Sunday, 28 February 2010


The root of all unhappiness is simple – it’s fear. We are so familiar with fear, it is such an intrinsic part of people’s lives that few ever give it much thought, it’s just there, manifesting as every form of dread, worry and concern. You may have heard it said that the only thing to fear is fear itself, but have you ever stopped to think about it? Did you think it applied just to certain things at certain times, or did you just reject the idea out of hand as obviously untrue?

Just for a moment, consider what your life would be like without fear, worry, anxiety, hate or terror. It would be bliss wouldn’t it? Heaven on Earth! All these sufferings are actually one thing, fear manifesting in various forms. When people speak of fear, they usually equate it with terror, a moment of particularly strong imminent peril. In fact fear is much more far-reaching than terror, but it boils down to one thing – sadness, and because we feel sadness, we experience suffering.

Fear is, logically speaking, actually completely unnecessary and a waste of energy, because fear is the grieving for something you’re not losing right now. It is the anticipation of being hurt by pain, or more often by loss. It causes people to behave in all kinds of unpleasant ways. If subconsciously you believe that you can take out the threat, you experience hate, anger and aggression. If you can’t fight it but believe you can escape it, you feel fear, worry, anxiety and terror. If you believe that there is no way to escape an impending doom, you experience bitterness, depression and cynicism. You will probably be able to relate to all these behaviours.

In almost all cases, the fear is misplaced and the resultant behaviour it produces is inappropriate. It is bad for you as an individual and everyone around you in just about every way, physiologically, mentally and materially. That being the case, why are so many people doing it? The answer is simply a case of civilisation racing ahead of evolution. Our fear instinct is there for a good reason: to protect us in a hostile environment, and to maintain the highest possible ranking in the tribe.

These were quite handy instincts on the African Savanna where we originated, but in modern civilisation fear can seriously get in the way, because our desire for convenience order and progress has now come into conflict with primordial urges that are no respecter of change. While the development of technology and civilisation is accelerating, evolution has been left standing.

There are many who think that it is possible for some people to become free of fear by amassing wealth, possessions, power and success, or distract themselves with all kinds of sensual pleasure, but look closer at people who have achieved all this and you find them no less fearful or less unhappy, in fact they’re often more fearful and more unhappy fighting an endless battle to keep what they have. Those who are both affluent and happy would have been happy anyway, because they are the lucky few for whom happiness and a positive outlook comes naturally to them.

I’m not arguing for a moment that poverty doesn’t matter or there’s no point striving for success, because clearly it’s better, but that’s not the same thing as happiness. You are better off richer than poorer, but it is equally true to say that you are better off happier than richer. Dig down to the roots of unhappiness and you’ll find fear.

To eliminate fear from your life, or at least stop it spoiling your life and the lives of others nearby by your behaviour born of fear, you have to know where fear is coming from, and it isn’t the world out there. It is in fact your mind. Remember, fear is about things not happening right now. If bad things are not happening now, it must be your mind that is deciding to be upset by the world, not the world actually doing anything. If you can change the way your mind deals with the information it’s getting, you can stop being afraid, stop feeling bad, stop behaving badly and start making a real positive difference to the world around you.

If you want your mind to change the way your mind reacts, you are going to need to completely overhaul your concept of reality. Most people have the notion that reality is a fixed objective thing – the way that it is that is obvious to us all. But as a matter of fact, when you actually examine what people perceive as reality, it turns out that your “reality” is unique to you. It is subjective, not objective. There are things that a lot of us view similarly, there are others that are our unique view. Your view of reality is the result of a complex cocktail of genetics, experience, environment and upbringing. It is not a fixed thing at all, it is a pliable flexible thing that is constantly evolving as we gain more and new experience.

So then, the first requirement in eliminating fear from your life is not eliminating things in your environment, but accepting that your view of reality needs to change. Of course some would argue they’d be a lot less fearful if they had lots of money and lived in a nice place, but what actually happens to people who do make big gains is that their new-found happiness does not last. Their new environment starts to become normal and they return to the same level of happiness they were in the first place. You only have to pick up any celebrity gossip magazine to see that this is true.

