After 3 years I still wake up every morning around 4:00 or 6:00 AM with fear in my body. The fear is related to “unfinished business” and basically a literal wake-up call to close things. Based on some new reading and exploring I encountered the technique to conciously relive specific moments over and over again instead of avoiding them. The idea behind reliving is to reduce the emotional charge connected to this moment in the past. One way is by changing the “movie” every time you replay it in your mind and replacing the threatening elements by something more neutral. When done well, the complex of memories, physical reactions and emotions can be even turned around into something empowering. I entered my session today with the question if this approach could be useful.
I found that it could and that the standard methods are too elaborate and indirect to keep my interest going. My mind has been very creative in finding evasive movements via distractions and spontanious loss of focus and recollection of my planned actions: “what was I doing again?”. The “replacement” method requires focus in constant replay of the movie. So I basically need a shortcut, a way to get down to the core of things.
We discussed the technique of “you sitting in a cinema and watching the movie of your memories, replaying specific scenes and revaluaing your emotional responses”. Here is a brief transcript of my deconstruction of that approach into some core elements I think will be valuable to me.
The main assumptions
The main assumptions are that:
- Many of my emotional, physical and mental reactions on a situation are based on old patterns triggered by assumptions
- These patterns were once successful and helped me to get through the situations they were designed for
- To get from a negative to a neutral state is the easiest way. I will get back on that later.
- By desintegrating old patterns, room for new patterns will be created automatically
- My brain can let go of old triggers of old patterns when it no longer needs to solve the “why’s” regarding the surrounding issues
- Desintegration is faster and more long-lasting than “re-training / reprogramming the brain” methods (like positive affirmations)
I go through my findings of today step by step.
When I am in certain social situations, old patterns are triggered. My basic response is to withdraw, to avoid contact. In other situations other triggers and other patterns related to these triggers have me ending up feeling frustrated, angry, fearful, drained of energy, depressed or waking up in fear at 4:00 or 6:00 AM. They create tensions around issues and possible actions which bear relatively no danger except from looking stupid to other people (when it regards people who tend to judge in that way).
The first step today, based on the technique of the cinema was to define the following model:
- Recognition of the event in the past
- Recognition of me in that past period, with the knowledge and experience I had then.
- Seperation of me NOW from myself THEN, with my new experiences, new insights and new knowledge
- Taking action from that new perspective / building a new model / building new assumptions
If I look at the event in the past through the eyes of my old me, there are a lot of unanswered questions: “why did I choose ‘A’ instead of ‘B’?” “Why did I not call for help?” “Why did I let it happen even though I knew what was coming?” and so on. Since there is no time machine available for me now, I can only look forward and try to grow into new states of working that will make these old blocking patterns obsolete.
In my attempt to deconstruct the given methods of replaying and replacing aspects of memories I defined the following. The orginal notes fit on one A4 page, but would be totally cryptic and meaningless for anyone except me.
I think that a major part of our brain is very focused on problem solving (using pattern recognition as one of the tools). It strives very hard to find answers on any question with enough relevance (by matching old patterns with new situations). I compared it in a older post with an “addiction to problem solving”. Unsolved issues (like cliffhaners in movies) are hard to accept for the problem-solving patterns in our brain and can create feelings of unease and/or ‘wants to solve’. I believe that this is one of the reasons why we like mysteries and puzzles and why some things from the past keep hunting us. Only when the problem has a clear resolvement status, the mind can release the question. My experience is that for my mind these resolvement states are the following: “the problem is irrelevant”, “the problem is solved” and “the problem can not be solved now / will be picked up later”.
Avoidance of pain:
In almost all assumptions below, the premis is taken that one of the reasons to create reactive patterns is to avoid pain I have experienced in the past.
Five primary responses to a (possible) situation:
- Assumptions of pattern repetition: “that what is happening now / what will happen now / what I am going to do now is very similar to something I have done / seen / experienced in the past and will most likely lead to a similar result”
- Event recollection: “what situations from my past look like the current one?”
- Emotional and physical recollection: emotional and physical reactions connected to those recollected events
- Avoidance of possible pain: when the recollected patterns are experiences as “negative”
- Problem solving reflex: “What did I do wrong then?” “Why did it happen?” “How could it have happened?” “What could I have done differently?” “Why did I (not) do it?” “How will that repeat itself now?”
