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.

 

Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Well This is a reprise of an email session I held with a client two years ago. I have edited some details to preserve anonymity. She had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years and is well now.

The aim is to give anyone with M.E/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome some thoughts on how to get well. And, of course, any of our clients in Reverse Therapy out there can learn from this too.

Client: During my second appointment with you last month I had difficulties in saying what I needed which you helped me to overcome by teaching me how to put things into words. I told you I was confused with what you were telling me and that I did not understand. You told me to establish contact with my Bodymind and I felt relieved. I think there is a lot of fear inside me. Fear of staying ill, fear of not being able to succeed with Reverse Therapy.

My comment: It is important to distinguish between Headmind worry and Bodymind fear. Bodymind sends you a fear emotion when it notices that you are vulnerable in some way – in order to encourage you to express your need for help and support, and take small steps to raise your confidence in that situation. Your Headmind worries about not being able to get well and not being able to do Reverse Therapy. This is natural but unhelpful. It is important not to give any time to these worries. Instead, do something like this:

  • Go into your Body
  • Remind yourself that you know how to be well
  • Spend a little time in your body deciding what feels good to do next about your messages and go and do that straight away

Client: This is all Headmind stuff, I know, but fear is somewhere stuck deep in my cells. One day, soon after my first Reverse Therapy session I was in a meditation group – and we were guided to recall our most important event over the summer. I “went” to my first session with you while I was in a deep state of contemplation and I felt – very strongly and clearly – how something was “melting down inside” as tears were rolling down my face and this was helping my recovery. I was impressed when this “something” that I was feeling so clearly deep inside me came out as “fear”. That fear I felt at that time when I was recalling the first RT session was deep in my body and the whole process of retrieving that RT session while in a meditative state was helping a lot in letting it go.

My comment: This is good work! You may indeed have become vulnerable and your Body created fear to remind you to be gentle on yourself and take good care. There is no need to let go of fear – just honour it and act on it.

Client: Is this fear – which I’m not generally aware of – a fear that my Bodymind developed when I was under a lot of stress, specially when I had glandular fever and I kept working under stress, without resting? Is this fear misinterpreted by Headmind and leads me to be afraid of not being able to recover?

My comment: See above. But Headmind stuff will be worry rather than fear.

Client: One of my concerns is my need – I guess a Headmind demand to “understand”. Which probably comes from a need to control. So I spend too much time in my Head. Although I am learning that when I am living in the moment, in Bodymind, I feel at peace. But the thing is that I live in a world that is run by Headminds!

My comment: Yes – it is about ‘unlearning’ the Headmind habits and conditioning you received through unbalanced education. Reverse Therapy is a discipline (like meditation) which needs to be practiced every day until it becomes more natural to stay in the moment and let go of Headmind’s need to explain, worry and control. We have to acknowledge that the world is mostly run by ‘Headminds’ but that doesn’t mean we have to play that game any more

Client: Getting onto the more practical aspects of doing Reverse Therapy, I am not keeping the journal up to date. Nor am I planning activities. I have never been good at organizing my time. And having spent 4 years without working has not helped me much in that.

My comment: OK – let’s not make the Journal into a burden for you. It is only used to help you remember the discipline of noticing your symptoms, acting on the messages, and noticing what happens to the symptoms. But if it has become another Headmind chore for you then let’s drop it for now.

Client: I am now trying to do more things I enjoy – like visiting friends, arranging dinner-parties, shopping, and the like. And I have had fun, and people who knew me before the illness have mentioned to me how much more energy I have. It shows in the way I talk, in how I am with people, and in the joy I have in doing things. Just as an illustration, the other day, over a dinner with a group of friends, I told a joke – a long one! And I realized when I was about to start that it was the first time I had done that for more than 4 years! 

My comment: Very good! Please do more of this as your Body clearly enjoys being with your friends. Interestingly, it has been established that laughter is a sure way to enable Bodymind to release endorphins, which both reduce symptoms and confirm that you are on the right path towards recovery.

Client: Yet a couple of hours before we all met for dinner I had symptoms. My energy level was very low, I was feeling sick and I just wanted to lie down. There was kind of a “fight” inside me and finally I won through the faith I have in you. My Headmind could not get that something other than lying down could help me in that situation. But I trusted Reverse Therapy and I did what I was told to do in these situations. I regained confidence and energy started to come back. The problem was my partner was late getting back from work and we were going to be late for dinner. After getting into Bodymind and reading the message I started to act with serenity and coped with the situation. The dinner went great!

My comment: Excellent! You really let go of that Headmind trap there!

Client: Next day, we had a lunch at home with a friend. I woke up very tired and thinking I could not be able to manage it. I was feeling sick again. Headmind telling me it was because I had done too much the day before (although I didn’t believe it). We normally do things at the last minute and my Body was probably telling me to slow down. After reading my message I calmed down and I decided to take it easy and got on with other things. It was like I was expressing my needs to myself. It worked well. We both enjoyed having lunch with our friend and we had a wonderful time.

My comment. Hmmmm. Might be an idea to get together with your partner and look at some ways for you both to have more time to get ready.

