Cognitive Traps – Repeating the Past

Do you ever find yourself experiencing similar issues over and over again – even when you are trying not to? Do you sometimes feel at the mercy of something you cannot quite put your finger on? Have you sought therapy for these issues and found zero relief? Coming soon…a program to help you break out of the vicious cycles and repeating patterns of failure, heartbreak, and pain. Schemas are maladaptive patterns of thinking and behavior that are based on faulty beliefs. There is no magic to changing them…it takes work, the magic is in being free of them and it starts here!

If you are interested in participating in this 12 week coaching session which I guarantee will provide you more insight and help than you have EVER gotten, please send me an email…there are only a few spots available for this life-changing experience. I am not given to marketing bluster…this is real….I am thrilled to be able to share this with you. This will enable you to work with your therapist or coach with success – maybe for the first time.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Loving Yourself.

For most people, it always seems easier to “get” someone to love you than it is to contemplate the difficult concept of loving yourself.  After all, you know yourself from the inside out and have a complete catalogue of every error, mistake, humiliation, short-coming, defeat, loss etc.  You are not alright in your mind and you know that the right person is the missing piece to the puzzle and precisely what you need to make it all better.

This is how most of us think and we consider ourselves “lucky” to find someone who plugs those interior holes – at least for a while.  They keep us in a happy place, rewarded with distance from our wounds as long as this magical person is around.  Once they disappear either through breakup or death, we are left with our broken selves and the pain is worse than ever. 

Wouldn’t it be wise to spend some time looking inward and loving the creation you are?  You are unique and wonderful (we are all flawed) so embrace yourself fully.  Work to improve yourself and know that you are growing in wisdom and love each day.

Today, celebrate who you are, embrace yourself in a loving manner and begin changing your inner dialogue to one that is supportive for you.  You will be surprised at how this changes you.  Give it a try – let me know how it works.

Summer Vacation is Ovah (Over outside Massachusetts)!

Here is New England, summer is the sweetest of seasons and terribly precious!  We had such a long cold winter this year and summer swept me completely off my feet.  During my absence, I have been studying and evolving my thinking tremendously and have so much exciting information to share with you, dear readers.

August is upon us and it is time to get back to school and back to work.  The tomatoes are ripening and the cucumber plants beginning to fade – all of which ensures that the golden season of autumn is closing in.  Autumn in New England brings cerulean skies and flutters of russet, gold and scarlet leaves that slip from their trees to cover the earth in a crisp, rustling blanket. 

I do love all of New England’s season, each one is special in it’s own way.  As summer begins to fade, I hope that you join in on our Facebook Page which will debut shortly.  We are a community of individuals who care about how the mind works and how to use it.  Viewers of this blog come from around the world and I hope you will soon take your mute button off and join in the conversation.  I am back in gear and this is going to be an awesome journey!  Oh, and I have some exciting news to share with you all! 

I wish you peace and joy!

In the meantime, wherever in the world you are, be sure to say hello!  For today, I leave you with a classic New England Recipe for this time of year – Lobster Corn Chowder.  If you can get to New England anytime soon, do it!  This is the best time to come!

Lobster Corn Chowder
 
(Ina Garten for the Food Network)Lobster and Corn Chowder
 

Ingredients

3 (1 1/2-pound) cooked lobsters, cracked and split
3 ears corn
For the stock:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup cream sherry
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup dry white wine
For the soup:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound bacon, large-diced
2 cups large-diced unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (2 medium)
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups diced celery (3 to 4 stalks)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup cream sherry

Directions

Remove the meat from the shells of the lobsters. Cut the meat into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve the shells and all the juices that collect. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs separately.

For the stock, melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the lobster shells and corncobs. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, cream, wine, lobster shells and their juices, and corn cobs and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes. (I move the pot halfway off the heat.)

Meanwhile, in another stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the bacon for 4 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the same pot and saute for 5 minutes. When the stock is ready, remove the largest pieces of lobster shell and the corn cobs with tongs and discard. Place a strainer over the soup pot and carefully pour the stock into the pot with the potatoes and corn. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the cooked lobster, the chives and the sherry and season to taste. Heat gently and serve hot with a garnish of crisp bacon.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lobster-corn-chowder-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Platitudes and Attitudes – How to really change your life.

