Television interview with John Eaton

Here is a television appearance by me on the Chicago Channel – Never Not Here. Interviewed by Richard Miller.

Despite the title I talk a about a lot more than Reverse Therapy: resilience, stress, how people get ill,  the changing conditions of modern society, emotional intelligence and how it works, and the difference between Bodymind and the Conscious Mind.

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

 

 

 

How to make that breakthrough

Breakthrough

My good friend and collaborator Mark McGuinness recently alerted me to a stimulating new book by Steven Pressfield called Do The Work which is about a subject dear to my heart: how to overcome Headmind when it is messing your life up.

I was doubly intrigued because Steven Pressfield once wrote a powerful historical novel about the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae called Gates of Fire – one of the very few books of that kind which had me (and my wife) in tears by the end.

Taking time off from writing fiction Steven’s new, very short, book is about how to achieve your goals when you don’t think you can.

The premise is simple: whenever you work on a project that is really important to you, but which is going to take time, hard work, and personal sacrifice then you are going to hit a wave of resistance. And that resistance comes not from outside but from within;  your own personal version of Headmind in fact: doubts, excuses, distractions, worries, whinges, procrastination, or so-called ‘low self-esteem’ – in which Headmind keeps on repeating the mantra that there is no point in your doing anything very much because it is bound to end in failure.

The solution is also simple: just do it. Once you have decided that the project really is important to you then you ignore Headmind when it is trying to do you down and sabotage your goals. Specifically, you ignore the Chatterbox. Or just tell it to shut the fuck up while you get on with things.

Here are some examples from the world of Therapy:

You are working on your recovery from Depression and you have decided to get out more. The Inner Voice says ‘what’s the point?’. Your response: go ahead and call a friend and make that date regardless.

You are working on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and you have decided to increase your morning exercise routine to 10 minutes. Your Internal Saboteur says: ‘you’ll make yourself ill’. Your response: increase it to 15 minutes.

You are working on Anxiety. Your Internal Control Freak says: ‘I worry that you won’t be able to stop worrying because you have been a worrier all your life….’. Your response: you focus your attention on a non-worrisome activity for the next few hours.

One difference between using Steven’s method on creative work, and using it on personal problems is this: in creative work you just get on with the project (for example: your next novel, or work idea, house redesign, etc.). In that way you force Headmind to get on with doing something useful.

Whereas if you are depressed, anxious, obsessional, etc., you may need to give Headmind some substitute activities to do. A good example relates to giving up drug/alcohol/cigarette/ gambling addictions. Whenever the Internal Saboteur twitters on about needing a fix/drink/fag/bet then you just do a 180 degree attention turn and go off and do something more worthwhile. My experience with my clients is that when they do this repeatedly, then over the ensuing weeks that Internal Voice will gradually dwindle away to a whisper.

Image by permission of Fuyoh

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.

 

How to be unique

Download (1)
This is a continuation of my series on becoming the person you were always meant to be. The last article in the series was How to be strange. And the one before that was Why it’s ok to be a bit weird.

A second way to be strange, weird or unique is to be an incontrovertible expert in something. Or in two things. Or in three, four, five things. To become an authority on them in fact.

Now it helps if you choose subjects that a lot of other people are fascinated by. But it isn’t strictly necessary. For example, if you choose to become an expert on Palmistry or reading the Tarot then I can guarantee you a ready audience from personal experience for the simple reason that most people are fascinated by the occult, even when they pooh-pooh it. But if you decide to become, instead, an expert on Egyptian hieroglyphics the fact that you know a lot about something practically nobody knows anything about will give you a certain cachet – which is a source of pride to you, even if you happen never to speak about it. For the simple reason that Knowledge equals Power.

Another, very good, choice is to become an expert in solving problems that everybody struggles with. For example: money management, child care, dealing with difficult people, employment law, maintaining a house, etc. Knowing a lot about those things will usually mean that you end up becoming an advisor of some kind – that, too, is a great way to exploring your personal power.

One word of warning, however. Whatever project you choose, it helps to be guided by your Personal Genius.

 

 

 

How to be strange

Laugh

I once read a statistic – and I can't remember the exact figures that were quoted to me – that the odds are several trillion-to-one that someone could be born with the same genetic code as yours. Which, effectively, means that you are absolutely unique. There will never be another person with your temperament, character, experiences and personal gifts until God goes to sleep for good. 

However humdrum or unhappy your life might be at the moment you are a special person. You have unique experiences and perceptions that no one else will ever have. And it doesn't matter whether you have a humdrum life, or whether you suffer from the delusion that you are a failure. Nor does it matter if other people fail to appreciate just how different you really are. Just get on with the task of becoming the person you were always meant to be. Or, as I advised in my last article – cultivate your weirdness.

