Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
A: ‘’What do I want?”
B: ‘’What do you mean, what sort of question is that? I want the best body ever, I want to be rich and feel free, I want to find my ideal partner and get a dream house. I want this to happen very soon!’’
A: ‘’Thanks for sharing your goals with me. Could you summarise what steps you are taking to achieve what you want?’’
B: ‘’Mmm, well at this present time I am planning for those things and I know full well I will achieve my goals one day’’
A: ‘’I heard you say that you want these amazing things to happen to you very soon. Are you committed today to accomplish your mission?’’
B: ‘’Yes, I mean I need to feel ready for it first, I will soon start to take action, so I can succeed. I have some many other things to do every day, so I think this will take time to be honest’’
Believable scenario, right? It can happen to you and it can happen to me…
One way or another we are always preparing ourselves for what it is that we are striving for in life. Preparing is one thing but it does not mean we are moving anywhere. Over preparing can in itself, in the long run, turn into the ‘skill’ of procrastination and consequently negative mental states especially when we compare ourselves to others and what they have managed to achieve while we are still taking our time to think and rethink.
What does this mean for your mental health? Crisis. One of the reasons we sometimes fail to move forward in life is because we feel we do not have all the resources we need to make that important shift. What happens as a result of this is that we find ourselves in a struggle when it comes to stepping outside of our comfort zone. This becomes a self-imposed difficult situation. Hear me out here, the difficult situation is not that the goal is hard to achieve, but that you have placed yourself in the position of not being able to achieve it… Does that self-imposed difficult situation interfere with your motivation? Yes, it does. If we become aware that this is the pain that we are capable of inflicting on ourselves, we are also potentially able to take action and change it.
How? You are questioning now. It is about convincing ourselves that we have confidence in the resources that we already have, and this will pave the way for us to feed the confidence that we need to find the resources that we lack. And yes, it is painful to make the shift. The pain comes from having to move from a situation we feel stuck in and the desired state.
To hit you with an analogy, it is similar when we don’t know how to dress in between seasons and sometimes we might feel we should have taken that jacket along or we feel that we’re wearing the wrong shoes. This makes us feel uncomfortable but once the weather is settled, we understand how to dress appropriately and we feel perfectly fine. The change of season forced us outside of the comfort zone and we felt uneasy.
Sometimes we are unprepared to tackle what a given situation is going to throw at us. This can happen despite our best effort to be ready for the moment. Let’s accept this as possible and not as something we should avoid. We are now talking about positive risk taking which iso9 necessary because we do not have all the answers. The issue it that sometimes we are good at taking the risk, but we don’t do much to prepare for where it is that we are moving to in life.
In order to change and get out of the comfort zone, we need to acknowledge the present state (i.e. where we are) and we need to have a clear vision of where we want to be. What resources do you already own today (present state) that will allow you to find a way to reach the resources that are still needed to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It is about doing what you can with what you have. Results will follow.
Another important consideration is that to experience real change in life we need to get rid of our present state. This is the principle of personal growth. We need to accept that life is matter of continuous change whether we like it or not. Like the weather, we become adjusted to the present season, it becomes harder to adapt to the incoming season.
The feeling of uneasiness that we experience when we are in transition is inevitable but one that is worthwhile. Once we are willing to invest our energies in the pain that change can bring, we are in control and we will use that pain in our favour. The pain is your tool, it is the means you will use to make a shift from where you believe you should be (for safety) to where you should really be, because you are already the desired outcome but your sight is blurred by the lack of confidence from feeling uncertain. Whether we will achieve a successful outcome or not will depend on how disposed you are to change in the season of transition.
Exercise: Make a list of things you can take responsibility for today and begin working on them right away to see how far you can go in terms of achieving your desired state. This first step will enable you to identify areas of your life that are not working well at present. Now for each of those identified areas, make a list of resources that you still need to bridge the gap.
You should have a clear vision now of where you are, what your current winning tools are and what you need to complete your journey towards success. Remember, pain is part of the process and you are always in control every step of the way. Pain is a tool and it is not there to control you at any stage.
Up until a moment ago I did not feel adequate to resolve my own problems. I was feeling like my confidence had hit rock bottom. There was no point in going out, facing the outside world and dealing with people. I didn’t feel like I was able to fit in society and the pressure that it was putting me under. I thought about calling in sick at work but what reason would I give for it? Perhaps I should make something up and say, “I am not feeling well today. I have got a temperature etc”. That should do the trick. Besides, who is going to take me seriously if I say, “I need to take time out today to think about my mental health”. Having a temperature can easily be overlooked and forgotten, but I don’t want to be remembered as someone with mental health issues.