Client: One of the things that concerns me a lot is my sleep. I seem to need to sleep forever. As a student, I always stayed up until late during exams and woke up late in the morning. When I was working, I always tended to stay late to do tasks that required more concentration. What is happening now is that, in the absence of any activity that requires me to be somewhere early, I tend to wake up very late in the morning, which gets me very restful but feeling quite useless.

My comment: I am afraid it does take time for your Body clock to get back to normal. It is important not to stay in bed too long but get on with activities you have planned for that day. Please also ensure that each week has a balance of early nights and late nights. Remember, your Body might be using morning fatigue to warn you that there is not much enjoyment available. Finally, watch out for Headmind and its yada-yada-yada about your being ‘useless’ because you have symptoms.

Client: The other main concern is about my poor skills in planning and organizing. As I told you, I have never been good at that, but now it’s even worse. Over the
week I have few fixed activities, but I still struggle to get to them in time. And I have not yet learnt how to fill the gaps in between, unless I improve, which does not take me very far. I simply do not know how to design an activity schedule. I feel quite frustrated and helpless about that, especially now that I realized how important it is for my recovery,

My comment: Can you not get your partner or a friend to help you do this? Otherwise we can work on it together when you next see me.

Client: Something else I wish to tell you is that I have put my hopes in Reverse Therapy and that I trust you. I think you are a very talented person and I feel very thankful to be able to get Reverse Therapy from you. I also get lots of confidence from reading the testimonials of people who have undertaken Reverse Therapy and have recovered. But my Headmind –here it is again – keeps damaging my hopes with doubts. One of them has to do with the apparent simplicity of the method. If Reverse Therapy is so simple then I think that what I have suffered during these years was “only in my mind”. I fought a lot during these years against the doctors who had no idea about this illness and who have even told me that I had nothing wrong with me. And when I asked them why I was feeling so ill they would shrug.

My comment. Your symptoms were certainly not all in your mind! Reverse Therapy is simple (although not always easy) but Headmind always wants it to be more complicated because it demands ‘explanations’ and intellectual control.

Client. Am I fearing recovery? Am I fearing that this is an underlying process that I cannot understand? I trust you, and I just want to be very honest with myself and to you, so I can help you to help me.

My comment. No – this is your Headmind daring not to believe that you can be totally well. Because all it has ever known for the last six years is pain, exhaustion and worry. The more days you have when your energy comes back and your symptoms go, then the easier it will be for Headmind to let go of the idea that you cannot get well.

Client: I feel good that I can share with you my inner concerns, and what I believe is Headmind resistance to the process. It is like if my Head wants to know “the secret of RT”. Also, I think there is some reasoning going on like “if it is so easy to overcome the symptoms that have got me to a completely disabled life, I must be an idiot”.

My comment: This is something many of our clients tell us. We always say to them: ‘It is not your fault that you became ill.’ As for the simplicity of the method, it is only ‘easy’ once someone has shown you the solution. Like one of those psychological puzzles when people can’t ‘see’ the face of the old woman/young girl in the drawing. But once someone shows you it is easy to see it. Surely, the real idiots are the people in the medical and psychological professions who have spent years studying the illness without coming up with any answers?

Client: It is not easy for me to write down what I have just said but I know you are not judging me, so I should not judge myself and I should feel confident in expressing my thoughts, no matter how distorted they might seem, even to me. So, being honest to you, John, it has been because I have faith and confidence in you and in Reverse Therapy that I do the assignments, not because I understand what I am doing. And this brings humility – the realization that the answers come from somewhere that is far beyond my head, and far deeper inside me.

More on the Enneagram

People

Some of you may have taken one of the two Enneagram Personality tests I recommended in my last article. If you did then it is important to remind you of the following principle:

Whichever of the Nine Enneagram ‘personalities’ you think you have (or scored highest for) you should fight as hard as you can not to be that particular way. In short, you should lose that ossified way of being.

For example, until recently I scored high for the Number 8. Here is a description of the Eight by The Enneagram Institute:

Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.

In order to avoid the fate of becoming fixated on strength (and thereby making myself obsessional about it) I had to let go of the banana about having to ‘be in control’. In point of fact I never particularly wanted to be in control of anything until I became a well-known therapist. After that point my Headmind decided that it had something to prove to people who did therapy or training with me, and then the banana about having to be ‘strong’ started to work on me. Before that particular delusion took over I usually scored high on the Number 5 personality. Here is a description of that one from the same source:

Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation.

I would guess that I was a ‘Five’ all the way from my teenage years until about 10 years ago, when I learnt to see through that false ego. What drove it was my emerging experience of being typed as ‘deaf and therefore ‘stupid’ and ‘inadequate’. That was why I went for one banana about having to be a know-all and another one about having to live in an ivory tower. Neither obsession did me any good.

Here are the fixations that go with each of the nine types.

The One: Has to be in the right. Must never be in the wrong. The Perfectionist.

The Two: Has to look after others. Must never be rejected. The Martyr.

The Three. Has to be a success. Must never be second-best. The Workaholic.

