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Monday, April 12, 2010

You CAN Stop Worrying

It occurred to me that it might be helpful to post some of my mind exercises on my blog .

Here is the first one. I call this exercise “THIS IS NOT AN OPTION” It’s an exercise I use over and over. It works every time. And, of course, due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, the more I use the exercise, the stronger the neural pattern is, and the more available the exercise is when I need it. The exercise is now linked physically in my brain to most of my habitual negative thoughts so that when the thoughts start nagging at me, the “THIS IS NOT AN OPTION” exercise sparks up in my brain. Let me explain.

One time I stopped myself in the middle of a really negative, painful mind rant. I can’t remember what the anxious worry was all about. This is typical about mind rants. Things that seem so important at the moment are usually nothing but habitual fears making another pass through our brain to see if we will take the bait. Then, of course, after a couple of hours of anxious worrying, we can get a good depressive episode going.

Why do we worry? It's our bodyguard brain's way of keeping us safe. We need the capacity to worry so we can see real dangers ahead. But we can't let our thug bodyguard of a brain do its thuggery without some intelligent oversight. We need a captain of the bodyguards--us. It isn’t as if we could do anything about these fears at the moment. If we could do something, we’d do it and be thinking about what we were doing , and not be worrying about what we were thinking

Anyway, I stopped myself in mid-worry with this thought: THIS IS POINTLESS! Funny that I didn’t think of such a perfectly obvious thing before--that thinking a negative, painful thought is the world’s most pointless activity

I pursued this new thought, which I later realized is a great path out of my anxious worry. I thought to myself: There is absolutely no good thing that can come from thinking this thought. There is absolutely no good reason to think these terrible things. Even if these things are all true, it does me no good, and it does nobody else any good, for to me to think them. Thinking these things means I am doing self-focused thinking. Self-focused thinking is the path to depression and the road to Hell.

Why should I keep thinking that I feel bad? There is no earthly reason to think such a thought. Therefore I will not think such a thought. Instead of thinking ‘I feel terrible’, I will think ‘I am feeling better and better, better and better.’ Instead of thinking my child is hurting I will think ‘my child is getting better and better.’ Instead of thinking ‘I am going bankrupt,’ I will think, ‘the money is coming. The money is coming.’ Instead of thinking ‘The house is a mess’ I will think, ‘The house is getting cleaner and cleaner.’”

This is not a housekeeping exercise or a new-age way to financial success. This is a mindkeeping exercise. This exercise is to sweep away the pain and precursors to depression that are caused by anxious worry and stressful thinking. The mind can only think one thought at a time. Our bodyguard mind can’t think its habitual anxious thought if we insist on thinking some other non-anxious thought. We just need to get going and think it.

We can outsmart the mind and easily get it to think our thought. The only hard thing is to actually do it. Well, there is one other hard thing. The other hard thing is to REMEMBER that we don’t have to think the bodyguard mind’s habitual thought. That’s the bad news. The good news is that once you do intrude your own thought in on the mind’s worryng, you form a neural pattern that remains in your memory system. Each time you use this rational line of thinking, the neural pattern gets stronger and stronger.

Anybody is smarter than their own bad thoughts. Oh, sure, if we are going to cower in fright, and be a helpless victim to our own minds, our thoughts will pin us to the wall and depression will gun us down without mercy. Why show ourselves to depression at all?

We need to remember that depression is only in the subcortex, the feeling part of the brain, and depression is never in the neocortex, the thinking part of the brain.We can brainswitch from the subcortex to the neocortex any time we want to by thinking any neutral, non-emotional thought.

So why not keep out of depression’s way (the subcortex) by escaping to the neocortex, where depression can’t go. All we have to do is follow a line of thinking that is rational, cognitive, or even nonsensical. Any kind of non-emotional thinking sparks up neural activity in the neocortex and lessens neural activity in the subcortex.

If we brainswitch for a few minutes, by thinking non-emotional thoughts, we’ll be up in the neocortex while depression, stress, and anxious worry will be down there in the subcortex all by themselves, without us. When anxious worry starts eating at us, we can say to ourselves, “THIS IS NOT AN OPTION.

1 comment:

Liana said...

Great post again AB, thankyou. I actually came up with a similar mantra I call them a few weeks ago when suicidal thoughts were prevalent. Again. I made a pact that "suicide is not an option". The thoughts stopped. Anyway, I'm going to buy your books especially the brainswitch one. I have a sneaking suspicion I may read "Depression is a choice"(borrowed from the library) in 20007 when I was in a major depression and looking for answers. Tho because of where I was at(depressed, in victim mode and not willing to look at your perspective), I didn't finish it.