Aside from this, I feel overwhelmed with everything today. My thoughts are overlapping and I can only hear clatter when people are talking. The mere thought of having people around me makes me feel judged. I feel little. This is too much. I need a private space, a place of safety. Maybe I will be ready tomorrow. The world can wait. I need to find myself first.
We all experience confidence in different ways and certainly breaking things down becomes a less menacing, threatening exercise. Where you are at right now in your life does not matter as much as your vision for where you want to be. What can often make us feel overwhelmed and despondent is that we tend to assume that once an objective is set in our mind, we can go from A to B by simply using a ‘lift’. Unfortunately this is not the way and this is where the pressure comes from. Negative mental states ensue and our mental health is likely to suffer from it.
Life itself is about the journey and the journey is a learning process made up of mistakes and successes, achievements and what we usually call failure. Failure does not exist, but only feedback. Life is going to expose us to things that we all perceive in unique ways. As we take on new challenges, we need to face our fears to step up to the next level. If things aren’t broken down into little achievable steps, those feelings of fear can become unbearable and can knock down our confidence level.
Another reality is that we tend to believe that life is experienced from the outside in, but instead, it is the opposite. We experience life from the inside out. Everything that happens within us happens because we experience thoughts which in turn generate feelings. Feelings results in actions (or inaction) and this leads to outcomes whether we like it or not. The way we experience life is down to each and every one of us because we are the creators of the meaning that we assign to life.
We need to bear in mind that personal empowerment is always achieved through responsibility. Therefore, we have the power to act upon our feelings to drive our thoughts and equally we hold the power to control our actions through what we know as self-control.
A key aspect is to understand how we function on a relational level and this spans three levels: the way we relate to ourselves, how we relate to people and how we relate to our past. We all have a propensity to liken ourselves or others to some sort of concept or idea.
When relating to others, some of us make the mistake to assume that they are better. Another mistake can be the way we look down at people who are more in need than us. Conversely other times we might put ourselves beneath others. Confidence derives from being able to relate to ourselves so that we feel we need less from others. When we experience this state, we generally feel free to express our true selves to the outside world – we become more authentic and we relate to others on a more genuine level.
When we do not relate to ourselves well, we tend to become more reliant on other people’s abilities because we might not feel we have the confidence to address a situation ourselves. The risk is that we are allowing others to run our lives, but guess what, whether we accept it or not, we are not other people’s priority. When we are in a struggle with our internal world, we run the risk of relating to other people in a distorted way which does not show our true selves to others. Ultimately how we relate to ourselves, people and our past will shape how we communicate and interact.
We need to ask ourselves how we relate to our own past, bearing in mind that the past does not equal the future. Coming from past negative experiences such as lack of personal fulfilment, failure, rejection etc, we hold ourselves victims because we are stuck in the past. Consequently, we lack confidence and we might be prone (knowingly or not) to open the door for a ‘perpetrator’ to come into our lives. This can happen when we start a new relationship with someone and we have a feeling this person is not right for us yet they have something that we believe helps us fill the confidence gap that’s tormenting us everyday to the point where we feel dysfunctional. We look up to the perpetrator because we need them. As we feel we are victims, we also feel we need a hero to rescue us from the perpetrator. This tends to be our mindset when we hold ourselves victims. It is when we do not know how to get what we want that we end up feeling low and anxious and this goes back to how your mental health is experiencing life on a daily basis.
What area of your life can you take responsibility for today? When you visualise the problem that you are experiencing, can you focus on the positives that you might be missing out on? Can you now separate the positives from the negatives and see the negatives as a separate matter and in a different, greater, section inside your mind – something like a large square which we will call ‘perspective’.
Now inside your mind, you have pictured both the positives in relation to the problem/situation you are in, and the negatives which are sitting in a bigger separate compartment called perspective. Now shift those positives into the bigger box called perspective. You should now be in the position to feel more empowered and act independently because you have put your positive thoughts in perspective, simply by looking at how things could turn out if seen from a different stance. Accept that the problem is part of the solution and do not waste time over thinking the issues but direct your energy towards what possible solutions you can put in place. For example, I have been sacked from my current employment. This is the problem and it makes me feel awful. Is there anything positive about this situation? Perhaps there is one positive or two.. I have more time on my hands to look for another job, maybe one that suits me better this time! Now these are the positives and let’s keep them in one section inside of your mind. What are the negatives? Maybe I won’t find another job soon enough to avoid having to dig into my savings or maybe I do not have any savings at all.. Now let’s have the negatives move into a separate bigger section inside your mind, which as previously explained is where we put things in to perspective.
