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.