Only if you are prepared to accept that reality may be different from how you’ve been seeing it can you truly eliminate fear from your life. It is beyond the scope of this talk to cover the true nature of reality, but what you can be sure of to begin with is that it’s nothing like how you’re experiencing it. For a start, it’s nothing like how it looks and feels. If you just went by your five senses, it would be obvious that the Earth was flat and that the sun rose in the east, travels across the sky and sets in the west. Only through the development of technology has it become obvious that how it looks is nothing like how it is, and that we are in fact on a sphere that is orbiting a star.

In just the same way, it seems obvious that the world is an interplay between matter, or stuff, and energy like light, heat and sound. In fact there is no stuff at all. It turns out that stuff is just dense fields of energy.

In true reality there is quite literally nothing there, just energy and consciousness that enables you to experience it. It is your mind that is constructing the three-D surround-sound experience that you call life and reality, and if you want it to, you can completely change your experience just by changing the way your mind thinks.

It turns out that the remedy for fear is faith. Since the only true certainty is consciousness, everything else has to be an assumption. It is what you believe that shapes your reality. If you believe that life is awful, that is what you will experience. If you believe life is an exciting joyride, then that’s what you’ll experience. So then, to change your experience, you must be prepared to accept that your perception of reality is flawed. It doesn’t work in the way you think it does. Whatever your experience has been so far, it is only one experience in an infinity of experiences, and you must accept that you don’t have all the information.

The way to change belief is to tackle it one aspect at a time, making a new assumption and testing it. To begin eliminating fear from your life, start with this new assumption: what goes around comes around. For a trial period of 30 days, every day, aim to do at least one good thing for somebody and not expect anything back. Buy a new notebook and every day write down in the notebook the something you did and also one thing you were grateful for that happened on that day. When the 30 days are up, you will have the proof that by thinking and acting positive that you can change your world.

You will now be well on the way to eliminating fear from your life by seeing that you are not a victim at all but the creator of your own destiny. Once you have had this experience, you will be ready to move on and discover that the reality is that you cannot lose and so there is nothing to fear, because what you’ve been calling life is much bigger and better than you ever realised.

In my experience, a lot of people are happy to stay in their comfort zone and tolerate the fear and consequent unhappiness they live with. Only those who are absolutely sick of suffering and unhappiness and their own behaviour spoiling everything are ready to grasp the prize on offer – a life completely free of fear, where at every moment they experience the most profound sense of peace of mind and underlying happiness. Why not make a move today? You have nothing to lose but fear and unhappiness!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Peace of Mind

I have spent large parts of my life wishing I was put to sleep and woken up only for a rare experience of ecstacy, then to be put back to sleep again - literally and honestly. It seems that near his end, Michael Jackson felt the same, but had the money to make it happen - and had the fate of many who seek an external chemical solution to their problems. For so long, life was just awful, or more accurately felt awful. Suffering, I have since discovered, is really just a decision that things are bad. This decision is made by creating an idea of how it should be, an idealised fantasy where everything does what you think it should, and then measuring how it actually is against that fantasy standard.

It has taken more than half a lifetime for me to deconstruct this perception and manage my thoughts in such a way that doesn't leave me permanently miserable. Even then, this awakening has taken place because I was forced into it by necessity. Others, particularly in my family, were going to be deeply affected by my attitude and behaviour. I didn't want to let my issues spoil their lives, as my parents issues had spoiled large parts of mine.

I am not immune to being blown off course by circumstances and the attitudes of others, but when alone, I am no longer torturing myself, and have that most precious of all life's qualities, peace of mind. Nothing else really matters. Peace of mind is the ultimate bliss that life can offer. I would trade in any other experience for it, as it is the only one that really satisfies. In fact, the Law of Attraction only works to full effect when you are at peace with yourself first.

The absence of peace of mind boils down to fear, and fear is an ongoing product of the mind itself. Yes, past trauma, injustice and bad circumstances play their part, but these things only go on hurting us when we are ruled by fear, and your fear also incidentally hurts not only you but everyone around you. Fear, in the absence of an imminent threat to life, really does ruin everything. The first step to free yourself from this tyranny of fear is to tame your own mind, because left to itself the mind has an infinite capacity for bringing up things to be afraid of.