Now move the positives (having more time available) into the perspective box and ask yourself what you can take responsibility for right now that’s going to make a difference to your current situation and it’s going to take you to your desired level. At this stage there will be nothing that will stop you from achieving what you need/want if:
– You make a firm decision about what you want to conquer
– You are absolutely determined to take massive action
-You are clear and honest about what is working and what isn’t working
-You do your best with what you have at your disposal to change what is not working in the process
You have now enabled yourself to rationalise your emotions and this will lead you up to understand what is really driving you at the core, your values that is. You have choices and by following this process you will understand their extent. What set of rules have you decided to employ in your life to allow yourself to achieve your values no matter what happens in life? You can decide to be happy right now without anything needing to happen around you to generate your own happiness. Life is lived from the inside out and your set of rules, your personal standards and values will determine your personal outcomes.
I decided to feel good today..
In the previous article we learned about ‘Anchors’ and how these can play a part in the way we interpret reality and how we feel in relation to others and our experiences in everyday life. Let’s reflect for a moment: we can empower ourselves to develop mental health tools for self-help and to boost our confidence levels through self-control of emotional states. Simply put, confidence is about believing in our abilities and power to succeed. How can we focus on trusting our own winning energy if we are constantly worried because we allow our past experiences to define our present feelings and how we interpret events?
The concept of anchors comes as a way of explaining how previous experiences define our present fears and prevents us from fully living the life that we wish to.
Remember that Anchors are about associative learning, i.e. how we relate to one person or one thing to another person or another thing. An anchor is made every time that we associate a feeling to an event that we experience, and each time a similar event is experienced again in the future we are likely to go through the same feeling. For example, a child is bitten by a dog in a park and that experience has formed an anchor where every time the child sees a similar dog, they will instantly feel anxious even if the dog is harmless.
We keep anchoring onto things all the time whether we are aware of it or not, because this is how the process of association works. Anchors can be negative or positive – as a child, I was used to waking up to the rich smell of coffee and watching my parents brew and drink it every morning. Now every time I smell coffee, it reminds me of my childhood and the image of my parents drinking it is fresh in my mind.
The good news is that we can overcome negative anchors. For anchors to come into existence, they need to go through a set of steps rooted in our past experiences. The shape of an anchor is measured by how intense the experience is, how long the event lasts, how unique the experience is and how many times we experience the episode. Replication of the event might be sometimes required for an anchor to be set.
Let’s stop and think for a second. It takes a number of steps to form an anchor. Can we undo an anchor tracing back the same set of steps? The answer is yes, providing that we feel ready to face our fears and see them through. We are going to have to revisit the time in the past when the anchor was first set. It is essential that we re-evaluate the event that gave rise to the anchor through a more mature approach.
Let’s try a useful exercise. Inside your mind, step into a place where you are experiencing your negative emotional state. How intense is the emotional state that you are experiencing? Try to picture it vividly and become aware of what you are hearing. Now focus on what you are feeling in relation to the event/person involved.
Dissociate yourself from your physical self and your mind. Now you have two versions of yourself – one of them is your original version and the other one is the dissociated version. Use the dissociated version to stand in front of yourself and observe the original version of yourself experiencing the emotional state that’s concerning you.
Now take as many steps back from your original version as needed to become completely removed from your emotional state. At this stage, point your finger to where you visualise your past and turn your body around until you face that direction. As you are now facing your past, inside of your mind, look out for the very last time you experienced a similar negative emotion/event/problem. How long ago was this?
Again, try to identify a time before that when you experienced a similar problem. How far back did you go with your mind? And again, go back to a time before that when you experienced a similar feeling/event/problem in a very prominent fashion. Make another effort inside your mind to go further back in time when the problem was really serious. How old were you and who was in this picture with you?
Use a few words to describe what you are experiencing right here and now. Name the feeling that you are experiencing. Can you pin-point where the feeling is coming from? Now you are using your memory to recall the information, ask yourself what it is that you want to achieve.
We have just revised the process where an anchor has been set. We have travelled in time from a position of present emotional state, back to a position where we have identified the source of the emotional state, i.e. the event/situation that stemmed the problem.
