Category Archives: Negative thinking

Reprogramming your brain: 9th World Tapping Summit

Spring greetings to my readers!

Sorry for not being in touch for a while. Things have been rather busy in my life and work lately and I fell behind with my monthly blogs. I promise to amend this in the near future, but in the meantime I want to draw your attention to one very good free online event: the 9th Annual Tapping World Summit:

http://www.thetappingsolution.com/2017tws/reg/afpd/new-access.php

As you may know EFT tapping is one of the very effective tools that help us ‘rewire’ our brain, get rid of unhelpful habits and thought patterns, heal our bodies and thus improve our lives. This is possible because our brain possesses the quality of neuroplasticity and if we find the way of communicating with it in the right manner all kinds of amazing things become possible. EFT tapping is one such ‘language.’

The Tapping Summit runs from 27 February to 10 March, with two presentations every day (that also contain tap-along sessions). Replays are available for 24 hours. To register and catch up on the first day (including science behind EFT: interview with Dr. Dawson Church) go here:

http://www.thetappingsolution.com/2017tws/reg/afpd/new-access.php

With warmest wishes,

Ludmila

From the therapy room: Beyond bad feelings

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In my previous blog ‘What scripts are running us’ I invited you to challenge your conceptions of how things should be. We have so many firm ideas about all kinds of things! Yet so many of them are not our original thoughts, but have been ‘downloaded’ from our society – through parents, school, mass media, church, books, traditions, etc. Some of these ideas may align with your deeper feelings and experiences and some not, but how can we tell one from the other without questioning them?

Questioning old ideas and our habitual approaches to life is a big part of my therapy work. I challenge my clients and my clients challenge me. That’s why it never gets boring! And today I want to share with you one such conversation that I had with my client Guy (the name has been changed for the sake of confidentiality). It began during a session and continued via emails. Hope you will find it as interesting and stimulating as I did.

G. I have been feeling kind of flat this week. And I also feel strange now, a bit panicky… It worries me a little… I thought I was making good progress and was getting better, and then it got worse again.

L. You know, somehow the words ‘progress’ and ‘getting better’ jar my ear… It sounds like you are constantly measuring where you are, according to a certain scale, instead of simply living and taking each experience on its own…

G. Well we’re taught from an early age to strive to be ‘better’ always, to ‘improve…’ like we’re on a mountain relentlessly moving to the summit… that’s where our eyes always are, rather than on the ground beneath our feet! We need more flexible criteria. Maybe we could spiral around the mountain, or perhaps head downwards to the base if we want more stability, or even stop in the middle somewhere for a balance and different views. All places have their advantage!

L. Well – if we think about it – ‘better’ or ‘worse’ is a convention, a relative thing, just as what we designate as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ feelings. Why, for instance, feeling sad is ‘bad,’ while feeling ‘joyful’ is ‘good’? Feeling sad may be uncomfortable and heavy, true, but is it ‘bad’? When we apply labels they obscure the experience itself, stop us from exploring it and from seeing its value.

G. I think the whole structure of the way we see the world as adults is based on our attempt to hold on to ideas or concepts we have been taught are ‘good.’ And we try to get away from those we have been taught are ‘bad.’ Out of which emerges a corresponding struggle with our feelings. This is simply conditioning and represents a movement away from the experience itself. As small children we saw the world as flowing and whole… I think we need to try and somehow return to this state, coming through all we’ve learnt back to a new balance.

L. Yes! In a way it’s like going back to a pre-verbal stage where we experience things immediately. Marking things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ only comes with the acquisition of language, which is a conventional structure – limited and limiting (while also useful and necessary). I believe we need to become really clear that ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘better’ or ‘worse’ are just labels belonging to a particular framework of references. We tend to associate comfortable feelings with ‘good,’ and uncomfortable with ‘bad,’ but this is totally arbitrary!

G. Can we regard our state in any moment like an interesting natural phenomenon such as the weather, and become really fascinated by all its manifestations, and unexpected changes, or even unexpected stability at times… because really there’s no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ weather… those notions always depend on your viewpoint… for example dark clouds and heavy rain might be ‘bad’ for a tourist, but very ‘good’ for the plants in your garden!

