Killer ways to stop negative thinking

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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.

The brain and addictions

Addict1

This is the start of a new series on addictions.

Addictions to alcohol, to heroin, to cocaine, to mephedrone, cannabis, ketamine and pain-killers. There are also addictions to (inappropriate) sex, gambling and to junk food. I have worked with all of these over the years and, initially, found them tough to work with. But I have found an approach that is successful, which I will share with my readers in a later article.

But firstly it is important to understand how addictions get established. In the brain.

Three key points to bear in mind before you read on are that addictions are created by a) changes in dopamine levels, b) obsessions created in Headmind in the pre-frontal lobes and c) a loss of emotional connection through Bodymind.

From one point of view – the Bodymind view – the brain is a superbly engineered chemical factory. Chemicals for growth, chemicals for energy creation, chemicals for digestion and metabolism, chemicals for defence against infection, chemicals for tissue repair, chemicals that activate the muscles, and chemicals for emotions, mood, sensation and so on.

Some of these chemicals are simple protein chains called peptides, which act as messengers to other areas in the body such as the immune system, while others are more complex, such as the hormones that lock to particular glands further down from the brain (adrenalin, for example) and the neuro-transmitters (such as dopamine) that work on the central nervous system within the brain itself.

Hold fast to the fact that all chemicals are ‘drugs’, just as all drugs are chemicals. Meaning, that they influence brain function. In that sense even oxygen is a drug.

Dopamine is an interesting drug because Bodymind uses it to tell you whether or not one course of action will be more satisfying than the alternative. For example, if you are faced with a choice between doing the garden now and watching tv your body might use dopamine to tell you to do the garden now if you have a passion for it or it might tell you to watch tv if one of your favourite films is on. In this connection it is important to bear in mind that dopamine mimics your passion. If your long-term desire is to write good blog articles then you are more likely to write one instead of going to the pub. The important point here is that a dopamine rush will support you when you decide to go for goals that are important to you rather than short-term distractions (but see below for some information on how this can go wrong as addictions develop).

The fact is that some Headmind-based obssessions (or ‘cravings’ if you will) – particularly those for alcohol, cocaine and heroin – disrupt Bodymind’s finely-tuned reward system.

Using hard drugs like alcohol triggers an explosion in Dopamine levels and when Bodymind notices this it damps down the production of Dopamine in order to restore balance. As Dopamine levels drop below the norm (typically the day after drug abuse) the person experiences tedium, apathy, lethargy and numbness. This, in turn, is interpreted by Headmind as a need to take more of the drug. Dopa Which leads to an escalating cycle of abuse-depletion-cravings-increased abuse and increased cravings. In time, this leads to a state in which the individual obtains no relief whatever from the original drug and goes on to try other drug combinations. Which is why many addicts are frequently addicted to two or more drugs at the same time.

The Brain scans reproduced here illustrate the difference in Dopamine depletion between four groups of addicts and normal controls. The reddish-yellow scans on the left are normal, while the weaker, greenish scans on the right are abnormal, showing up that Dopamine receptor activity is much reduced. In sex and gambling addictions the same phenomenon will appear on a slightly weaker scale.

Although these addictions have a catastrophic effect on the central nervous system they are reversible. Dopamine levels can be restored over a few weeks with abstinence. But to achieve that changes in thinking are required and a re-connection to Bodymind. And I will write about those when I describe the cure.

 

 


6 ways to get rid of an addiction

Brainaddict

In my last post – What Everybody ought to know about Addictions – I explained how addictions work. In this article I am going to describe how you can get rid of your addictions (if you really want to).

1. Break your slavery to the Dragon.

The Dragon is a creature who works like an Internal Control Freak. It tells you when to use, how to use, where to use, who to use with and why you should never stop. Some Addictions can seem overwhelming but they are only so because we secretly feed them our own power. Like I said in the last article, Attention is your Dragon’s fertiliser; while Inattention is its weedkiller.

The simplest way out of an Addiction is to live as if you never had one (this is easier than you might think so long as you ignore the Inner Voice – see below).

2. Reduce the power of the Inner Voice

The Dragon (i.e. your Addiction) works through a seductive Inner Voice that appears to know all the answers. Many people who hear the advice given in No. 1. (above) say things like ‘I wish I knew how!’ or ‘I wish it were that easy!’ The reason they find addictions difficult to break is due to the power of the Addictive Voice. Here are some ways to break free from it:

a) Doing something that is the polar opposite of the craving the Inner Voice counsels you to obey

b) Change the Inner Voice over to the Voice of an Idiot.

Listen to the Voice but this time use the accents and tone of someone you consider to be an Idiot.

c) Associate the Voice with someone (or something) very boring

There are endless ways in which you can mess around with the Addictive Voice. Using a voice that puts you to sleep has worked for quite a few of my clients.

3 Reduce opportunities for gratification

Like I said in No. 1 (above) the Dragon feeds on attention. The less you go along with the craving the weaker it gets. Here are some ways to do that:

a) Increase the amount of time between one indulgence and the next. If you consume every day then make it every other day. If you consume every hour then make it every other hour. If you drink alchohol continuously (for example) then have a soft drink between each consumption.

b) Delay consumption. For example, if you think you need a gamble, then go for a walk/talk to a good friend/carry on working for the next 15 minutes or so (you can do this again and again and again…).

c) Avoid situations where temptation could kick in.