The ultimate cause of fear boils down to a sense of separation from the reality you perceive around you. Many of my clients express this very feeling, that they are innocent little fish thrown into a nasty pond full of horrid things. I have to then deconstruct this perception of reality and show them it is something they created themselves, a popular but false adopted concept that life sucks. It only "sucks" if you start with the assumption that your life is all about whether your conscious mind is in control of everything.

When you start to examine what your conscious mind actually is, and what what you mean by "me" "myself" and "I", and what these things actualy are when you look at them closely, your clear ideas about being a distinct little fish in a big mucky pond start to break down and then get completely turned on their head. It turns out that you are the pond experiencing itself through the fish. The universe is experiencing itself through you!

This startling conclusion comes at the end of a prolonged journey of discovery. It is a journey embarked on only by a minority, who are so absolutely sick of suffering, and yearn so desperately to be free that they are determined enough to embark on it. My clients in their own ways are all similar. They have tried everything else and are so fed up with their issue or utterly bereft of a way out by themselves that they turn to me. Fortunately for them, so long as they trust me and do what I tell them, I can help them, as I've already "been there", be it addiction, despair or distress.

Most of my clients rarely need to undertake the full journey I have - if they have a single issue, they need only to learn how to draw on their own hidden inner resources. As they learn to trust in themselves, their self-belief starts to dispel their fear and life becomes rich and fulfilling, without any need to go into the nature of existence itself. As the healer and therapist however, it is essential to my own personal ongoing succes.

For most people, and the majority of my clients, it is sufficient to see oneself as simply just as worthy as anything else in the pond, with a valid and worthwhile contribution to make. The sense of separation becomes less acute, fear dissolves, at least to a manageable level, and peace of mind is experienced. But occasionally I get the odd client whose belief system is so negative, so utterly distorted and so self-defeating that nothing less than a complete paradigm shift in their fundamental assumptions about life is required, and I introduce them to the reality of who they truly are.

If you wish to experience ultimate Peace of Mind, which is life's ultimate bliss, you need to become aware that you are not a separate distinct thing from everything else, but rather a unique expression of everything else, in the same way every wave is a unique expression of the ocean, or a snowflake is a unique expression of snow. What some people call "enlightenment" is not transforming into an angelic being, but rather the letting go of what you have thought you are to become what in reality you have always been. To experience that reality, begin the journey by sitting down and asking the question "exactly who/what am I?"

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Law of Attraction is not the only law!

Most business people and professional sportspeople believe in the Law of Attraction. This "law", made popular by "The Secret" book and DVD franchise, states that whatever you are focused on, you will attract into your life. For example, if you spend every day thinking about living in a house in the country, that's where you'll inevitably end up.

Actually I really do believe in the Law of Attraction. I think whatever you focus on will inevitably grow in your life. The idea is not new. Christian scripture for example is full of promises about the power of faith. However, there are also other principles at work in the Universe. Clearly this must be the case as it's not difficult to find people who have been disappointed by The Secret, or generally found their dreams in tatters. Every year I treat several clients whose confidence has been destroyed by the collapse of their business. Believe me, they were all completely devoted to the success of their business, so the Law of Attraction was clearly overridden by something else.

I would suggest that the Universe isn't there to simply serve any individual perspective. Each individual life serves an important purpose, but other laws also apply. The following names are my own, but the principles they are attached to are genuine and universal:
No energy, force or power is allowed complete mastery. Even love, which many believe underpins the Universe, is clearly on the back foot in many lives and places. On the other hand, no dark power can ever extinguish virtues like faith, hope and love.
Everything settles into a balance  to accomodate everything else. Whatever impact you are having, everything else doesn't stop but reaches an equilibrium around it. For example, persecuting a belief will never eradicate it, simply limit its activity, driving it "underground"
What goes around comes around! Whatever actions you take has consequences that return to you.
Your life will reflect not what you think you want, but your deepest feelings and desires.

