Many times we wonder if it is possible to program our subconscious mind. There is so much talk about this concept these days. People who are chronically depressed and anxious sometimes doubt that they can change their outlook and they become habituated to think negative. Recent research shows that it is all in your hands to change your thought pattern and the more you do it, the better you become. You have control over how you think and interpret situations. In order to program your subconscious mind, you need to do something called Emotional Transfusion. Sometimes, it works better than antidepressants.
We have all heard about blood transfusion and we all know what it means. However, there is something called Emotional Transfusion, which we can do ourselves without the help of the doctors. When someone is weak or goes through surgery or has lost blood, the doctors match the blood and give a fresh supply of blood to the person, which gives him the vitality, nourishment and energy. In the same way, when we think negative our subconscious mind gets bombarded with negative messages and before we know it, our barrel is full and it overflows . This overflow of negative messages makes us anxious and panicky. What do we do about it? We can learn the technique of Emotional Transfusion and begin to reduce our negativity with positive self talk, affirmation and cognitive restructuring of dysfunctional thought patterns. These positive messages tend to work as emotional transfusion as they give us the new energy, mental peace and facilitate better coping skills to deal with our situations. They change our outlook, and perception. My advice is to first have the awareness of your negativity; only then you can do something about it. There are five R’s to help you learn this process according to Pauline Neff and Robert Handly as listed in their book, Anxiety and Panic Attacks.
1. Realize Mr. Negative is Part of your Consciousness.
When we are angry, upset or anxious, we tend to make many errors in our thinking as we view the situation through a fish eye lens on a camera. We see all 360 degrees, but everything appears distorted. We fail to recognize the reality and jump to conclusion about people, events, situations, and even ourselves. Once we learn that we have a distorted perception, we can change the lens and see things as they are in reality. So the first step is to realize that Mr. Negative is part of your consciousness and you have created this state of mind. Since you are the creator of these thought, it is only you who can influence a change, but it is possible only when you realize that Mr. Negative is part of you consciousness.
2. Recognize when Mr. Negative is Calling.
When you have the cognitive awareness that you are thinking negative, you are more likely to change those thoughts into rational ones. This process is called Cognitive restructuring. Actual events do not make you upset or angry but the way you perceive them has a big role in causing your frustration, anger and tension. Whenever you feel these negative emotions, try to examine if you are making any error in your thinking and use the process of cognitive restructuring to scrutinize your thoughts and come up with effective and rational thoughts. All you have to do is replace the distortion with the reality of the situation. When you adopt the rational thought pattern about what is happening, you are more likely to uplift your mood and also reduce your anxiety and panic. We have discussed the cognitive distortions in other blogs on Automatic Self Talk and Dealing with Panic Attacks. For purpose of brevity, I will just list them here:
All or Nothing Thinking
Practice of exaggerating a single rejection
Magnification and Minimization
The White is Black phenomenon
Stretch or Shrink thinking
Should or Ought statements
Fortune Teller Error
Jumping to Conclusion
When you answer to these errors, your Mr. Negative takes control over you and your job is to refuse to answer Mr. Negative. However, before you can refuse, you have to first recognize that Mr. Negative is playing a trick on you.
3. Refuse to Answer Mr. Negative
As soon as you realize that Mr. Negative is calling you, refuse to answer it as you know that it will mislead you and affect your mood. Sometimes, to do this, it is a good idea to place blue dot in strategic places for reminders. As soon as you look at these blue dots, ask yourself, “Am I thinking negative?” It is really interesting that once you develop this habit, you will begin to recognize your negative mind chatter and then you have the choice to either answer Mr. Negative or refuse it. Obviously, if you answer Mr. Negative, it will cause more upset and aggravation. However, the healthy choice will be to refuse to answer Mr. Negative. If you do not refuse, Mr. Negative will be sure to affect your performance and cause more anxiety to the extent that you will definitely make a mistake, or it will show in your speech and you will stammer, experience blocking of thoughts and your body language will reflect your anxiety.
Another technique that helps in refusing to answer Mr. Negative, is the Rubber band technique. Wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it as soon as you realize that Mr. Negative is calling you. This gives a signal to you that you are not thinking rationally. This technique helps reinforce reality thinking. It is an aversive behavior modification technique that interrupts your automatic self talk and helps you return to reality. Also, if you utter the word, STOP or CANCEL as you snap the rubber band, it aids the process of rational thinking. We have also discussed the Thought Stopping Technique in other blogs in which you simply visualize the red STOP sign and say the word STOP to interrupt the chain of negative thinking. Then you replace the negative thoughts with positive coping statements. We will discuss this process in the next heading.
4. Replace Negative and Irrational Thoughts With Reality
In order to reprogram your unconscious mind, it is important to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. You need to plan ahead for this. In order to do this, you first have to be aware of your cognitive distortions then plan how you will confront them with reality. Sometimes, when you write things down, they become more serious and you show more commitment to making changes otherwise, if your goals are fleeting and have no direction, you are likely to forget about them. So make three columns on a piece of paper and write the following headings:
1.Negative thoughts that are creating negative emotions
Do some thinking about what has been bothering you and fill out the first column. For example, “I am worthless and my family does not like me. Nothing I do ever pleases my mother.” In the second column, write those distortions from the above list that are applicable in this type of thinking. For example, Magnification, Self blame, Stretch or shrink thinking. In the third column, write down the reality of the situation. Try to focus on your good points and rationally evaluate the situation. For example, “No body likes me” can be replaced with a statement, “I can think of three or four other people who love me and like me”. In this way, you refute your silent assumptions with some valid and reality thoughts to reduce the intensity of your negative emotions and thereby facilitate your coping skills to deal with the situation. The actual process of writing down these positive statements on a paper, silently reprograms your subconscious mind and begins to empty and drain your barrel which was full with negative thoughts.
5. Relax and Reprogram the Unconscious Mind
When you relax your mind and body, using any of the techniques like visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, you create the alpha wave activity in your brain. Then you use the affirmations to strengthen your positive self talk and form a new belief system which is derived from rational scrutiny. With repeated practice, you slowly and surely become adept in reducing your anxiety and create a well balanced state of mind. This habit will gradually change your subconscious programming and you are more likely to never hear the Mr. Negative ringing.
I have listed the importance of affirmations in other blogs and also cited some examples. These affirmations are like our mind chatter that we engage in. They tend to sink in better and work more effectively, when your mind is relaxed and you have attained the alpha wave activity.
In this way by using the above five R’s, you will be able to inject positive thoughts to achieve the state of Emotional Transfusion described in the beginning. Set of new positive thoughts will reinforce your positive programming and make you successful in overcoming your phobias, fears and anxiety. People with phobias of bridges, elevators, height, public speaking can benefit from these techniques. It is possible to heal from these debilitating fears using the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), described in this blog. If you are unable to use them effectively, it is a good idea to see a therapist who specializes in CBT to help you with cognitive restructuring of dysfunctional thought patterns and also conduct sessions of Imagery Desensitization to help you overcome these phobias.