You see it a lot. All over the internet you can find piles of platitudes like the ones right here. Platitudes are oversimplifications often contain a grain of truth, but are trite and temporary encouragement that does nothing to effectively help you long term.

Be true to yourself.
Be yourself.
Be all that you can be!
Love is the answer.
Just do it!

They are so easy, these over simplifications, trite and unimaginative. To really improve yourself, you must begin with changing your thinking. No platitude or affirmation will do that. You must change your mind! Easy to say, but how do you do that?

Understanding how the mind works is a real challenge. It is human nature to look for the easy way, it is called cognitive conservatism and while it easier, it is also often less effective. Platitudes, slogans, affirmations, “daily thoughts” on Facebook or elsewhere, can bring momentary relief, but real change is elusive with these methods.

We share the basic machinery and functions of the mind, but each person has different data circulating and operating within and different experiences and innate tendencies can give us very different neural pathways. Therefore, a given stimulus can exact a profoundly different response from two different people. This is because the operating system itself and the perception of the data is different. This data is comprised of experiences, beliefs, thoughts and feelings, personality traits and inheritances that make up the inner workings of your mind and lay down those neural pathways. Additionally, if you really think about it, there are thoughts and there is the interpreter of the thoughts. Are you your thoughts? I didn’t think so, but you experience and interpret them.

Have you ever questioned your thoughts?

Thoughts come to you seemingly unbidden and tend to be accepted as fact. Thoughts are constantly bubbling up and whether we are awake or asleep our “24/7/365 until we die” mind is working. It is a bit radical but you can and should begin to question your mind. There are endless theories about where our thoughts come from.

One I like is family systems theory which suggests that each of us has an internal family made up of us at various ages/stages. Examples are the child, the rebellious teen, the adult etc. We also internalize the voices of others such as our parents, our grandparents our teachers. This means there are many voices in the average mind and thoughts can come from those internalized parts. With all due respect to psychologist Richard Schwarz, I am overly simplifying the concept, but you get the picture. Further, those parts can take roles such as the role of the persecutor and/or also the persecuted, the good child, the bad seed and many more forms. How many times do you hear those internalized voices/thoughts each day? Did you know that you can stop and question any thought?

One of the nice ways is to use a simple technique popularized by Byron Katie (a new age thought guru). Don’t be put off by the new age label, the technique is a good one.

There are four steps:
1) Ask your self if it is true.
2) Ask yourself if you can absolutely know that it is true.
3) How do you react, what happens when you do believe this thought?
4) Who would you be without the thought? Visualize yourself without the thought and the attitude it creates.

There is a 5th step, which I am omitting since it borders on a significant new age theory that is not meant for this post and not really necessary here. My 5th step would be to ask if this thought is helping your or hurting you and if you are better off with it or without it. The questioning process is important because the interpreter (you) takes control of the thought.

Humans have a tendency to anticipate and mind read in stressful situations. This often (but not always) helps us to avoid danger at times of high stress or immediate harm. However, in normal circumstances, our subconscious can be triggered into believing that there is imminent danger – even if it only to our precious ego. We then may resist curiosity and not dig for additional information and simply react by jumping to a conclusion.

Again, in times of high stress or danger, this may be appropriate, but it can also lead to people shooting innocent people who knock at their door. When we are confronted by challenges in our day to day life, we often get triggered into responding as though danger or harm were present. Why do we do this? One of the reasons is the way we talk to ourselves. Our subconscious is the reactor and if it hears us saying that something is “killing” us, it just may believe that this is so, thus you get an instantaneous reaction.

How many times are we sure we KNOW what someone else is thinking and/or what their motives are?

I’ll give you an example: The other day, I went to run an errand. As I backed out of my driveway I noticed that my mailbox was sadly bent. It had obviously been struck! Not only that, just a few hours earlier a paving truck has parked just about 20 yards away. I had seen them backing up onto my street. No one was anywhere to be seen. As I headed out on my errand and my mind went to work – I was angry. “How dare they!” I thought. After running my errand, I raced home to confront the miscreants. Still no one anywhere in sight. An hour or so later, as I headed out to my walk, I saw them packing up.