...This is not an exhaustive list. There are others, some of which may be undiscovered. The point is that the Law of Attraction in isolation is a somewhat blunt instrument for living life by. Before evoking it, it's a good idea to ask yourself some more fundamental questions first:

Reflect on your life to date and see where you make the biggest difference. What activity causes most change for the better? It was clear from my early adult life that it was my considered words of insight that impressed people. I always seemed to be able to summarize a situation succintly. Others impress by their creative, manual, artistic or performing skills.

This is a different, more focused question. Having noted where you impress or make a difference, you need to boil this field down to activities that give you the greatest satisfaction. You need the focus to screen out preconceptions of what's "sensible", "lucrative", "safe" or has "prospects" - ignore these and narrow in on fulfilment as the central criterion.

Your life is a limited finite experience. Note emphasis on experience. It is most emphatically NOT a competition. There are no prizes you can keep. Any "gains" are temporary! Only one question really matters at life's end: was your potential fulfilled? In other words, did you maximise your experience? Your purpose therefore that which will make the most difference, give you the greatest sense of accomplishment and thereby fulfil your potential, giving your life worth and meaning.

....Only when you have really worked through these questions are you ready to fully focus on a single aim and evoke the Law of Attraction, because only then will all the other "Laws" avoid conflict with it. For example focusing on a big house in the country is only worthwhile if having it serves to fulfil your life-purpose, rather than just your ego!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Mindset For Maintenance

The human mind is truly astonishing in its capacity, but to get the most out of it, some time should be spent in training it, maintaining it and perfecting its abilities. Of course no one really wants to do this, as it doesn't seem to achieve anything. Sitting quietly in meditation for example does nothing to further my business. However to neglect maintaining anything, including mind and body, is a popular false economy. If you want anything to work at maximum efficiency, you must at regular periods give it a rest, check it over, modify it, upgrade certain parts and repair others. Fail to do so, and your system or machine will run increasingly less efficiently and finally break down altogether.

Mind and body are not exempt from this principle. Unfortunately both are often criminally neglected on the grounds that people have better more important things to do. The flaw in this argument is of course that important things will not get done well if the mind and body doing them hasn't been properly maintained!

There are many time-management strategies for fitting meditation and exercise into your day, but they all assume that the right mindset is there in the first place! My experience as a therapist has taught me how to establish the mindset before attempting to establish a new regime.

The clients I see fall into three categories: those who are paying me full fees, those who are having their fees paid (by partner or business) and those who receive free treatment in return for testamonials. All these clients get the same high quality of therapy, and are also given "homework" to reinforce the suggestions I have planted in their minds. Can you guess which group are the most diligent in their homework? Yep, you guessed, the full-fee payers!

Those who have paid for themselves have made an investment: they have made a significant sacrifice in order to achieve the objective. Consequently, they are more focused on the objective, and recognise their homework as essential to achieving it. This is the mindset that gets results faster, wanting to see a painful investment already made paying off!

To achieve excellent results must include a disciplined programme of maintenance. The maintenance must therefore be seen as synonymous with the objective. Exercise for example in isolation is a pointless uncomfortable waste of time, but having a body able to do what I want it to is very important to my credibility as a therapist. In other words, if I want to be a top notch world-renowned therapist, spending time maintaining mind and body is as crucial to my success as treating clients, marketing and networking. It's not the body per se, it's what an able body will deliver me.

Of course an able mind and body is essential for most ambitions, not just mine. The key then is to be focused not on the maintenance itself but what the maintenance will deliver. It is just as essential an activity as delivery of your service. People focused on the objective they really want for themselves (as opposed to being pressured into) and realise that maintenance is vital to that objective will be more diligent and more successful.


Sunday, 7 February 2010

How To Stop Negative Thinking

We tend to think that we are the sum total of our thoughts. This is simply not so. In fact our thoughts aren't "us" at all! You may have noticed that at odd moments when your mind goes blank, you don't become unconscious - you still retain awareness. What you truly are is awareness itself - everything else, including thoughts and memories, are things you simply experience, the mind responding to data it is receiving. This would all be very well if the mind always responded in a helpful positive way. Clearly it doesn't! Fortunately it is possible with practice and simple techniques to drastically reduce negative thinking and its effects, and lead a happier more comfortable and productive life as result.