As you have now named your emotional state, try to remember if you were putting pressure on yourself on that very day of this serious event. Inside of your mind’s eyes, stand directly behind this younger version of yourself and try to look at what your younger version is looking at – feel what they are feeling and understand what they were trying to achieve the day the anchor was set.
Now face the younger version of yourself and look into their eyes and ask them what they could have done differently back then. Provide your younger version with some guidance/input to have them refuse to pick up this pressure. The next stage is to associate yourself with your younger self, become one, and reassess/revaluate the entire situation from this new stance and through your new developed understanding of how your younger version could have acted differently.
What has now changed?
Now dissociate yourself from your younger version and come out of the whole situation. Look at the present day, here and now, and look down on the past events where the problem was formerly experienced. Describe how things have now changed. How do you feel now compared to how you were feeling initially at the start of this exercise? By now you are likely to have managed to break your negative anchor.
What could you do differently from now on in an analogous situation? The good news is that by having deconstructed the process that led to the making of the negative anchor (negative emotional state) and having torn down the anchor, you have allowed yourself freedom of choice between different possible solutions. This will increase the quality of your decisions in future life events. Being in control of negative emotions will inevitably have a positive impact on your confidence in relation to how you fully focus on your strengths because you have the power to avert what makes you feel concerned.
Dr Tony Boncordo
Mental health first
Before talking about achieving a self-satisfactory level of confidence in life and how to face life situations with self-assurance let’s explore how mental health affects who we are, how we do things and why we do what we do. This article will focus on the importance of developing mental health first aid tools for self-help. We will also explore what mental health is without the need of complicating the subject.
Mental health is an expression used to refer to our cognitive, behavioural and emotional wellbeing: the way we think, feel and behave. Sometimes we generally use the term ‘mental health’ to indicate the absence of a mental disorder.
Inevitably mental health affects how we all function on a daily basis, our relationships, and even our physical health. Mental health can govern our ability to enjoy life and to find balance between daily activities and how much effort is employed to achieve psychological resilience.
It doesn’t matter what age, gender, class, race or social conditioning we belong to, we all (in some way or other) have experienced or are experiencing mental health problems. Anxiety, phobias, anger, depression, schizophrenia and personality disorders are types of mental illness.
There isn’t a reliable way to determine whether someone is developing a mental health problem, however there are signs that can occur over a short period of time.
Some of the common sings are:
Anxiety is a feeling that we experience when we are worried about things that are about to happen or what could happen in the future. Anxiety is fear that lies in anticipation.
However, anxiety is a natural human response that helps us react when we are under threat. This feeling can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and body sensations.
Phobias include simple phobias (fear of objects), social phobias (fear of being exposed to the judgment of others), and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces or situations that may cause panic attacks). It is not known at present how many phobias there are. The high concentration of phobic disorders in society has made it possible to actualise numerous interventions by a number of disciplines.
Psychiatry has developed a number of drugs that have an anxiolytic action. Psychoanalysis has proposed long term therapies to dig into one’s past in search of unconscious issues to resolve the problem based on the exploration of past problems.
Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy has devised desensitisation techniques and exposure to phobic stimulus. The strategic therapy has proposed hypnotic techniques without the use of trance and through the use of therapeutic tactics.
Scientific psychology uses psycho educational, rational and pragmatic tools to rehabilitate without drugs and the use of psychotherapy. Of all the described disciplines, the least successful have been psychoanalysis and pharmacologic therapy.
Drugs often tend to add to the problem, generating a catch 22 pattern where the actions are aimed to resolve the problem, but instead cause new ones and perpetrate negative feelings.
The real problem is that people generally do not know whom to turn to when they experience mental health issues. This is because there is lack of clarity around services and there are far too many of them around.
If I suffered from mental health to the point of actively seeking help, the last thing I would be interested in is finding what services offer the best care at the best affordable prices. Mental health is not something that can be measured by how much of a service we can afford or by the assumption that we should know what treatment works for us.
Why do we, as a society, can’t think about self-help techniques that we can use every time we feel our mental health is suffering?
Wouldn’t this be a more dignified and less time/money consuming way of dealing with personal issues? Why can’t schools teach children effective techniques to help them deal with mental health problems? One of the major issues that people are faced with is that they are expected to reach out to a professional rather than have tools of self-help at their disposal.
