Weâre all crazy. As a chartered psychologist, I should know.
We fill our lives with irrational thoughts. Every time we have a negative thought such as dissatisfaction, disappointment, regret or blame, or any other thought thatâs maintaining uncomfortable feelings such as frustration, irritation or stress, weâre always having an irrational thought.
Thatâs because, with one exception (see below), weâre either wanting something thatâs happened not to have happened, or weâre wanting a situation that exists right now not to exist right now. In others words weâre wanting something to be âalready differentâ.
Nothing can ever be âalready differentâ, so in all these cases weâre wishing for the impossible. I rest my case - weâre all crazy.
Another term for wishing things were âalready differentâ is âresisting what isâ. The opposite is called âaccepting what isâ, which simply means not wishing something were already different. Many years ago I developed a technique to train myself to âaccept what isâ all the time. This technique has become known as Positive Acceptance.
It involves developing a habit of noticing whenever weâre wishing something were âalready differentâ. Acknowledge this is irrational, actually crazy, then drop the thought (easier than might be imagined once weâve completed the first two steps). Finally re-focus on what we can do, if anything, to change it or otherwise improve the future.
When we âaccept what isâ, thereâs only one thing left to think about - what we can do, if anything, to change things now or in the future. Start small (burnt toast, red traffic lights, missed trains) and build up to bigger issues. At least half the time, thereâs no need to take action - either because thereâs nothing we can think of doing or because itâs not important enough. In those cases, just drop the negative thought.
Soon after starting to use this technique I found myself stuck in traffic and running very late for an important meeting. I realised all the negative thoughts going through my mind, (including blaming myself for not leaving earlier), involved wishing things were already different. I immediately dropped the thoughts and made a resolution that Iâd never again be late for an important meeting. I committed to always leaving earlier for such meetings to create more contingency. Iâve never been late for an important meeting in the twenty years since, and Iâve used the same approach to change all the unproductive patterns in my life.
After a while this way of thinking becomes automatic, so we no longer have to think through the process. Later still, itâs picked up by our unconscious mind and the negative thoughts just stop arising. There are now thousands of people âpacceptingâ (positive accepting) many times a day and loving it.
Beware; thereâs something that stops pacceptance in its tracks - emotions! Pacceptance is a form of rational thinking and itâs hard to engage in any sort of rational thinking when emotions are pouring through us. One solution is to wait until the emotion has subsided before applying pacceptance.
You can speed up that process by learning to totally accept any uncomfortable feelings (see last months article).
Earlier I said that all dissatisfaction arises from wanting something to be âalready differentâ. There is one exception to this; worrying about the future. When weâre worrying about the future (defined by psychologists as âruminating about a negative outcomeâ), weâre wanting something to be different from the way we think it might be, and we donât believe we can control it. If we believed we could control it we wouldnât be worrying. This thought cycle is just as futile and irrational as wanting something to be âalready differentâ. The only thing worth thinking about is how we can gain more control over whatever it is weâre worrying about.
That leads to a variation of pacceptance that can be applied to the future, thus eliminating worry. Whenever we notice weâre worrying, we can acknowledge itâs futile and irrational; then drop the thought (again, easier than might be imagined once weâve acknowledged itâs futile and irrational) and refocus on what we can do, if anything, to gain more control over whatever we were worrying about, or to otherwise improve the future.
Another technique that can be used to stop worrying is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Whenever weâre worrying weâre nearly always exaggerating one or both of two things: a) the probability of something bad happening or b) the consequences even if it does happen. Identifying these exaggerations, together with the pacceptance-based technique helps us to drop these worrying thoughts.
Providing us with the means to eliminate dissatisfaction from our lives raises a question; âIsnât dissatisfaction a useful motivator to change things?â
I used to think so, but in my personal experience and that of my clients, I have found dissatisfaction to be a very poor motivator. While there are exceptions, dissatisfaction is generally just debilitating and de-motivating. If we remove it from our lives, we can replace it with much more effective motivators such as a desire or preference for how we want things to be.
âAccepting what isâ and accepting uncomfortable feelings, are two of the many tools used in a new therapy called Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT). The personal development equivalent is called Acceptance-Action Training. This is the basis of a âPersonal Effectiveness and Achievementâ training called âThe Power to Chooseâ.
These trainings have dramatically changed thousands of lives. They eliminate stress, regret, dissatisfaction and worry, enhance achievement and success and give us the tools to deal with any challenges in relationships â including weight loss and smoking cessation!
About Graham W Price:
Graham W Price specialises in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and his own development Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT). Price offers seminars or DVDs costing ?20.00 on Acceptance-Action Training. See www.abicord.com .
His weight-loss programmes and smoking cessations, provided face-to-face or by phone or internet, are so successful theyâre now fully guaranteed. Unique in the world of weight loss, he gives a one year money-back guarantee for achieving the goal and sustaining it. See www.abicord.com/weight-loss or www.abicord.com/smoking-cessation. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01372 815 041.
Priceâs techniques are contained in his book âWhat Is, Is! The Power of Positive Acceptanceâ, published by Hothive, price ?9.99. It can be purchased at www.abicord.com/what-is-is or from any good bookshop. A free extract can be downloaded at www.whatisisbook.com