I decided just to be curious and I inquired of the foreman in a conversational manner. He was very polite and came to look at the mailbox with me. Obviously, someone had hit it we agreed, but there were no tire marks in the surrounding mulch and his equipment would have flatted it and left tire marks. We walked over to his crew and he asked them how far they had backed up – to confirm. They had not backed up that far – all three agreed. The foreman said he would have come and told me if they hit it…just what I would expect. I believed them – they did not seem evasive at all. I simply asked questions and my angst disappeared.

A couple of things happened here:
1) At first, I lost my curiosity and believed that I knew what had happened – this caused a reaction.
2) I did not absolutely know this (I hadn’t seen it happen).
3) My reactions when I believed this was a cause of stress and grief. I did not allow for other possibilities which I might have seen if I got curious.
5) I saw the thought that someone had damaged my mailbox I was infuriated – this is painful. I choose another thought since the mailbox needs to be replaced any way 🙂 and thus no angst.

So forget about platitudes, change your attitude into being curious about those thoughts. Don’t be afraid to keep the helpful ones and let go of the unhelpful ones. Take an example from your life and apply the four/five steps, you just might find yourself more open minded and at peace. Give it try. I would love to hear what you think.

Too Much Hacking makes Diane a Dull Girl!

What can I say? I found this today and just had to share the beauty of New England Nights. This is the work of a photographer from Lee, Maine, Aaron D. Priest. To me this is absolutely amazing. Hope you enjoy it! We will be back later today with more psych-hacking…..

Thoughts – The Cosmos within.

On the television show “Cosmos”, Neil deGrasse Tyson takes us on a fantastic journey into faraway realms outside of solar system. Here, at Psych-hacker, we explore realms deep in the inner world of our psyche. Let’s begin by examining our thoughts. What precisely are thoughts? Where do they come from and why do the create so much pain for us?

Thoughts often seem like a fluffy bunch of mind-candy or endless chatter that keeps us occupied inside while we experience what is going on outside. It’s like having a running commentary interpreting everything that you see and experience as you move through your life. This ongoing chatter is the voice of the inner interpreter. While some thoughts seem harmless, they are always shaping our reality and interpreting our experiences for us. So, let’s not search the “Cosmos” today, we have more important work to do within. Instead, we will tap into the secret world of your psyche where you live and create your life.

deepThoughts2

Many of us are thinking a lot these days. We are overstimulated by the information age and we live in a state of chronic anxiety striving to keep up with an endless flow of information – much of it low quality and irrelevant to our lives. News stories from around the globe, sensationalized tragedies and heartbreaking news events that are both titillating and, too often, pointless. Thousands of voices scream at us all day long and, as if that were note enough, there is the savage sucking sound of social media and countless other intrusions.

What are you thinking? No really, what are you thinking? Most of the time we are providing ourselves with an endless stream of horrors that fit our belief that the world is out of control, people suck and it’s every man or woman for themselves. Stressful? Not much really. I lie of course! The endless dangers of the world at large are magnified and the risks amplified and exaggerated. A mind on fear can be more destructive than a mind on anything else.

Have you ever feared your own mind more than the world at large? Are you less concerned with what others say than having to listen to a nagging, pessimistic mind that will endlessly replay your failures? Can you relate to this? When this happens you have become a prisoner of your own mind as your life begins to follow a narrowly scripted path dictated by fearful and limiting thoughts such as:

“Please don’t fail!” because if you do then I will BE a failure.”

“Please don’t fail! Because then everyone will SEE that I am a failure.”

“Actually, I already believe I’m a failure, so please don’t SHOW it!”

With a fear of, and a focus on failure, as a starting point, how can you ever hope to WIN?

Thoughts are indeed things. Whether you believe they can instantly manifest as some new age gurus espouse, one thing is true: Your thoughts precede your actions and your actions create your reality. Many of our thoughts are directed in that we are either thinking about the future or replaying the past. Thoughts come to us like an endless parade of mental billboards. I like to use the metaphor of clouds, so let’s play with this a bit. Thoughts are like clouds in many ways.

