A New Map of the Mind

It is now practically a cliche, and has been so ever since Howard Gardner published his work on the 7 different types of Intelligence, that we human beings possess multiple minds. Of which the ‘Rational Mind’ and ‘Emotional Mind’ are perhaps the most familiar.

I was thinking about this fact when one of my clients reminded me of the ‘Rational Mind – Emotional Mind – Wise Mind’ scheme which (I think) was first sketched by Marsha Linehan – the founder of Dialectical-Behaviour Therapy. DBT is the treatment of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder and in my view is a very powerful model indeed and I have great respect for Linehan’s work. The purpose of the model is to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder stay in ‘Wise Mind’, avoiding over-analytical thinking and ‘irrational’ emotions and retaining Mindfulness. This is a good strategy for people who are overwhelmed by anxiety, bad moods and tantrums but I think it is too negative about the Rational Mind and the Emotional Mind. It also leaves out ‘Bodymind’ – the real source of emotional intelligence.

So here is my own model:

multimind5

Explaining the Model:

Starting with the box on the bottom left we can see the negative side of the Thinking Mind, which for convenience I call ‘Junkmind’. This is the source of all our mental health disorders and the crazy thinking which creates havoc with our lives. Spending too much time there will lead to what I have called the ‘Distressed Body’ (fallaciously known as ‘Stress’) on the bottom right. And if we don’t do anything about this distress then we might develop illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Medically Unexplained Pain along with other mysterious conditions. When the Body is in distress for too long then anxiety, clinical depression, and the symptoms of chronic illness will smother the emotional messages it is also sending us. For a description of how emotions actually work see my earlier blog post here.

To be healthy we have to stay in Focused Mind (middle left) while paying attention to the intelligence of the Emotional Body (middle right).

Focused Mind isn’t just about being rational. It is also about having the right focus of attention. Attention to things we can influence, rather than those we can do nothing about. Attention to solutions rather than problems and to goals rather than wishes. Attention to the facts rather than a fantasy about how things ought to be. Focused Mind stays in Present Moment Awareness and is open to messages from the Body.

While Thoughts are the means through which we organise our efforts, Emotions are the driving force through which we are impelled to make any effort at all. It is from there that we source our passion as well as the emotions that push us towards self-expression, self-protection, solidarity with our partners, families, friends and communities and the excitement that comes with success.

When Focused Mind joins forces with the Emotional Body we come very close to the Deep Self which I associate with what Abraham Maslow used to call ‘Self Actualisation’ – the primary drive towards becoming the best we can be. Staying at this level of Mind is a veery rewarding place to be with frequent moments of flow, moments of joy and excitement, and what Maslow calls ‘peak experiences’ – on which you can read more here.

“All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards self-actualization.”

                                                                                                     Abraham Maslow

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

30 annoying thoughts

Thinking The universe is too complicated to make final conclusions possible

Self-pity is the worst sin

Your perceptions are based on your biography

The illusion of free will is based on vanity

You are only innocent when you live in the now

Neither Buddha or Christ believed in Religion

Serial killers are extremely boring people

Much of what happens to you is down to chance

Anger and disgust protect you

Alienation produces psychotics, revolutionaries and fundamentalists

Evil people don’t understand what they do

Life is so simple that a child of five could get it

Who and what you are is reflected in your behavior

Sex differences are bigger than we imagine

Most people would rather be right than happy

The Self is just a label – perhaps no more than your name

History reveals no progress at all

Moralising is for the small-minded

Democracy is tyrannical

Chemicals have a bigger influence on people than many of us realise

Mind doesn’t exist in the Head – it’s something you were born into

Your past is a made-up story

Medical science prolongs life but doesn’t improve it

Religion is for people who like happy endings

There is something divine in you but its outside your control

Your inner self is genetically coded

Madness is another word for defeat

‘Success’ and ‘failure’ are a matter of dates, places and opinions

Your body knows more about you than you do

Your life journey is not determined. If it were you would have been told what to do and where to go.

Image by Tumitu Design

38 provocative thoughts

Determinism Much was decided before you were born.
You don’t choose what happens  in life.
Your actions are driven either by passion or by regimentation.
Regimentation comes from failed cultures.
Passion belongs to the divine in you.

You didn’t choose your gender.
Men and Women are from different species.
The correct attitude to the opposite sex is playfulness.

You didn’t choose your race.
Racial differences are really cultural.
The correct attitude to other cultures is curiosity.

You didn’t choose your parents.
You maybe didn’t get the parents you would have chosen.
The correct attitude to your parents is objectivity.

You didn’t choose your education.
Much that is taught in schools is based on ideas that were once alive but which are now dead.
The correct attitude to teachers is scepticism.

You didn’t choose the Law.
Laws are created by people in authority.
The correct attitude to the Law is caution.

You didn’t choose the Society in which you live
Social rules are based on customs.
The correct attitude to those customs is pragmatism.

You didn’t choose the people who love you.
Your relationships chose you.
The correct attitude to relationships is love.

You didn’t choose your Body.
Yet your Body decides your health, your emotions, desires, moods, and temperament.
The correct attitude to your Body is wonder.

You didn’t choose your gifts, talents, or your inner self.
The core of who you are is determined by your Daimon.
The correct attitude to your Daimon is obedience.

You didn’t choose your actions.
Your actions are decided by the needs and expectations of the moment.
The correct attitude to past actions is amusement.

You didn’t choose God.
God is another term for whatever it is that keeps the universe in being.
The correct attitude to God is silence.