My experience shows that more cerebral and introverted types do not respond as well to “state change” therapy. By more cerebral I don’t mean smarter. I mean that we tend to live inside of our heads.
Since we introverts live in our heads, we don’t respond as well to exercises that change our emotions, as emotions tend to exist in the body. (Yes, I know that the mind-body connection is a false duality and that mind influences and body and vice versa. But some of us are more influenced by one than the other.)
What can we do?
Well, first, we need to understand what is going on. We need to deconstruct our negative emotions, to find the causal connections. A to B to C to D.
Then we need to intervene in the appropriate way at the appropriate time.
The emotional cascade.
Thoughts >>>> Self-Talk (Frame) >>>> Emotions (State) >>>> Power
What are thoughts? Where do they come from? Do you see your thoughts or do you hear your thoughts?
I do know, however, that I hear my thoughts. My thoughts lead to self-talk, and I talk to myself non-stop. Some people wonder how I can write so much and not burn out. I have thousands of unwritten posts in my head.
The talk never ends. Sometimes it’s stupid talk and sometimes it’s smart talk. But the voice is always there. Until recently I just never bothered to sit down and share the self-talk.
I am totally ruled by my mind and by thoughts of unknown origin that lead to self-talk.
Since I cannot understand where thoughts come from, I must intervene where I can – at the self-talk portion of the model. (If you see your thoughts, what is that like? Reach out to me. Let’s find a way to help those who see their thoughts.
Reframe your problems.
Framing is how you mind perceives whatever situation you are in. Framing is how you choose to think about an issue.
Let’s look at an example of framing by pondering a hypothetical question:
Would you rather win a silver medal or bronze medal?
The rational answer would be that silver is better than bronze. Duh, bro!
Yet the research shows that bronze medalists are actually happier (when all is said and done) than silver medalists. See, When Less is More: Counterfactual Thinking and Satisfaction among Olympic Medalists.
Research on counterfactual thinking has shown that people’s emotional responses to events are influenced by their thoughts about “what might have been.” The authors extend these findings by documenting a familiar occasion in which those who are objectively better off nonetheless feel worse. In particular, an analysis of the emotional reactions of bronze and silver medalists at the 1992 Summer Olympics—both at the conclusion of their events and on the medal stand—indicates that bronze medalists tend to be happier than silver medalists. The authors attribute these results to the fact that the most compelling counterfactual alternative for the silver medalist is winning the gold, whereas for the bronze medalist it is finishing without a medal.
That’s framing. A silver medalist frames the issue as, “I could have won gold. Second place is the first loser!”
The bronze medalist frames the issue as, “I could have not won a medal at all. Lucky me!”
Frame your problem as being small relative to a worse problem.
I know that we live in a world of narcissism where whatever problem you are facing is so freaking important and unique and unlike anything else. You poor dear!
The truth is that you need to get over yourself and stop focusing only on yourself.
I don’t say that as a moralist. I say that because it’s what’s best for you.
You can watch YouTube videos of oppressed people accomplishing amazing things. There’s a man on YouTube who has no arms and legs.
He has real problems.
Rather than sitting around crying or bugging his friends with his stupidity and seeking attention and validation, he has taken action and created the best life possible for himself.
Frame your problems relative to his.
Now how do you feel about your problem?
If you really think deeply and get over yourself, you feel less crappy.
You might even feel pathetic, saying, “My problems are nothing! It’s time for me to take action and to change my life!”
Frame your problems as a source of power. Problems = preparation for something great!
You have a problem. We all have problems. The only thing within our control is how we choose to think and feel about those problems.
Oftentimes life throws adversity at us that we never would have chosen to endure.
What if you framed your problem as elite training that Special Forces soldiers undergo? What if you said:
“Once I’ve gotten through this problem, I will have a reservoir of strength that will make me unstoppable!”
You still have the problem. It is the same problem you had 3 seconds ago.
But notice how you’re thinking about this problem.
You are choosing to think about this problem as a source of power. It is preparation for life.
When you’re feeling miserable, you change your thought. “Yes, this hurts. This sucks. But once it’s over, no one will be able to stop me.”
Stop talking about mommy and daddy.
All of our parents screwed up raising us somehow. Whatever.
Your mommy didn’t love you? Or she loved you too much?
Your daddy wasn’t there? Or he was too strict.
You can think about that like a child or you can view your challenging childhood as a source of power.
Say what you will about Jordan Belfort’s ethics, but the man has a point about how you should frame your past.
“You are not your past, you are the resources and capabilities you glean for it. That is the basis for all change. If you survived the worst of the worse and are still breathing, you can learn from that.
What would happen then? How would you view your problems?
Would you feel sorry for yourself? Would you be a sad little panda who needs some milk and cookies?
Or would you have the mindset of a conquerer even at the lowest point in your life?
Or would you feel like you were going through Boot Camp and that at the end you would be an elite soldier?
It all starts with a choice.
Yes, it is a choice.
You can choose how you feel by choosing how you think.
You can choose to view your problems as special and unique.
Or you can view your problems as being nothing compared to what others have endured.
You can choose to view your problems as pointless suffering.
Or you can choose to view your problems as preparation for life.