When out of control, the Problem Solving reflex can create what I used to call “upside down mind pyramids” representing the thought-constructs of assumptions and inner conversations that start with one topic and ends with an bulkous towering “thing”. Little side-note: To stop that process: I looked at the inner conversation and the original question. In most cases they had no connection any more. So I started to treat everything not related to the original question as being irrelevant (without fighting the thought process! that was what I tried before). At a certain moment, the process slowed down and eventually stopped. Only seldomly I create upside down mind-pyramids now.
Boosting the process of problem solving
The problem solving reflex is handy to create new strategies to avoid pain. A workable approach is the three step approach on the triggered recollections:
- Problem definiton: How did it happen? / Why did it happen? / When did it happen / Why did I let it happen?
- Classification in relevance: What can I solve now? / What can I only solve later? / Can I solve it? / Is the solutions in my hands?
- Exploration of possible solutions and alternative paths: What can I do different this time? / What should I avoid? / What can I avoid? / What actions are absolutely required in which situations? / What is Plan “B”? / What is Plan “C”?
Questions that do not help are like: “Why is it always me?”
Approach 0: Neutral state – I am, this is now, what are my options?:
To get from a negative to a positive state, you pass a neutral state. To get to a neutral state is easier than trying to jump from a negative to a positive directly. For instance, when I think: “I am stupid” my emotional state at that moment is not ‘happy’. It takes me a lot of effort to get “happy” or “joyous” when I feel down and when I fail I am even more stupid. Instead of forcing myself to turn the emotion around I can simply move to a neutral state. These are the steps I recalled this morning (after saving this post last night):
- I am: I am neither good or bad. I simply am.
- This is now: this is not the past and the future has not happened yet. I can not predict what will happen next. So no need for overly speculation.
- What are my options?: in every moment there are multiple options to choose from. When I look around me I will find many possible roads to go. Which will be the best one in my situation, based on my observations of this present?
Approach 1: Dissection of questions in three categories:
- Solvable: you can answer this question now, find an actual solution for the problem now based on your current experience.
- Irrelevant: the question is actually impossible to answer and therefor irrelevant. For instance: “why did God not help me?”
- Unknown if it can be solved now: there might be an answer or solution for the problem, but you currently lack the knowledge.
The irrelevant questions (ones that can not be answered) can be dropped. The unknown require more investigation, reading and learning and the solvable can be used to work out new strategies. I am not sure if you can trick the mind for a long time by telling it that a relevant “why” is irrelevant.
Approach 2: Identification of the present and the past
- Past: The emotional trigger / emotional response is connected to a painful event in the past
- Fear: I am afraid to experience that “same” pain again in my current situation
- Present: The actual situation which may have no relationship to my past experiences at all and might lead to totally different outcomes
- Response: The choice I make in order to deal with the actual or imagined situation
Approach 3: Learning more about my patterns by dissecting my assumptions
If I start taking my assumptions apart, I might be able to understand what might have been the causes to the build up of these assumptions. For instance: if groups of people trigger fear or unease in me: IS THERE REALLY SOMETHING I SHOULD BE SCARED OF? What situations caused the pain that led to these reactive patterns? We take that there was a real and present fear of danger to develop any pattern like this. We do not question IF the response was once relevant, but WHY it was relevant. Then we move it to the current time and give it a new place.
- Definition of the assumption: What do I assume is going on? What do I assume will happen?
- Localization: When did a situation like that occur? Where did I see it? Was I involved myself? What physical and emotional responses are connected to that situation? What did I feel? How did I respond?
- Relevance and value then: Why was it relevant to respond like that then? What added value was there? What other options did I have not?
- Relevance and value now: Does it work for me now? If not: what are the prices I pay due to this behaviors?
- Re-valuation of the reactive patterns: Where and in what form could these reactive patterns be valuable again? Where in what form am I already using them in a constructive way?
Approach 4: Re-valuation of the core reactive patterns:
With re-valuation I mean: “to give an old pattern a new relevance based on what is valuable in my current life”. For instance: If I withdraw from groups because as a young child I experienced these groups as “hostile” I can redefine “hostile” by asking myself “what would be the hostile situations I can encounter in my current life? Where and how will this pattern be useful now?” Anger is another thing. Anger can be destructive when aimed at people and situations who pose no threat at all. However, when directed at someone who poses a very possible threat or will likely cause harm, anger or even rage can be very useful. The three basic questions are:
- Why, where and when was it relevant to trigger these emotions and responses in the past?