One way to do that is to start following what your personal genius wants you to do. Another is to break free of your personality. But there are other ways, and I shall write about each of them:

  • Be playful with the truth.
  • Become an expert at least one thing.
  • Break away from slavery.

 Be playful with the truth

I don't mean play with the truth (meaning: tell lies). I mean: telling the truth so straightforwardly that you make people laugh. Even telling the raw truth, just as you see it, is often amusing, as well as fascinating. As a rule, saying shocking things about yourself works best, but you can do the same for life, god, other people, or about anything else you like. As Bernard Shaw once said, telling the raw truth will be taken by most people as an outrageously witty thing to do.

Some examples:

1. Abraham Lincoln was once heckled at a rally and accused of being 'two-faced'. Lincoln (who was famously ugly) replied: 'If I had two faces do you think I would be wearing this one?'

2. Oscar Wilde was once listening to a rather vain artist who was complaining that the critics never wrote about him and that there must be 'a conspiracy of silence' against him. 'What should I do, Oscar?' he asked. 'Join it' said Wilde. 

3. I once met a woman at a party who told me that her husband was so depressed that he had given up his job and spent most of the day in bed. I also learnt that she had gone back to work to pay all the bills while at the same time looking after their four children, running the home, and dealing with his moods. When I asked: 'Don't you get depressed too?' She replied, satirically: 'Me? Oh I don't have time to get depressed."

Einstein is a pretty good example of how an 'ordinary' person came to seem more and more interesting to others. Although it took him a long time to get there. He was a failure at school and dropped out when he was 16. One of his teachers even wrote on his school report that he was probably retarded. From thereon he lead a dreamy, secluded, life as a University academic, his theories and himself more or less unknown to most people until he was 41, when he suddenly became famous. Therafter, his eccentricities and sayings became the stuff of legend. Here is one of my favourite stories about him: one that illustrates his personal humility, and his sense of mischief, as well as his playfulness with the truth.

One day, while Einstein was on a speaking tour, his chauffeur, who often sat at the back of the hall during his lectures waiting to take him home, remarked that he could probably give the lecture himself, having heard it so many times. Thinking it over, Einstein decided to give it the test and switched places with him. As he suspected would happen, no one knew who he was or what he looked like, and the chauffeur went on to give a flawless lecture on Relativity. Things only went wrong near the end when he was asked a question he couldn't answer. The driver pointed to Einstein, sitting at the back of the hall, and said:

'The answer to that question is so simple even my driver could answer it."

 

 

Why it’s ok to be a bit weird

Weird

When I was a teenager one of my recurring worries was whether I would ever be normal. In the 1970s being 'normal' seemed to mean the exact opposite of what I was doing at the time: living on my own (and liking it that way), being on the dole, writing poetry, reading philosopy, worrying about the meaning of life, and consuming too many drugs.

Normal people, I was told, were contented with life, unlike me. They were also good at making their minds up early what job they wanted to do and sticking at it until they made lots of money. In fact, being normal, as far as I could tell, meant spending lots of time thinking about money, making it, and then spending lots more time thinking about how to spend it. So all the people I secretly admired were skilled shoppers, and bang-on-the-mark about the right clothes to wear, the best car to buy and the newest restaurants to book.

Fashion

Back in 1976 when I was having this weird phase which still hasn't come to an end yet, that meant wearing baggy high-waisted trousers, platform shoes, and flowery shirts with big collars worn with a safari-jacket. To go with the moustache, huge side-burns and and big sunglasses that were de rigueur for normals. Which fitted neatly with the Ford Capris parked outside the Lee Ho Fook at the less grubby end of Croydon High Street. 

I could, just about, cope with the fact that I was a drop-out who didn't have any money and not the least idea how to spend it and make myself look normal. But (and I am being quite truthful here) what was more disturbing to my sanity was the fact that all the well-adjusted 20-somethings I knew were getting far more sex than I was, and were planning to get wed to one of their sexual partners, buy a two-bedroomed house, and make some more money. But the thought of having endless sex on demand made normality sound quite attractive. It was only later I discovered that many normals don't, in fact, do good sex.

But weddings were a turn off because weirdos like me aren't very good at settling down to live in the same house, with the same person, doing the same job all the time. And the thought of living in New Malden for the rest of my life sounded like a prison sentence.

So being a bit weird gave me a more interesting life than might otherwise have been the case.

Next up, I will be writing about how you can cultivate the strangeness in you – and become still more interesting than you are now.