If you you wish to be liberated from negative attitudes and behaviour, the first step is to understand how thoughts turn into actions. At any given moment, a vast traffic of information is entering and leaving your awareness. This information comes in the form of data from your senses, and internally-generated thought and memory. You have very little control over what is entering the field of your awareness. It is a "public access" zone that virtually anything can enter and leave. Though your environment has a strong input into your awareness, even in a positive unthreatenng environment, all manner of negativity can "bubble up" from your subconscious, so at any given moment, your awareness will have a mixture of positive, negative and neutral data moving across it.

Simply being aware of thoughts, memories and feelings has no impact on you. They only influence your life when they enter your focus. Something in your focus has your attention, and that particular item will set off a chain reaction that will affect your entire being. Unlike your awareness, you can have full conscious control over your focus, but you can also choose to let your focus drift. Do this however, and your focus will lock on to certain defaults. This is fine if your defaults are helpful, but in many people they are distinctly unhelpful!

Remember that your focus need not necessarily be on your immediate environment at all, but is capable of being on (literally) anything you can think of. Whatever it is locked onto sets off a whole raft of electrical signals throughout the brain and then the release of hormones into the blood, affecting the entire body. Consequently, your body isn't reacting to what's actually "there" but rather what you're focused on! The key to health and happiness is thus taking control of your focus.

In addition to focus, there is a second key factor in eliminating negative thinking - your beliefs. Faith and belief is not the preserve of the religious - it is a fundamental part of everyone's life. It must be because there is only one true and absolute certainty, and that isn't as you might imagine, death and taxes. The only indisputable truth beyond any doubt is that you are conscious. Science has been embarrassingly unable to categorically define either life or consciousness, which undermines every single "fact" that science has established! Science can only quantify what everyone can universally experience, but can't actually prove it's physically "there"!

In the absence of any real "truth" other than consciousness itself, your mind decides completely unilaterally what reality is. This reality is entirely a construct of your own mind, unique to you. What to you is reality can be nonsense and delusion to another, who has a completely different construct of reality. Reality is personal and subjective, not absolute and objective!

This understanding of reality is vital to your elimination of negative thinking. It's not what you believe in but belief itself that has power over your life! Once you realise this, you can begin to break free of negative beliefs and replace them with the more positive belief that anything is possible. What you believe affects everything you experience, so have the right focus and a positive belief and your life can become a powerhouse of fulfilment.

The ability to believe and perceive is essentially a survival tool, the result of evolution in a harsh tribal Savanna environment. Unfortunately it was forged for an environment and circumstances that are nothing like modern civilisation, and so belief and perception can get it hideously wrong if left to itself. Realising your own perception is a malleable tool rather than how it truly is, is key to having it promote and fulfil your life rather than sabotage it. 

The most common assumption at the root of negative thought is I AM THE VICTIM. I am at the total mercy of many factors completely beyond my control that are dooming me to an inferior life. With this fundamental belief at the root of your mind, programmed into the subconscious, life will turn out exactly how you perceive it. It is vital to completely eradicate this perception and replace it with a more positive one, Such a fundamental change of belief is called a PARADIGM SHIFT, a change in the assumtions that underpin your understanding.

The first step in eliminating this view is realising how it got there in the first place. It was imported! All beliefs are imports, accepted because they seem commensurate with experience. Combine a bad experience, particularly in childhood, with an imported negative belief and you have a recipe for a lifetime of self-sabotage.

Most of the things that are upsetting us are not actually happening to us at all! We are thinking about what things mean, what they might mean, what might happen to us, what has already happened to us and how defenceless we are. In most cases, while all this is going through your mind, at the particular moment, you are actually quite safe and not in any physical pain. However, as we saw earlier, your body does not respond to the environment, it responds to your focus. With your focus on threats, mind and body behaves like it's threatened. This results in inappropriate behaviour and responses, and over time will make you mentally and physically ill.

There are short term and long-term steps that you can take to keep your focus on the positive and revolutionise your perception, and the great news is that anyone can do them anywhere. A pilgrimmage to Tibet or great expense on a training course is not necessary!

Simply bring your middle finger into contact with the thumb. This on its' own won't do anything. What you must do now is look at the point of contact and focus on the feeling of the touch. This will release the grip of your negative thought on your focus and bring your focus back onto the present moment. You will notice your mind going temporarily blank in he process. Now bring your focus purposely to something positive and happy.