- What is the relevance of that reactive pattern in my current life?
- How can I re-valuate these reactive patterns with things that ARE relevant in my current life? Where can I use these patterns now? Where can I let them go / where are they no longer needed?
Approach 5: Recognizing the patterns
- Trigger: Based on a current situation one or more old emotional patterns are triggered
- Assumption: These patterns are triggered due to the (unconcious) assumption that one or more painful events from the past will reoccur in the present
- Recollection: Based on the assumptions certain emotional states and old strategies are recollected (like fear or tiredness)
- Response: Partly based on this old information I respond to my environment
Filters, focus, expecations, assumptions and emotional responses
In the models I discussed today, flters, focus, expectations and assumptions cam forward in the following way:
- Focus and filters: are neutral. Filters take out irrelevant information from observations. Focus is aiming the attention to one specific item. Focus and filters interact ans support each others process.
- Expectations and assumptions: are connected to emotional states. Expectations are my projected fantasies of a possible outcome regarding a specific situation. Assumptions are stories or patterns I created some time before and which I can use to quickly evaluate a situation.
I use Focus and filters and expectations and assumptions as handy tools to quickly judge the possible outcome of a situation before I have all the facts. However when my emotional response take over, I risk to forget to take the important next step of fact-finding.
Approach 6: Stop, experience, re-evaluate, reconsider, take action
To avoid moving on assumptions, I have learned to use something like above: based on what A.E. van Voght quoted in “The world of Nul-A” which was heavily inspired by the work of Anton Korzybski called: Science and sanity (which has offered many of the things used as a basis for NLP). Korzibsky was one of the first to assume that our responses to our environment flowed in a specific direction related to the evolutionary development stages of our brain. The order of responses he defined was:
- Physical response: contration of muscles, release or withdraw of specific signal chemicals, fight/freeze/flight action
- Emotional response: anger, fear, frustration, joy ..
- Verbal respons: exclemation of sound
- Mental response: thoughts
- (re) Actions
Based on this model something like the following action plan was introduced by Korzibsky. The original helped me greatly. This is how I formulate it today:
- Stop: do not take action. The information regarding the situation I want to respond to is very likely false
- Experience: what is currently going on? What emotions do I experience? What is my physical reaction? What are my thoughts? What do I want to express? What are my assumptions?
- Look around / investigate / re-evaluate: what is going on around me? What do I see? What are the facts? What is the basis? Do I have time for re-evaluation or must I act now?
- Reconsider: Based on this new information and my personal (creative) values: what would be the best response in this situation? What is really good to be my physical and emotional state?
- Act: Take the best action you can imagine at that moment based on your new information.
Approach 7: using my body and imagination
Whe I fear, my body tends to close and my energy goes down. I have found a very simple way to counter emotional states that cost me energy.
- I straighten my back and push my chest open/forward. This opens the body and the heart
- I focus on my solar plexus-area when breathing and imagine my breath goes “through” this area. It induces deep-breathing which releases tensions in this area. The solar-plexus area is one of the first areas to “tighten” and block when I am in an emotional state related to fear. Releasing this part releases my body-state of fear
- I focus on my heartbeat. By just doing that (and just accepting it is beating fast and heavy) it starts to calm down. No intervention is needed. It simply is and will calm down eventually without me having to do anything.
- I observe my assumtopns and fears without having to do anything but observing them to get to know them: no intervention or what so ever is required. They simply are and will pass.
- I imagine rings of golden light flowing down and pushing open my energy body
Manifestation via the curious subconcious
I close this long post wit the following: The last part of the session I had today brought a funny thing about manifestation via the subconcious. “The things you fear will happen” or “be careful what you wish for..” are two statements related to that. And Aristotle (if I remembered properly) stated that the subconcious are like horsed you need to tame.
I found – based on the train of thought above that there might be a more relaxing approach to the manifatation powers of the subconcious. I came to it via my own past vertigo.
When I experienced vertigo I had the feeling that “something is sucking me to the edge to fall down” With items (like my glasses) on my body I sensed “something pulling these items down”. Fear somehow seems to feed this mechanism.
What if it is not blind manifestation, but sheer curiousity of a playful “subconcious” mind, leading to response patterns that satisfy the curiousity (like the imagined suction towards the edge). “What if?” is one of the big questions the subconcious tries to solve.
I guess to un-learn stuff like vertigo one of the solutions could be to aim the curious subconcious to something else.