Big puffy white clouds often dot sunny blue skies even on the most glorious days. They drift across the sky moving quickly into and out of view just as some thoughts move into and out of our awareness. These clouds do not alter the day in anyway as the casually drift by, we notice them, but there is no impact.

Other clouds hint at and threaten rain dampening our spirits. They may never bring rain, but the mere threat causes us to alter our plans and to keep an eye on the sky. They erase our serenity keeping attention focused on the possibility of rain.

Still, other clouds are ominous warnings of impending storms. These clouds cause you to seek shelter and to hide helplessly hoping that they pass soon and without too much damage. Some actually bring storms – big storms – and we shiver when we see them and begin to fret over what might be coming. The more sinisiter clouds loom big and dark and we run from them or get caught up in their path. Once they have exploded their pent up energy they pass by leaving damage in their path. We all know those sinister thoughts, the outbursts they cause, the damage they do, the odd way we feel better after we have unleashed our fury on others. What were you thinking just before those clouds began to build?

These clouds, and the storms they create, feel so real that we never stop to question them and we are swept up into them. You can question your thoughts because unlike clouds they are generated in YOUR mind and live only in YOUR head. True, they can feel uncontrollable, real, truthful, as they arise unbidden from some swampy primordial part of our subconscious. These thoughts are generated by the beliefs you hold both conscious and unconscious.

The more unconscious the thought, the more dangerous and powerful it is because we cannot see a clear line between the thoughts and the hidden beliefs that generated it. This is because our operating system was programmed when we were young children unaware and unable to question what we were experiencing. Survival demanded that we adjust to the environment presented or possibly die. This is the beauty of the subconscious – it thinks faster than we consciously can and responds faster too; This can also be the danger of it too. As children, we are not able to know if our interpretations and thoughts were real – we felt fear and that was enough! The more fear that accompanied the insertion of the programming, the more tightly held the belief can be because deep fear creates trauma for our nervous system.

In short, most of us are operating our lives with programming we obtained as children. As adults, we can now question our thinking and find those thoughts that are not serving us in any way. Questioning a thought’s validity and value is the first step to reducing its hold on you. Changing beliefs often seems like impossible work, so I invite you to begin by questioning your thoughts. Take a few of your troublesome thoughts and begin looking at them and questioning them. Thoughts are either effective in that they help you or ineffective if they do not. Spend a little time look at your thoughts – Effective or ineffective?

It’s really quite simple, but why is it so hard?

self-acceptance

“To get along with yourself give yourself unconditional self-acceptance. Don’t make your worthiness as a person depend on your good performances. Accept yourself as “good” just because you are alive, human and unique – which you will always be until you die – whether or not you do well and whether or not you are approved by others.”

Albert Ellis, Ph.D.

Self-acceptance.

For most people self-acceptance may seem more achievable than self-love which can feel awkward, narcissistic and unattainable. It’s a radical idea for many; we live in a cultural of shame and self-loathing. In fact, self-loathing appears to be a cultural norm hidden under the cover of dysfunction, drugs, alcohol, anger and violence, anti-social behavior, social media addictions, celebrity worship, cosmetic surgery, diet addictions, drop out and withdrawal from society and a myriad of other forms. Have you been chasing the elusive magic wand of self-esteem?

Albert Ellis believes that the concept of self-esteem is a dangerous hoax. It encourages us to keep our lives on hold until we feel better about ourselves and to keep chasing something which does not exist. This belief creates an unhealthy state of dependency on something conditional and outside of ourselves.

We believe that if we take just one more workshop, follow one more guru, get one more insight, we will have arrived at this mythical place called “self-esteem”. Isn’t it time to stop the chase and accept yourself right now? If you are interested, please find at least 5 reasons why you are okay (maybe better than ok).

Mean World Syndrome – How not to let TV create your view of reality.

I came upon this tweet by Steve Handel at TheEmotionMachine.com. I confess, I had never heard of “Mean World Syndrome” or it’s opposite “Friendly World Syndrome”. For today, let me introduce my readers to the former. Please check out this post by Steve.