It is best to have this focus ready in advance rather than scrabbling around at the moment trying to think of something. For example, you may like to think of an idyllic beauty spot, a happy memory a wonderful experience or someone you deeply love. You will start to feel the happiness in your body. You are not imagining this: happiness like all other feelings causes particular hormones to circulate round your body. Finally focus upon a task, either "in-hand" or shortly to be done. Repeat this cycle as often as necessary.

You need to perceive yourself as part of something greater. You are the product of processes that are at work in the whole universe. You are not isolated and lost within it, you are a fundamental part of it, and your words, thoughts and actions can have far-reaching consequences. This works the other way too, which means you can draw on energies and resources from beyond yourself to fulfil yourself.

This can take the form of guides, friends, lovers and allies, as well-as all-manner of objects, events and circumstances, because the essence of the universe is within you. You may like to explore spirituality, or practices such as meditation, T'ai Chi or Yoga that promote your sense of belonging and being a unique yet integral expression of being.

Secondly, as far as possible keep your focus on the positive and the present. Just because something negative wanders into your awareness doesn't mean you need to give it your focus. If you do you are MANUFACTURING suffering for yourself. When you catch yourself doing this, rejoice! You have made a massive step forward to nipping negativity in the bud, and taking evasive action. Only negative things posing an immediate present threat to wellbeing requires your attention. A group of chavs playing their music loudly on the bus for example, though clearly antisocial, is NOT a threat to your wellbeing and does not need your focus. Acceptance of your awareness being an open forum and your focus being kept on a tight leash is major progress to the elimination of negativity from your life.

Thirdly, ongoing permanent sources of sadness, like trauma, loss, bereavement or chronic pain and illness, must be permitted their permanent presence in your awareness. They are "sitting tenants" and their rights to live there must be respected. Stop trying to "evict" them. However neither should they have unfettered access to your focus. Keep focus positive and present, but set aside annual short times of focus on your sadness if that is beneficial. For many, Remembrance Sunday is such a time, or an annual pilgrimmage to a graveside or memorable location.

Finally, each challenge you encounter is a point to make a change, not to wallow in self-pity as yet another example of your being the victim. Be focused on the best course of action, not what it "means". This is a waste of mental energy as meaning changes with time. The action, what you actually do, is fixed for all time, so give it your full attention.

This is a useful and potentally life-changing set of principles, all tried-and-tested by myself, but if you have specific issues blighting your life, you will defnitely need some form of extra help from another. Seek out this help urgently, because your life will effectively be "on-hold" until you do. It will not go away by itself! Everyone needs help sometimes, and there is no shame in it. Don't waste a moment of your life in fear and "playing safe" - there is no true "safe" in life, only adventures. Embrace the adventure and reach out when stuck.

Why not let me know? Post them here or for confidential personal advice, e-mail me at

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

My name's Gary and I'm a Rageaholic

Being a rageaholic has noticable similarities to being an alcoholic. You are the victim of an overwhelming urge to do something highly self-destructive, and you will always be one, even if you haven't indulged for many years. In one sense you genuinely can't help it - I didn't choose to be a rageaholic and don't enjoy being one.

 It is an inbuilt mechanism within me that gets set off by what feels like everything - people who speak to me harshly, doddery old giffers in supermarkets holding everyone else up, stupid rules, people who enforce them, people who don't apologise, not being considered, people who don't say please or thank you, the inconsiderate, chavs, muggers, teenagers, muslim women who wear veils, evangelists, parents who don't control their children, British Telecom, British Airways, Manchester United, lies and liars, rudeness, arrogance, supremacism, machines and systems not working, lateness, wasps, flies, mosquitoes, soap operas, Jeremy Kyle, gardening shows, surreal car adverts, the education system, my mum, dad and sister, body odour, bad breath, itching, clumsiness, incompetence, cruelty, neglect, people who play their music loudly in public places, people talking bollocks and having to explain things to people who should already know.

...and that's just things I can think of right now! Though there is some form of valid point to be made about all of these things, anger towards them is unnecessary, unhelpful, inappropriate or completely illogical.