Most addictions are tediously predictable. They involve the same substances, in the same quantities, with the same people, in the same places, at the same time of day. If you avoid those places, people and times then you are less likely to use. Period.

d) Stay busy.

Put it the other way around: if you have time to indulge then you are not busy enough. Or maybe you haven’t found something better to do (see No. 7 – below).

4 Go to the extreme.

This is the one I would recommend least. One of the few wrong statements William Blake ever made was that ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” It doesn’t. The road of excess leads to degradation. But it has become something of a truism that drug addicts and alcholics only turn around and give up when they reach the gutter and there is something in that. But do you need to lose your health, your job, your money, your relationship and your self-respect before you make that decision?

5 Associate gratification with something disgusting.

This is a less dangerous version of No. 4 and is based on reconditioning. For example, a teenager can give up drinking after one bad hangover; someone who is sexually promiscuous can reform quickly after getting a dose of the clap.

But you don’t have to go in for misfortunes in order to reform. Instead, dwell insistently on the way you look to others when you self-indulge. Moments when you were degrading, juvenile, bloated, repulsive, ill, contemptible, etc. Or real-life experiences: in jail, in the gutter, in bed with someone you didn’t want to be with, getting fired, etc.

6. Rediscover your passion.

In a famous quote Gregory Bateson, the Anthropologist, once said:

The alcoholic’s problem is not alchohol but sobriety.’

What he was referring to was a variation on my theme that people who become addicts are frequently bored. They get bored because they have too much time on their hands. And they have too much time on their hands because they have given up on their Personal Genius. Meaning they aren’t doing enough to engage their energy, their passion, their mission in life.

In the long run addictions are a substitute for the life you were meant to live.

Don’t let it happen to you.

What everybody ought to know about Addictions

Crack-addict This is the first in two articles about Addictions. The next one – 6 ways to remove Addictions – will appear next week.

In order to eliminate an Addiction you first need to understand how it works. When you see how an Addiction controls you then you are in a position to exercise Awareness over it. From that position you can start to sabotage it.

Human beings can get addicted to almost anything: sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, alcohol, food, weight loss, gambling, therapy, attention-seeking, shopping, stealing, wrist-slashing, surgery (think Michael Jackson), relationships and the internet. Most of what follows applies to Alcohol addiction but most of my observations equally well apply to other bananas.

The first thing to realise is that Addictions are actually obsessions. Obsessions work through tunnel vision, making the problem more important than it actually is. The key to breaking addictions is to break out of the inertia, habit and routine that comes with the addiction and connect back to Bodymind and the wider world.

Addictions are created and maintained in Headmind through a dominating Inner Voice. This Inner Control Freak can be incredibly powerful as well as seductive. It says things like:

‘Go on. You deserve it…’

‘Just the one won’t harm you…’

‘No one will know…’

‘The alternative is just too boring…’

‘You can’t make it through the night without a drink…’

‘It’s no use resisting you know you’re going to have one…’

The more you listen to the voice and follow its commands the stronger it gets. I call this ‘feeding the dragon’. The Dragon started off as a worm but grew and grew until it had you in its tentacles. Attention is its fertiliser. Disobeying it (or laughing at it/ignoring it) is its weedkiller.

If you do allow the Dragon to get a hold on you then your original liking will first turn into a habit. I have worked with many addicts over the past 20 years and it’s just weird how predictable they are. They will use the same beverages, in the same quantities, with the same people, at the same places, at the same times, every day of their lives. But it is easy to break a habit: provided you have something better to replace it with (see next article).

Once a habit turns into an Addiction (meaning that the Dragon has started to control you instead of you controlling it) at that point the problem becomes part of your Personality. Meaning that you start to define yourself as a person who is a slave to something else. This process is helped along by Alcoholics Anonymous and other ‘experts’ who use labels like ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Drug Addict’, ‘Sex Addict’, ‘Kleptomaniac’, ‘Bulimic’, ‘Narcissist’, etc. Labels like these can induce pathology and keep you in a bad place you no longer wish to be in. Drop the labels and change your personality and you will be free again.

The next thing to understand about an Addiction is that it’s not all in the mind. That there is a biological basis for the craving which is relatively easy to understand. So here goes.

When Bodymind notices that you are drinking in large quantities on a regular basis it also notices that the alcohol is depleting the brain of GABA – a neurotransmitter which regulates alertness. And when that happens it seeks to compensate by increasing GABA production. The net result will leave you feeling restless, agitated and uncomfortable. And Headmind – via your Inner Dragon – will interpret that problem as a cue for another drink….which means that, once again, you are feeding that Inner Dragon.

After a while even Headmind starts to realise that the Addiction is creating fresh problems. Like social exclusion, failed relationships, unemployment, crime, financial disaster, sexually transmitted disease, and persistent unhappiness. So it will start to worry about what happens next. But worry won’t solve anything – it just confirms your slavery. But more on that in my next article.