinks they are the ‘obvious’ truth.

Owning your needs

Bananas deny your right to nurture yourself, to be angry, to be honest, to be sad, to take time out, to get frustrated, to make mistakes, to be happy. Give yourself permission to do all and any of these things. Tell other people (as well as yourself): ‘I can’t cope. I need help‘. Or ‘I am sad today‘. Or ‘I screwed up – I am only human‘.

Experimenting

Once you know your bananas you can experiment with a different way of being. For example, if your banana dictates that that you stay in your comfort zone, then you can start experimenting with taking (small) risks. If your banana is about never expressing anger then you can learn assertiveness skills. If your banana is about having to work hard all the time then you can factor in more leisure time into your life.

Doing the opposite to what the banana tells you to do

This won’t work for some bananas so be careful with this slightly drastic strategy. For example, if you have a banana that tells you that you must never make mistakes then doing the opposite of that might mean you make a mistake that could cost you. But this strategy will certainly free you up from some bananas. I used to have a banana that told me that I had to know (or pretend to know) everything. When I started telling people that there were things I didn’t know and that I would never understand the relief that sometimes followed left me close to tears.

One of the things that gives these compulsions power over us is that we imagine that NOT following the banana will mean that something terrible will happen to us. Or that we will end up looking stupid, bad or weak. When we disobey the banana and notice that none of these things have, in fact, happened then we are closer still to separating from the delusion.

A common error

By the way, it is vital that you don’t turn banana-elimination into
another banana. There’s some good advice on this subject from Mark.

The life you were meant to live

The links in this final section refer to some of my other blog posts.

Because Headmind wants to conform, and because we are always coming up against bananas other people want us to have – right down from our Political and Religious Leaders to our neighbors next door, they are difficult to resist. Yet the examples of Lao-Tse, The Buddha, Christ, and many other enlightened saints, shows that this is possible. To follow them, we must learn to give up guilt, live as rebels. play with the rules that come with the game of life, become as spontaneous as children of five, and live in the body.

Good Hunting!

 

Are you obsessional?

Today I worked with a client who asked me to work with her on identifying and eliminating her ‘bananas’.Banana_4

For those of you who haven’t read my book then let me explain:

A banana is a fixation or a compulsion, which dictates inflexible, repetitive, self-defeating behavior.

The metaphor is taken from an ancient method for catching monkeys – still practiced to this day in parts of Africa and Asia. Here’s how the capture works:

The Hunter lays down a wicker basket with a banana inside it, in a grove where monkeys are known to forage. The cage is so constructed that the monkey can get at the banana but can’t pull it out because the bars of the cage are too narrow. Indeed, it cannot withdraw its hand at all unless it drops the banana. Most monkeys are smart enough to let go of the banana and go and look for better opportunities. But a minority don’t – that banana just means too much to them. They stay put, holding their booby prize until the hunter comes and throws a net over them.

Like some monkeys, a lot of human beings would rather be slaves than let go of their bananas.

Here are some examples of common bananas:

  • I have to be liked
  • I should be in control
  • I must be successful
  • I must not let people down
  • I must never get angry
  • I should always put other peoples’ needs first, no matter what happens to me
  • I must be strong

Notice that what makes the banana obsessional is the absolute demand to always act or be that way – as conveyed by the ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ contained in the injunction. There is nothing wrong with being loved, attracting success, and helping people out. The problem arises when no deviations from the rule are permitted. If that is the case then when we can’t cope, we wear ourselves out. Or, when we meet with rejection, failure, bullying or stress, then we no longer know what to do. We go on repeating the same destructive behavior like a broken record. Hoping that, sooner or later, it will work.

Some people get upset when you question their bananas. Their Conscious Mind sees that as a threat to its grasp on reality. To such people, their
obsession with the banana is an ‘obvious’ way to be. Not acting that way is deemed by them to be ‘selfish’, ‘unrealistic’, ‘immature’. etc. So holding on to bananas – even when they don’t apply – is viewed as a right way to be, while discarding them is bad, immoral or stupid. This explains their compulsive character. As does the fact that some people believe that something terrible will happen to them if they let go of their bananas.

This is why so many of us repeat the same toxic relationships over and
over again – exploited by ‘must-have’ employers, abused by ‘caring’ partners, manipulated by ‘helpless’ children, let down by ‘unlucky’ friends’, controlled by ‘wonderful’ parents. Meanwhile, Bodymind is sending us emotional signals to tell us about the way things really are and what we need to be doing about that – saying ‘no’ when we are tired, asking for help when we are overwhelmed, taking a break when we are frustrated, demanding fairness when we are angry. But if we go on ignoring our emotions, obsessing about bananas and dwelling in toxic relationships, we end up with depression, panic attacks, or what, in Reverse Therapy, we call non-specific illness.

On Monday I will return to this topic, describing how we can give away those bananas!