Combine this condition with a teenage daughter and you have a recipe for disaster. No one at any point came along, recognised my problem and intervened. However I was fortunately powerfully motivated to do something about it on my own. My rage was passed down from my parents, and I didn't want to pass it on to another generation. I didn't want to hurt people and spend my life twisted with hate. And I wanted to help others with the same problem.

And so a long quest began to liberate myself from this bondage. At this point in the quest, I have reached certain conclusions. Firstly, rage is an intrinsic mechanism within me. It cannot be removed. However it can and absolutely must be managed. I cannot stop things making me angry, but instead of taking days to calm down I can now calm myself within 30 seconds in most cases and within minutes in the worst cases.

I have had to overhaul my belief system and learn new disciplines such as mindfulness and meditation. Most importantly I have had to develop the abilty to instantly recognise thoughts and feelings as helpful or unhelpful. Usually, I can head off reacting badly "at the pass", but certain issues and contexts cause an instant outburst. I have learned to forgive myself for such occasions. It is genuinely beyond my control and not my intention. Having "lost it" however, I have learned to find my awareness within the madness, and given a couple of minutes space can come right back down to base level rapidly.

A side-benefit from the techniques I have learned is that they work with all forms of negative thought, such as worry, fear and self-pity, and I am a much more positive optimistic person these days. In my next article, How To Stop Being Negative, I will reveal the techniques I have learned.

Monday, 1 February 2010

How To Not Worry

What I find peculiar about people is that they spend a lot of time worrying about what might happen in the future, but never for a moment contemplate that its’ only apparent certainty is death. This means that they waste a lot of time worrying about things that never actually happen, and are completely unprepared for bereavement or their mortality.

In my Practice I come across many clients traumatised by their past, and even though they are now free from those terrible circumstances, they are haunted by it as if it was still happening, or going to happen again. In fact, most people who are troubled, at this particular moment right now are actually safe. They are not in danger of losing anything at this moment. It is the possibility of things going wrong that keeps people up at night, and yet oddly they never consider the fact that everything they do will come to nothing anyway, due to the simple fact that you will grow old and die. Anything you gain in this life, you will ultimately lose, and everything you do, you will eventually be unable to do.

You might begin to see that if you take life as competition, the world is a pretty mean place. In fact, there are plenty of people who will willingly tell you just that. They argue that life is a savage competition that is really about the survival of the species, and the best the individual can do is struggle and fight to get everything you can to enjoy while you can before you get too old and die.

From when we are start going to school we are sold this philosophy. You need to do well and work hard to pass your exams, you need to get a good job, you need a promotion, you need to save for your retirement, then you need to hang on for as long as possible. Some people who swallow this argument wholesale find themselves in middle age doing a job they hate surrounded by people they don’t like and the terrible feeling they’ve missed out.

Folks, if you really believe that this is life, I feel truly sorry for you, because it is in fact a terrible terrible lie, it’s a universal delusion that’s spread from generation to generation and only really exists in people’s heads. Some people go on believing it out of fear of disappointment. They want absolute zero risk, so they dare not risk believing anything more positive, in case it’s not true!

If you have an open mind and would like to entertain the idea that all this worry and anxiety over stuff that might happen is unnecessary, then listen on, because this could be the start of truly living life rather than surviving it. First, if you like to play safe, there is in life only one certainty, and I’m not talking about death or taxes here, and that is consciousness. You are quite clearly conscious because you can hear this, you are aware of it. It is the one thing that you can be in no doubt whatsoever.

However, after that everything else is uncertain and is based purely on experience. The so-called certainty of death, is not certain at all, it is just a universally common experience. We all experience that everyone and everything for that matter seems to stop being around after a while. But when you start looking at what death is and what life is, it all starts to get a bit confusing. You may not be aware that scientists cannot agree exactly what life is – there is no agreed definition for life, because whenever they try, there’s some annoying living organism that doesn’t fit it!

The reality is that through your senses your consciousness receives data. Our minds then decide what that data means. Everything you’ve decided is reality, is the way it is, has absolutely no foundation in solid fact at all – there are no true facts other than consciousness itself. What you call fact and reality is only what your mind has decided. There is no proof there is actually anything out there at all but your consciousness experiencing things. Everything you have decided exists might be nothing but a dream for all you really know.