I want to draw your attention to one of the disciplines that I have learned to help my clients support themselves and achieve a position of empowerment in their lives – they were taught what self-help tools they could use and took responsibility for acting upon their own issues. The discipline in question is called NLP, the science of personal excellence. NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic-Programming.
Neuro refers to the mental filtering process and how we perceive the world according to our senses. Linguistic refers to how we assign unique meaning to the information we receive from the outside world, which is filtered in through our senses. We convey language to these perceptions and language is what we use to express them. Programming denotes the process of mental filtering which results in behaviours, habits and attitudes.
The body and mind are strictly connected and your emotions will show through body language and feelings. The body language is the window of the unconscious mind.
People experience problems/crisis when they feel inadequate to resolve a problem themselves. We need to challenge our personal beliefs in comparison to new information that the world constantly presents us with. This is how personal growth is determined on an inner level and it is important to acknowledge that life empowerment comes with personal responsibility. We all have the capacity to learn and develop without becoming reliant on other people.
How we arrive to certain conclusions in life depends on how we interpret events and how those events are interpreted determines how we let ourselves experience emotions. We all have a tendency to respond to perceptions rather than reality, hence our mental health and how this is affected by the way we feel.
Distorting reality comes as a result of our own perceptions because we look for meaning and we make assumptions without having enough information.
We all need a reference point in life which is something we can choose to place our focus on in times of uncertainty or doubt. This will provide us with a sense of stability and direction.
Anchors are a naturally occurring phenomenon as we all tend to hold onto old things. Anchors are all about associative learning, they are about how we relate to one person or one thing to another person or another thing. In other words, an anchor is made every time that we associate a feeling to an event that we experience in life, and each time a similar event is experienced again in the future we go through the same feeling. Fears and phobias are an example of this. Our fears are learned habitual responses – but what the mind can do, it can also undo. We can unlearn what we learn that is detrimental to us.
Unfortunately anchoring causes us to react without thinking. As a child, I thought I could never recover from an incident where I was run over by a red car when I was eleven. In the following years I would feel anxious every time I saw a red car moving nearby.
In terms of self-help, it becomes important to explore how to assign a positive state to an external item that can teach us a different lesson every time a negative anchor brings us back to the past. Remember that anchors are generally a representation of a distorted reality.
In the process let’s begin by accepting openly that it is okay to be imperfect and it is fine to have issues. We can also talk about anchors on a relatable level – the anchors that affect our relationships with other people. Unbeknownst to our conscious minds, many disagreements with others occur due to our reluctance to appreciate differences. How do we respond to others in line with our internal representations? We all have our own version of ‘normal’ and everyone is normal in their own eyes. The only time we have a tendency not to appreciate ‘normal’ is when we experience someone else’s version of normal.
Therefore, to identify negative anchors we need to become aware of how we respond to people’s differences in various contexts/situations.
As an exercise let’s now explore some past history, say, over the last 12 months. A little soul searching will be required. Let’s base the following exercise on fears and anxieties that you might experience:
The aim of the above exercise is to explore the presence of trends in your described states because this is where our anchors come from i.e. trends and associated learning. Trends then become interconnected and form behaviours/habits. For example, the trend that generates sadness could be just one connection that unifies all of the events. The final goal is to teach you how to better appreciate and understand yourself. Have you been able to identify any trends?
To be continued..
Perceptions or reality..
“Recently I have been finding it hard to control this feeling of anxiety about not knowing what’s next in my life.. Am I resisting the outside reality? am I stuck in my own perceptions of reality? Am I letting those very perceptions to manage my emotional state? what should I do? ”
Did you know the story of Plato’s cave (Greek philosopher)? Once upon the time there was this community of people who spent their own lives literally living in the dark with servants attending to their needs.
They were bound by shackles, facing a wall. Right behind them there was a fire casting a shadow on the wall of everything that passed by.
One day one of the members of this community managed to break free from the chains as these were rusty and broke easily.
He did this with hesitation though as he did not know any different from his own reality and he was in fear of what he would come across elsewhere. The man turns around and sees the fire; the wardens then realise that he has freed himself and throw him out as he was no longer allowed to talk to the other members.
Once out there the man discovers a new world and finds out about the origin of the shadows in the cave. He realises that these were not monsters or spirits, but real animals and people.
The man decides to go back to the cave to share his findings with the rest of the community. He sneaks in and makes the disclosure. The others in disbelief decide not to to listen to him, not to follow him, and to remain where they are…
Perceptions or reality?