L. My favourite analogy is the sea: it can be rough and wavy or still and translucent. But we don’t talk about it as being ‘better’ in one state than in the other. (Unless we are fishermen for whom ‘good’ sea would mean ‘easy for navigation’/’favourable for fishing’ or whatever term they use.)

G. When we truly integrate the feeling that ‘there’s no better or worse’ it actually frees us to have criteria for ‘better or worse’ when required – as is sometimes necessary to live in the world.

L. It is a valid point: we need to have a ‘better or worse’ criterion to get by in daily life.

G. But to integrate (or live) the feeling that ‘there’s no better or worse’ this feeling itself has to be ‘no better or worse’ than anything else.

L. I am not sure I understand you here…

G. It’s difficult to express… let’s take ‘acceptance.’ We can say we’re going to accept everything about ourselves but to really do that we also have to accept our own feelings or emotions of ‘non-acceptance’ about ourselves. We can say that everything we feel is necessary and fitting but we only fully do that by somehow also seeing as fitting our feelings or emotions of things being wrong and not fitting! This is important, otherwise we can get hooked into yet another ‘better’ way of being, that of ‘accepting’, and be back in a rut again.

L. Yes, I see what you mean now: we need to also embrace our own feelings of non-acceptance as they too are integral part of our existence and experience. From what I know about Buddhism, it encourages precisely this kind of approach: accepting or rather witnessing without rejection any state in which we find ourselves. Even if it is uncomfortable and difficult. Allowing it to be and being ok with it.

G. Yes .. but even if we think we’ve got really good at this ‘non-rejection’ thing, but suddenly find ourselves back again vehemently rejecting something, that’s exactly the point where, instead of hopelessness, if we’re really living this dialogue, we don’t reject that very ‘rejection’!

L. You are totally right and – well, yes – it is a challenge! And we can only meet it by learning to be compassionate towards ourselves.

Side effects of positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are widely promoted as a tool for personal development. They are being recommended to people for overcoming depression, anxiety or achieving success. The very word ‘positive’ suggests that it is something that is good for us and so the beneficial impact of ‘positive affirmations’ is generally taken for granted. So… could it be possible that positive affirmations may have a negative side effect? From my own experience and those shared with me by other people I will say that the answer is yes. Wait – don’t panic! If you have been using positive affirmations, please don’t think that it may have done you any permanent harm. Yet in order for them to be truly helpful in improving the quality of your life it is important to be aware of how they work and when using them may be counter-productive.

Positive affirmations are based on the idea that we can ‘rewire’ our brain by ‘feeding’ it with positive thoughts (instead of the ‘negative’ ones that we tend to chew on). This, in turn, is connected to the idea that our thoughts affect how we feel, both emotionally and physically. For example, if we feel scared of an exam or a job interview we may repeatedly say to ourselves ‘I am scared,’ ‘I am going to fail,’ ‘I am not good at job interviews,’ etc. And the more we repeat it the more panicky we feel, physically too as our body responds to the signals that our mind sends to it. This, of course, doesn’t help in dealing with an exam or a job interview successfully. So positive affirmations are designed to re-direct our thoughts, and subsequently, emotions towards the more optimistic and empowered state. But… there is a glitch…

And the glitch is: there is no smoke without fire! If we fear failing at a job interview or exam it is usually because we have experienced what felt like a failure before. It could have been a seemingly small event (like giving a wrong answer in the class), but it would have engendered a fear and mistrust in your abilities. If that hidden volcano of pain and fear continues to burn, it would be fruitless to try and dissipate the smoke. Or we will have to do so continuously, which is very energy consuming and draining. Have you ever tried telling yourself ‘I have many fulfilling relationships’ when your guts are screaming ‘I am horribly lonely!’? It takes a great force to stifle this scream. And it feels like doing violence to your self.

One of my clients compared his experience of using positive affirmations with building a glass palace. When a storm comes – the palace collapses. Here lies a risk of positive affirmations: very often they serve to mask the wounds that need healing first so that we could create the life we want. Just like a house needs a firm soil and strong foundation before we erect the walls and lay down the roof.

These are some of the more obvious ‘side-effects’ of ‘positive affirmations.’ But there are also problems at a deeper level. They concern our perception of our selves and the world, our authenticity and ability to embrace and accept ourselves and others for who we are. We make sense of our world by sorting things out into categories. Sometimes, however, our picture of the world becomes too simplistic as we divide things into ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ ‘black’ and ‘white,’ while ignoring the complexity and richness of life experiences.

