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.
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.
Original 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).
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!
(Anglo-Saxon swear words are particularly useful here as those add force to your new attitude).
In 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.