9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 5)

This is the fifth in a series of articles on resilience.

The fifth habit is: Resilient people are hard realists.

Another way of putting this is that resilient people see things the way they are, not as they wish they might be. In a crisis they deal with facts rather than worries and similar fantasies.

People who don’t practice mind control can get lost in thoughts about the past (wish it was different), the future (hope it doesn’t happen) and about problems (wish they weren’t there). Resilient people live in the present and, mostly, focus on making the present work. For this reason resilient people tend to be very clear-sighted; one reason why other people tend to go to them for advice.

When crises come round resilient people will do a number of inter-related things first:

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9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 3)

This is the third in a series on the characteristics of resilient people.

The third habit is: Resilient people exercise mind control.

The opposite way of saying this is that people who get stressed, anxious and depressed are not in control of their minds. Rather, their minds control them. Their heads are filled with a constant stream of thoughts which dictate their feelings, behaviour and activities – even their brain chemistry.

To use an old cliche about fire: the mind is a good servant but a bad master. The secret to making your mind work for you is to be selective abut which thoughts you pay attention to. Because thoughts are not real; they are only versions of reality, like paintings are. Some are stupid, shoddy and ugly; others are clever, inspired and life enhancing. You should only be looking at the latter sort.

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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:
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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.

28 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

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 and in your face

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

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

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.

How to be a victim

Victim1 Being a victim is hard work. For those of you out there who think that it is important to become one here are my top tips on how to make victimization work for you.

1. Live in the past.

This is the golden rule. Thinking that you have been fucked up by your childhood, or by people who bullied or abused you, is a cast-iron guarantee that you have joined the Victim Club.

2. Hand your power over to others.

This is Rule number 2. You simply have to see other people as more attractive, happier, and more powerful than you are. Be sure to think of these people as part of an unspoken conspiracy to do you down.

3. Whinge – often.

One sure way to draw attention to the fact that you are a victim is to complain a lot. This takes practice, I recommend that you use a dictaphone and develop a script which explains why you can’t do things you want to be doing but your childhood, bad luck, current illnesses, the system, the authorities, your enemies, etc., won’t let you do them.

4. Keep listening to the bad thoughts.

Like: “I am a stupid/bad/guilty/fucked up/useless failure”. Be sure not to do anything else with your day but sit around and listen to Headmind.

5. Do as little as possible.

Good losers don’t actually do anything. They just sit around and think about the what-might-have beens.

6. Do resentment

This is really a re-run of rule number 2. Gossip as much as you can about people who appear to be better-off than you are. Be sure to dwell on their weaknesses and problems and try to make out that they owe everything to ‘luck’.

7. Do Depression

This is related to tips Number 4 and 5. If you want to be a victim then think as much as you can about your past failures and your future hopelessness. Learn how to be depressed and do it well.

8. Be a pessimist.

Professional victims believe they are doomed. That they are in the power of things that they cannot control. That little they do makes any difference, That the world is in the grip of evil powers. Be sure to think the same way.

9. Blame your frustrations on other people.

When Bodymind notices that you are acting like a victim it creates an emotion called frustration. This signal-state is actually telling you to get a life. But don’t do that. Instead, tell anyone who wants to listen that your horrible emotions have been caused by dark forces beyond your control.

10 Do things that demean you.

This is a tricky one. You could stay in a dead-end job. Or you could stay in a relationship that’s past it’s sell-by date (see next item). You could also stay in a rut. Or focus all your attention on other peoples’ problems. But the safest tip is to always talk yourself down. Don’t stint on this: keep telling people how miserable you are.

11. Keep doing dysfunctional relationships.

Victims never learn from their mistakes. They keep choosing the same stupid partners again and again. Always do internet chats/fantasize about/go to bed with/marry people who are losers just like you. Be sure to end the ‘relationship’ by telling as many people as you can how awful your ex-partner was and how this has screwed you up even more than before.

12. Believe everything you are told.

Spend as much time as you can reading the newspapers, watching morning television, or Googling items that explain why you are a victim. Then go and see a Therapist.

13. Visit doctors/psychiatrists/psychotherapists/counsellors – often.

See Rule 2 and Rule 12. Because you are a victim you will need constant help. Help in understanding why you are a victim. Prescription drugs to help you through the pain of failure. Counselling so that you can become a proficient whinger and get even more stuck.

14. Do lots of courses that promise a better life – and fail.

You might need some government grants for this. Always choose dodgy courses that
suggest that you will cease to be a victim once you have mastered the
formula for success. Then, once the course has finished, you can blame
your failures on the trainer.

15. Rage on about conspiracy theories.

See Rule 2. Adolf Hitler – who was perhaps the most famous victim in history – believed that the Jews were behind a plot to do him and his friends down. Other groups that control victims include the ‘System’, the Freemasons, the Templars, Opus Dei, the Illuminati and spaceships from Venus. Follow Adolf’s example and use monotony to explain why your life has been spent in a long struggle against dark forces.

16. Ignore your passions.

This could well be Golden rule number 3. It’s important to understand that you are not important. You are not here for any particular reason and nor have you been provided with any particular gifts, talents, or Personal Genius. Because you live most of the time in your Head you find it unbelievable that Bodymind is continually using emotions to prompt you towards being a real human being.

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!