I’m going out on a limb today. As I look out at the trees in front of my house I think that could be a risky move since many of the limbs have been compromised by the harsh winter. But I promise you, I will only go out on the proverbial limb. And it is this. There is a simple cure to anxiety, depression, mood swings, rage, reactive behaviors, and other psychological ills. I call it the “second thought” and I tell my patients “it’s the one that counts,” (actually I attribute this phrase to one of my great mentors. Dr. Sonia Nevis). I believe that the stories we tell ourselves, the scripts that we live by from the time we are youngsters, are the reasons for the symptoms of distress I listed above. In other words, it is our thinking or our thoughts that create the tight belly, the down feelings, the rageful blasts at our loved ones. Let me be clear here. There are many events in life that are normally stressful. But distress not related to life events like death, divorce, loss of job, illness etc. but seem not to have a specific cause are due to the way we think , the false stories we tell ourselves. These stories remove us from living in the present. When brought into consciousness they actually appear real and were it not for methods like psychotherapy or mindfulness meditation they would remain rigidified as truth. Worries become fears and phobias, and a person’s life is limited, compromised. Bill is convinced he will never amount to anything. John thinks he’ll never find a person to love and one who will love him. Mary believes that men are out for only one thing and that  dating is a waste of time. Sara worries her son will be without friends. And so on. These thoughts feel as truths. They are automatic, habitual, programmed. They are what I call  “first thoughts.” Living by the first thought creates all manner of pain. The way out of this problem is first to notice the thought, to bring it into consciousness and then create a second thought, the one that counts. Let’s use Bill’s notion that he will never amount to anything. When he notices one and all of the many ways he tells himself that he is a loser, he must do this without judgement but with compassion for having learned this at a time when he was most vulnerable. He is then instructed to take a slow deep breath in, saying his name and then breathing out, saying let go. He has then made the space for the second thought, something like. “It’s not true, here are the ways I have done well in life, or some positive response that counters the first thought. Done often enough a new set of neural pathways is developed so that the first thought recedes into the background of the person’s psyche and the second thought becomes increasingly more prominent, curing the person of his or her symptoms.

Here’s the structure:

1. Non-judgmentally notice the first thought.
2. Breathe to relax and clear a space for the second thought.
3. Create the second thought.

Try this and let me know how it works. Write in and let us know the first thoughts you’ve been consciously or unconsciously buying into throughout your life. If you need assistance ask your questions or contact Dr. Ike for a personal consultation. As always send us your music. Here’s our opening set.


14 thoughts on “The Second Thought – The Cure

  1. 2nd thoughts. I appreciate your technique. I am getting some mileage out of being aware of the reactive, programmed thought…and then instead of “fixing” it, which implies that there is something to fix, I simply observe that the rotten feeling I am having is coming from that thought, which is NOT my reality…it’s just creating my current perception of reality. The innate Truth of my very Nature is my reality. I merely have to wait and especially if I detach enough from the programmed thought to label it as such, another thought comes along (the second thought) that comes from a broader perspective. I am not creating the Truth of who I am by my thinking…that has already been done from a place beyond thought. I do create my perception of reality with my thinking, so when I’m perceiving something I don’t like, I observe my thinking, and then wait for a better thought, that helps me connect with my perception in a helpful way.

  2. Dear Dr. Ike – I used your technique today, too. I had on my agenda tonight to begin weeding through my box of old greeting cards (which I held onto for I don’t really know what reason) in preparation for downsizing from a house to a condo. As I started to make my sorted out piles: Keep, pass on to cousins if anyone wanted them or just plain throw out, I realized I was sweating and paralyzed. I looked at the massive pile of cards my deceased relatives had sent me and I could do nothing with them stare at them. I closed my eyes and started deep breathing hoping to get rid of the anxious feelings as I exhaled slowly. After about five of these, I remembered something I once read: “Why are you spending all your time in the past when the rest of your life exists in the future?” or something like that and I’ll be damned – it worked! Other than shaking out the cards for missed checks or cash (LOL) I put all of them in the paper recycling bin in a matter of minutes. Thanks! I am confident I can push past the nostalgia attached to my old stash of Matchbox cars, too and just donate them somewhere.