This is actually a good thing – it means all that life’s a bitch then you die stuff is purely an idea that you can take or leave. It all adds up to nothing more than a certain interpretation of experience. So then, if from your own point of view your life is whatever you decide it is, why not go for a way that brings you peace of mind rather than anxiety? Obviously it needs to be a way that fits with how you experience life, and I’m pleased to tell you that there is such a way that does not require you to make huge leaps of faith or swallow whole big books of philosophical and religious dogma.

Let’s go back for a minute and look at the big picture of life. Your life, and your life is the only one that you experience, is not a competition. You will experience competition in your life, but that does not make your life a competition. You will experience washing in your life, but you wouldn’t argue that life is about washing.

Of all the experiences you encounter, your life is actually most like that of the song or a dance or a performance. The point of a song is not the end, the point of a song is simply to connect with the experience. You might have your favourite bits in it, but those bits only work in the context of the whole song. Life is about now, your experience right now, and about making a difference to that experience. Just by being conscious, you have the ability to change experience by what you say, do and think. Whose experience? Yours of course. Everything you’re thinking saying and doing is changing your experience moment by moment. Put another way, moment by moment you are creating your environment.

So then, the only point in time that really matters is right now. If you want to stop worrying, the first thing you need to do is be focused on what you’re doing right now. To do that you must make the distinction between your awareness and your focus.

You don’t really have a lot of choice over what enters your awareness. Your awareness is like an open field with no fences. Anything can wander in and out of it and you can’t really do a lot about it. Thoughts and feelings sights, sounds, smells and ideas can crop at random and just as randomly vanish. You have to accept this. Your awareness is a public not a private place. What you can control is your focus. Of all the things in your awareness, you can give approximately 2% your focus. With your will, you can choose that on which you focus. The difference is very important to understand. Once something has your attention, it sets off a whole chain reaction in your mind, beyond your conscious control. Your mind begins by giving it a label. When you experience confusion, it’s because your mind can’t work out what the right label is, paralysing the whole process.

The label once assigned can be good, bad, threatening, annoying, pleasurable and so on. Having decided what it means, the brain sends out a whole raft of signals and hormones that gear the body up for dealing with the situation. If you focus on a worry, your body is gearing up for a threat that is not where you are right now and may never happen at all. Worry often enough and you are permanently in the wrong state of mind and body and actually make the eventuality more likely!

So the question then becomes, how do we make sure our attention latches on to the helpful and useful rather than the unhelpful? How do we stop those worries which we latch on to by default hogging our attention and all that mental and physical energy?

The first step is to recognise what kind of thought you’re having. Generally you know full well whether the thought is helpful or unhelpful, if it’s not helpful, simply say to yourself this simple affirmation: I REFUSE TO TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THIS THOUGHT. Now bring your right thumb into contact with your right middle finger and focus on the feeling of the touch. The focusing on the touch is very important - simply holding finger and thumb in place without focus doesn't do anything. When you focus, then you find the unhelpful thought is locked out.

As a general rule, at any specific time, something should have your attention, and if you don’t decide it yourself by act of will, your mind will decide for you! Sadly, an untrained mind left to itself doesn’t make good decisions, simply because no one has taught it. Most people with an open mind don’t really need a lot else to be successful. If you are focused on the task in hand, know why you’re doing it and know what you want to do with your life, no great philosophical or spiritual revolution is needed.

That said, many of the clients I see have very deeply-rooted negative beliefs about themselves. In this case there is no substitute for seeing a therapist one-to-one to start seeing the world in a different way. But for everyone, the simple technique of being careful where you place your attention will make a big difference to how much you worry. When a negative thought tries to hijack your attention say to yourself. I REFUSE TO TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THIS THOUGHT. Now bring your right thumb into contact with your right middle finger and focus on the feeling of the touch. I use these techniques every day and they work for me. Why not try it out for a day and see how you get on. Even better, drop me an e-mail and tell ME how you got on. I’d love to hear from you! I wish you a worry-free week.