The Four. Has to be admired. Must never be ignored. The Show-off.

The Five. Has to know everything. Must never be caught out. The Loner.

The Six. Has to belong. Must never stand out from the crowd. The Conformist.

The Seven. Has to be happy. Must not be sad. The Addict.

The Eight. Has to be in Control. Must not be weak. The Bully.

The Nine. Has to be inside the Comfort Zone. Must not get stressed. The Slob.

Enneagram

Harmonious This is the first in the series of articles about the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a method through which you can understand human personality. There are 9 personality types, which I will describe in later articles.

I have written about Personality – and also about the Ego – before. In the system of Reverse Therapy, your personality/ego is a creation of Headmind, which bears no relation to who you actually are.

A common problem with  Enneagram books is that they try to label people as belonging to a certain ‘type’. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that knowing someone’s Enneagram type will tell you is how far they have got stuck in Headmind.

You are far more than your personality. Somewhere, deep down, you possess a Personal Genius which holds  the personality you give out to others in contempt, and which seeks to break free of it. Personal Genius, if anything can be, is your real self. But you have no control over it for that was given to you at birth.

Your Enneagram personality, by contrast, is something you need to work on in order to abolish it. Your personality is not you; rather it is your Prison.

The ideal, the goal, is to become ego-less and to cease to possess a personality.

Only then can you become that which you are truly are. Gurdjieff, the originator of the Enneagram taught precisely this.

Before you read the second article in this series you might want to take the Enneagram test and here are two:

Eclectic Energies (This is a free test which is reasonably accurate).

The Riso Hudson test (The Riso-Hudson test is the most thorough test currently available. It costs $10.00).

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.

Can feeling grumpy be good for you?

Moods1 I receive a mischievous communication from my very good friend Mark McGuinness who wants me to comment on a research article he has looked into, written by some ‘Australian psychologists’, which claims that being in a ‘bad mood’ can be ‘good’ for you.

Now, some of my best experiences in life have been prompted by my ‘bad’ moods. With the aid of those I have got rid of countless annoying relationships, irritating jobs and pointless activities. So my first thought was that – yet again – a bunch of overpaid academics were being subsidised to announce discoveries most of us learned in primary school. And that Mark had forgotten our many rambling midnight conversations about emotions and the meaning of life.

Yet I realised immediately that these gorgeous, Bondi-beach seeking academics have made yet another category mistake: While bad moods can, indeed, be ‘good’, those are not the same as ‘bad emotions’.

To remind you: there is no such thing as a bad emotion. Emotions are an expression of Bodymind
intelligence. A mood is different. It is a  Headmind attitude. It expresses a relationship between our attitudes and the world as we find it. You can read more about moods here.

A grumpy mood, for me, is a relationship based on suspicion. It means that I no longer trust that experiences, situations, people, or the Lord God himself are doing me any favours. And that, in turn, is a cue that I need to revise my trusting attitude towards these entities. I need to retreat, stand-off, complain, and have a moan. I may even need to disengage – permanently.

So yes – a grumpy mood can be good for you if it helps you get rid of your intellectual garbage.

The funny thing is that I actually find grumpy moods enjoyable. Entraining my suspicion and pessimism on the planet gives me a god-like sense of detachment and playfulness. It also gives me a playground for wit.

Rather like one of my favourite philosophers – Arthur Schopenhauer – who once wrote:

“If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.”

Come to think of it, Schopenhauer deserves an article all to himself, so I will write that next.

Zen and Reverse Therapy

In my last post I mentioned that Zen has been a strong influence on Reverse Therapy and here’s how.

When I first started teaching people Reverse Therapy it wasn’t called that then. Instead it was called ‘Anti-therapy’. The idea was that it would be the complete opposite of traditional therapy. It wouldn’t waste time on analysis or belief-checking, or your ‘relationship’ with the therapist, or working out what happened to you at age four-and-a-half.

The other thing that made it anti-therapy was that we made friends with symptoms (or rather, with the Bodymind that produced them). If we could find out what made symptoms necessary we had a good chance of helping clients find a healthier way to deal with the situations in which symptoms came up.

All this was inspired, in part, by Zen. The Zen attitude to problems is to exercise awareness on them. Becoming fully aware – in the moment – of what is happening, without pre-judging anything enables you to see what is going on. So when you see why symptoms are necessary you are on the symptom path to enlightenment.

Another thing we learnt from Zen is that Headmind gets in the way of enlightenment. Thinking doesn’t make you aware (in some cases it can just make you stupid – which is what Buddha is partly getting at). Zen exercises are designed to help people bypass Headmind. When you see that there is no answer to the absurd question ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping’ you are enlightened in that moment (although not necessarily in other moments). You have realised that thinking gets in the way of your experience, your awareness and your direct access to the way things are.

It is for that reason that Reverse Therapy teaches people to practice quietly sitting and sensing the way the way things are for them in each and every moment.

I have to admit that what also attracted me to Zen was its irreverence. It believes in no final wisdom, or teachers or even in the Buddha. There’s no better saying for that than the provocative Zen slogan: ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road – kill him’.