  3. Dear Dr. Ike,

    I love your show. I read/listen every week. I was inspired to write to you for the first time today. I am a very shy woman. I was born with a very large birthmark on my face that has caused me to feel very self-conscious. Not feeling like I am the same as other people, I keep my head down when meeting new people in the hopes that it will not be immediately obvious, but of course it is and I may possibly make things worse by holding my head down while I speak. My words get all garbled and I feel even more self-conscious and end up making up an excuse to quickly dash off. I get so embarrassed. I have tried special cover-up make-up but it makes my skin irritated and I start itching! If I understood your lesson today, what I will try the next time I meet someone new is say to myself “I am like other people and I deserve to be heard.” Dr. Ike, you just would not believe some of the things I tell myself about myself everyday since I was old enough to understand that I looked so different from other people. Sometimes I even told myself I was not human.

  4. Hello Dr. Ike and the PNRR listeners/readers!

    Not sure that I used your technique correctly but here is what I did. Early in the day I read your topic and had it in mind when my department head came to me when no one was in the room and asked if I had heard of anything “going on” while she was away from the office. I was so over-joyed with her treating me as a confidant that I almost told her what I had heard…..I took a deep breath before I began to speak and a funny thing happened that little second thought popped in my head- why should I give her a heads up about anything after the shabby way she had been treating me since she became my boss not quite a year ago? I am 20 years older than she and am retiring after nearly two decades on the job partially because of the extreme discomfort I was feeling being dressed down by her in front of the others in our department. I decided it would be better to let her sweat a little and experience in a small way the stress that I felt by her placing me “on the outside” after having been at “near center” all these years. Maybe, what I am describing is really just letting that dark side of me surface and not really using your technique. What do you think of what I did? Oh, another thing…I just heard for the first time today a song “Idle (Second Thoughts) by Adult. Even at my age, the beat was seductive and I found myself toe tapping and finger snapping in spite of myself!

    1. Events, interactions with others occur around us and with us. How we automatically think about them is the the first thought. The second thought is something to introduce when we feel the first one is damaging to our well being. If you thought less of yourself because of what your co-worker did then using the second thought in the way I described would help you. Here’s the song you requested by Adult. “Idle(Second Thoughts) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46MF5HP9_IU

  5. Dr. Ike–I’ve tried the second thought exercise and found it to be helpful with mild episodes of self/doubt or self/loathing. When Spivey’s wrecking ball is in full swing, though, nothing seems to work, except…to envision a cease-fire (not a truce or armistice) in a bitter, endless war of attrition with fixed, impregnable positions on both sides and implacable enemies glaring at each other and committed to a fight to the death. I’ll never conquer those demons, I often fear, and at best I can fight off their probes, their patrols among my outposts. In the meantime, I keep my emotional powder dry and my bunkers deep to ensure that I endure the onslaughts that come from time to time. No peace necessarily, but a respite from time to time in which to emotionally reload, relax a bit perhaps, and keep those demons at arms’ length for the time being. Sometimes it’s all I can do. Where this negativity comes from and how deep it runs I am still trying to figure out, and I may never succeed. To put it to the sword or otherwise decisively master it? A bit overwhelming for me at present…but the second thought exercise is helpful, even if sometimes I feel so dishonest with myself when I try it.

  6. First of all, I love the new website! This is such a rich topic. The thoughts we focus on will manifest into out reality. At least that is how I look at it. So if I don’t like what I am experiencing, feeling or percieving, then I have to change my thought. It is ongoing, and seems like there is no end to it. Because like you said, we are programmed how and what to think, and to undo those untrue thoughts takes constant awareness and diligence.
    There is a song called ‘Monsters’, the chorus line is; Working for the Monsters in My Mind”. It is right on the mark. It can be streamed through this website: princesspeapod.com

  7. Barry here again. Love what you wrote. I have a story to tell. I was driving my car and suddenly felt a wave of depression come over me. I parked the car and sat and practiced your method. It came to me how sad I was that my older son is having problems in his marriage. i made me think of my divorce and I saw that I was worrying that the same would happen to him. I breathed in my name and exhaled let go and realized i had no control over what would happen and that in the present things were fine. it was a good day. I was making good money and I told myself my kid would figure it out as iI had. Thanks for the tool you gave us. I’ll try to use it more often.


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