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emotional freedom technique

Carve A New Path In Your Mind!

by Robert McEntee on December 21, 2014

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Lloyd Jones “Spiritual Depression”

Much of what I have written so far centers around the idea that we serve ourselves best when we focus on what we want and minimize any negative mental energy. Self control of the mind is our greatest survival or transformational ability, yet is often much easier said than done. So now I will give you several easy, proven techniques that do just that when used consistenly and properly.

In Nightingale Conant’s Magical Concentration, author Ed Straacher offered some novel techniques for erasing unpleasant or distracting ideas from the mind. These are best employed as soon as you find yourself playing home movies on the movie screen in your head of say a poor performance. He suggests recreating the scene as a cartoon image in the minds eye, distorting the imaginary voices perhaps by greatly increasing or decreasing the pitch or whatever may seem funny to you.

The offending character can be pictured as a clown who gets hit with a pie or other such nonsense. The scene can be played forwards and backwards rapidly and soon any emotional attachment will diminish as you become desensitized to the previously bothersome recollection. As a side note, Mr. Straacher is obviously a smart guy and perhaps worth listening to; among many other things, he trained in chess under Russian pros who taught him to play blindfolded!

Dennis Tirch, Phd ., author of The Compassionate-Mind Guide: Using Compassion Focused Therapy to Calm Worry, Panic and Fear refers to a similar technique as Cognitive Diffusion, which is taught in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Since it’s hard to just stop rehashing an unpleasant event once it’s embedded in your consciousness, this technique can quickly stop the negative memory associations and remove the emotional weight. Simply repeating the offending words associated with the unpleasantness over and over for at least a minute, renders the unpleasant thought to just some sounds without the negative connotations. The words and associated images can then be reframed in a more positive context.

The increasingly popular Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping, also involves repeating fears or worries out loud while tapping on strategic points on the hands, head and chest. You can think of it as acupuncture combined with cognitive therapy. Once the intensity of the fear or worry lessons, the statements gradually transition to more positive ones and end with essentially opposite statements than were used at the commencement of the exercise.

This shares similarities to Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy or flooding, frequently used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. An example of this would be a therapist gradually exposing a germaphobe to dirt, etc., while not allowing them to immediately wash as they would normally. Both the level of dirtiness and time before washing is increased as the anxiety decreases.

The commonality among all these techniques is that they counter-intuitively overwhelm the senses with the offending concept until the habitual response mitigates. Similar to how if you are told not to think about pink elephants to use a popular example, most will ironically find that they can’t keep that strange image out of their mind. So the opposite also appears true, when the mind is purposefully filled with a repetitive idea, eventually it will naturally seek to focus elsewhere.

Pattern interrupt is another term referring to bringing someone back to present moment awareness where they have more control over their reactions. Perhaps the simplest of these methods is to leave a rubber band around the wrist and snap it whenever the offending thought enters the mind. You can also have a stand by thought, perhaps of a great personal achievement, you always substitue for negative memories.

Other methods include writing a negative thought down and symbolically destroying it, often used when thinking about one’s limitations, or picturing yourself in a “safe room”  whose doorway blocks any negative thoughts from entering.

The trick is to utilize the favored technique at the first instance of the thought and then immediately focus on more harmonious ideas. It’s analogous to the way you would immediately change the radio or TV channel when unwanted programming is tuned in. In other words, don’t visit the bad neighborhoods of your mind!

A number of studies have shown that approximately 3 to 4 weeks of new behavior is required to replace a previously conditioned response or habit. Picture an old wagon wheel road, where creating a new path takes time for the  previous tracks to dissipate and the new impressions to deepen and last.  Since it’s impossible to think about nothing, these methods enable the mind to shift gears taking you to a better destination. I’d love to hear about any results you have with these or similar techniques!