How to Overcome Mean World Syndrome

Self-Talk – Why the Hidden Conversation in Your Head Matters

Self-talk matters. What we say to ourselves influences our view of the world, the actions we take and the actions we don’t take, the quality of our relationships, whether we are happy or not, successful or not and so much more. We observe events. We interpret events.

We filter those events and process them through lenses known as our beliefs. Many of those beliefs came from others i.e. society, family and friends and many others. They also come from misinterpretations of experiences and events that happened a long time ago. Many are not logical and when scrutinized in the cold light of day (outside of your head)they do not hold up to logical reasoning and yet we let them become our reality. One reason for this is that many of our beliefs and interpretations were formed when we were very young. Our bodies may change and grow old, but sometimes our beliefs remain set in stone if we leave them unexamined. Too often we do not examine them even when they create havoc in our lives.

To summarize one more time: We observe events. We interpret and process events through our filters or beliefs. This is especially important since it creates our reality. Reality is highly subjective since each of us has beliefs that influence our interpretation of what happens to us and what we say to ourselves. The language we speak to ourselves is the most important of all as it constructs and reflects our reality.

Here is an example: Joe’s wife Penny tells him she is tired of him always leaving the toilet seat up at night. Penny says that every time she uses the potty at night, her posterior drops onto the cold hard porcelain. Penny has asked Joe many times not to leave the seat up, but Joe forgets. Penny believes that this is because Joe is an insensitive jerk and doesn’t listen to her or care that it upsets her. Joe is annoyed that Penny keeps finding fault with everything he does and sees her nagging as an attempt to control him. He will not allow anyone to do that. Penny and Joe are not speaking except in terse angry sound bites.

Observable Fact: Joe sometimes leaves the toilet seat up at night. He knows it bothers Penny, but he has trouble remembering when he’s half a sleep. (Self-talk: Joe wonders how he supposed to remember when he is half asleep. He wishes Penny were not such a nag.)

Observable Fact: Penny gets upset when Joe forgets and she receives a nasty middle of the night potty surprise. (Self-talk: Penny tells herself that Joe doesn’t care about her. Otherwise, he would not forget this and subject her to such discomfort.)

Observable Fact: Penny complains to Joe. (Self-talk – Penny tells herself if Joe really cared, he would make this effort, but he is an insensitive jerk. After all the things he has done for him, she tells herself, why can’t he do this small thing?)

Observable Fact: Joe rebuffs Penny’s complaint with anger and a few choice words. (Self-Talk – Feeling under attack, Joe tells himself it’s no big deal and Penny should put it down herself if it matters to her. She is not the boss of him and is always nagging him.)

Penny and Joe are at odds not so much because of the toilet seat, but because of their interpretation of events (including past events) and the meaning they have added to them. There is no conversation that is productive, just arguing and distance because each believes they have the facts. They are engaging in mindreading, projection and exaggeration. They use extreme words like every and always and never.

For Joe and Penny, reason has gone out the window and both are responding through highly charged emotional filters. The event itself is small; the interpretation each has made is big and can lead to the unraveling of a relationship. The events matter far less than what each party tells their self about the event. Penny believes that Joe does not care about her and if that is the case, she thinks to herself, she should leave him because she deserves better. Joe believes that Penny doesn’t think he can do anything right and secretly feels that he cannot. He tells himself that Penny is a hopeless nag and he would be better off finding someone else. If they split up, their future is predictable: Rinse, Lather, Repeat.

If each leaves the relationship without looking at the underlying dynamics, they will most likely jettison one partner for another and repeat the same sad pattern. Why? It is because the other person is not the problem, although we often shift the blame away from ourselves to support what we believe. When each minor conflict is processed through emotional filters both parties can avoid looking at the role they are playing in this drama.

I work with clients one on one and we work at separating facts from emotional fiction and unhelpful beliefs. This is how real sustainable change takes place. Several coaching slots are available for this important work. If you are interested in changing your self-defeating patterns, please contact me at psych-hacker.com for more information.