It is critical to understand how deeply your negative anxiety-producing thoughts become etched into your nervous system. The White Bear experiment I referred to in another post is the crux of the whole mental health model around anxiety. The 1987 Harvard experiment documented that when you suppress thoughts, they become much stronger.
If you happened to have a bizarre, even unspeakable thought many years ago, of course you would suppress it. Why wouldn’t you? It has nothing to do with anything about you or your value system. Then, as it arises again and again, it is instantly suppressed. Eventually the suppression of the thought is automatic. Seems pretty normal, right? Except what happened is that your nervous system inadvertently gave this random thought a tremendous amount of power. Every time that thought is suppressed, that neurological pathway has been reinforced. Over many years, this circuit becomes much stronger and you consciously or unconsciously end up spending a lot of mental energy dealing with this anxiety-producing, even disruptive thought. As you have less success in controlling the thoughts, you may become frustrated, which drives the circuits even harder. As they become stronger, sometimes even associated with a physical reaction, they seem “real.”
Many people will visit a mental health professional to deal with their “demons.” Guess what? These are not demons. They are irrational, non-responsive “robots.” (I introduce the metaphor in this video: Anxiety and its Demons.) Thoughts and robots are just circuits. You cannot deal with a robot. You cannot talk to it or reason with it. There is absolutely nothing that can be done from a rational standpoint to change an unresponsive neurological pathway. In fact, when you discuss your demons and try to figure out why they are there, you are just firing up and adding complexity to the circuits that make them up. They become even stronger. You can’t unlearn what you’ve practiced. How do you “unlearn” to ride a bike? You can’t.
This is the reason that there are no alternatives to dealing with these pathways. You must use the same methods that formed them to detach and re-program more functional circuits. These tools are referred to in detail in the reprogramming section. The methods all revolve around associating thoughts with physical sensations. Crucially, the association of these thoughts is on YOUR terms.
It’s almost surreal that we spend so much time and energy trying to contain and deal with our demons. Not only are they not who we are, they are the opposite of who we are. Otherwise, we would not have suppressed the thoughts in the first place. It is like changing the oil in your car when your radiator is leaking. Eventually, you are just worn down.
You have to view these repetitive thoughts from a very mechanical viewpoint and depersonalize them. They are just there. They are NOT who you are. Don’t give them any further personal energy. Just systematically work on becoming aware of them, detaching, and reprogramming them. The tools are effective. It just takes consistent repetition. Your life will change dramatically, and the new circuits do not have to contain pain.
Consider the process similar to cleaning out the lint in a dryer. It needs to be done on a regular basis. If the dryer filter is not cleaned out, the dryer will still run but it loses efficiency and eventually may destroy the dryer. I consider the use of these tools “neurological maintenance.” It is the way the nervous system functions. THERE ARE NO RATIONAL SHORTCUTS. JUST USE THE TOOLS!