For example, everybody feels angry from time to time. Yet if we think of ‘anger’ as ‘bad’ we may deny its presence in us by affirming ‘I am a peaceful person.’ But this doesn’t make our anger go away – it just prevents us from acknowledging it and dealing with it, which may cause quite a lot of damage to us and our relationships. Similarly, with sadness. If we insist on always feeling ‘happy’ we may overlook the whole areas in our lives that are far from being in perfect balance. Thus we may socialize and go out with a lot of people and not notice that we don’t have any real close friends…

Denying the so-called ‘negative’ feelings in ourselves also makes us judgemental towards other people. When we are overly self-critical we find it hard to forgive and empathise with people who do not live up to our standards. We also find it hard to forgive ourselves when we fall short of our self-ideal… And then we fear that others will not be able to forgive and accept us as we are. So we live hiding behind a façade, which precludes an authentic heart-to-heart connection.

I find it helpful to look at our emotions and passions as we look at the sea. We don’t say that the sea is ‘good’ when it is calm and ‘bad’ when it is stormy. We may admire the breaking foamy waves as we admire the silky stillness. There is beauty in both. And, similarly, there is beauty in the rich variety of our emotions. We need not fear them because they make us ‘bad’ – they simply make us human. Reaching deeper for humanity within us also helps us connect on a more profound level with other human beings. And where we perceive that our emotions spring from a wound, we can attend to it with patience and loving care and help it heal. It is only in parallel with the work of healing that we may use positive affirmations – not in stead of it. This is my deep conviction.

What are we thinking? Becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions

In my last blog I have explored how our emotions affect our life – how they influence what we do and do not do, how do we respond to other people and to the challenges that life presents. But what about our thoughts? Where do they come into play?

Thoughts are as important in shaping our life as emotions are, and the two are closely interconnected as thoughts are often emotionally charged. Sad or anxious thoughts would make us feel sad or anxious, and our body will respond accordingly: we may experience heaviness in the chest, a lump in the throat or butterflies in the tummy.

Thoughts also have a suggestive power. If we repeat the same thought over and over again, our subconscious mind incorporates it as truth. For example, if we are always saying to ourselves “I am useless, I cannot do anything right,” our subconscious mind comes to believe that this is true. And here is the trap! Once the subconscious mind “believes” in something it begins to rule us according to its faith. And thus it may cause us a lot of grievance. It may stop us from venturing to do new things because “we are not good at anything” or from developing fulfilling relationships because “nobody cares about us.”

So how do we take over control?

An important step is to become aware of our thoughts. Developing self-awareness is indeed the key for personal growth. So I would suggest: begin to notice your thoughts in a non-judgmental way, with open curiosity. Simply become interested: “What am I thinking?” Of course, hundreds of thoughts cross our mind every minute and it is not possible to note each one. But as you start observing you will notice that there are some thoughts that occur over and over again. How many of them are positive and how many are negative? As you “catch” a negative thought in your mind’s net consider what has triggered it. Is it a response to a concrete situation or is it a generalization of a sort? Suppose a colleague did not return your “hello” and you think with a habitual sigh “Nobody notices me.” But is it really so? Maybe you are forgetful of a stranger who held a door for you an hour earlier, or of a friend who came to visit when you were ill?

If you start witnessing your thoughts you will be amazed how many of them are automatic responses. A friend of mine has called them an “answering machine.” The “answering machine” kicks in every time when something triggers our stored response. By becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions we gain a greater control over them and a greater freedom to choose our responses. Sometimes, however, certain persistent negative emotions or thoughts may be a result of an emotional trauma that cannot be alleviated simply through an act of observation. In this case it would be recommended to work through it with the help of a therapist.

To get yourself into habit of monitoring your thoughts you may use a weekly thoughts calendar, similar to the emotions calendar that I have suggested in the previous blog. You may want to make a use of the template that I created and uploaded on the Downloads page (www.Soultap.co.uk/downloads). Feel free to change the suggested examples of thoughts to your own. If you need help please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will be happy to assist you with creating your person-tailored calendar.

I hope you find this information useful and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and insights.

With warm wishes,

Ludmila