Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 5: Clear Thought Procesing

nautilusChambered Nautilus Training Group

Segment 5

Clear Processing of Information

Thinking comes naturally. Everyone does it. Not everyone does it well.

This Chambered Nautilus program is designed to help participants process their ideas and problem solving techniques in a clear, logical, rational manner. There are skills and principles to be learned and used in developing positive habits of clear and constructive thought processing.

If rational information processing were all there is to it we would build a whole program on that topic alone. It certainly is important enough to be studied in considerable depth. However, our focus is on how the very thought process itself can be disrupted by a lack of awareness of the role that emotions play in information processing.

Segment 5 of our program, Clear Processing of Information, deals with basic tools of rational thinking. Other Segments in the Chambered Nautilus Training Group program demonstrate how the thinking process can be most effective when used habitually, and not slip into the kinds of unconscious emotional distortions we sometimes allow to cloud our thinking process. There are essential aspects of anger, stress, anxiety, fear, etc., that are significantly affected by the way that we think. It is very important that our thought process be well tuned to objectivity and valid information.

Elements of Information Processing;

(1.)  Increasing our awareness of how we think

We begin by emphasizing an important shift in awareness regarding our reasoning powers. We wish to emphasize the fact that the brain, as a part of our body, is intimately affected by other body functions and states. Pain, fear, anger, hunger all can have a strong effect on how well we are able to think and even what we actually think about. We’ve all experienced the “I’m so tired I can’t even think straight” moments.

The distinctness of thought (brain function) as opposed to the other body functions is apparent to everyone, but the degree of distinctness, we believe, is generally over stated.

The brain does not think in isolation. Thoughts are often challenged by strong feelings about a given topic, thus threatening the validity of our decision-making from the start.

We will use the term ThinkingBody throughout our presentations to remind everyone that we are thinking-bodies and need to have an increased awareness of the body’s influence on our rational processing.

ThinkingBody is an awkward word and sometimes we use the equally awkward BodyThinking because there are no current terms that work well with this perspective and the concept is completely fundamental to our program.

 It’s what is going on in the brain that makes all the difference.

Before going any further let’s look at a couple of ideas.

  • What I call reality is dependent on my personal perception of my environment and its events;
  • My actions/behaviors flow from these perceptions and my underlying beliefs;
  • It is possible to change my perceptions and beliefs and thus modify my behaviors;
  • Before I undertake serious attempts at change, it is important to clarify and understand my personal perceptions     and beliefs.

The road to change or positive adaptation begins at home, with logical process and clear thought processing. Clear thought processing should be my normal state of mind. Unfortunately this is not so for many of us. The need to proceed with good decision-making has to start with a sincere effort to un-muddle my own thought processes.

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Let’s look at some problematic situations that arise for most of us at one time or another and examine them in relation to our mental states of perception. Some of the situations might entail a wide mix of emotions and possible responses. Troubling events often provoke anger responses, frustration, blaming, etc. They may also present moral conflicts and dilemmas. The end result might be increased anxiety, insecurity, a loss of courage, heightened discouragement and reinforced negative suppositions and beliefs. Can these situations all be solved by using clear thinking alone?  Of course not.  Will I be better able to handle crises of frustration, anger, moral dilemma, etc., if I habitually operate from a thought base of positive, clear thinking? Absolutely. No doubt about it. Would you jump into an athletic competition – football game, bicycle race, a downhill slalom or a marathon without first training for it?

Why then do we think that because we have gone to school or trained for our jobs that we will automatically be fit and able to adapt to the almost daily changes that we confront us? Why are we surprised when we struggle and fail? Is it worth your time and effort to train your thought processes to adapt quickly, effectively, ethically in any situation? That is what Clear Thought Processing is meant to do.

We are way ahead of the game if we can operate from a calm, disciplined mind. Let’s look at some things like self-talk, rationalizations, irrational beliefs, irrational fear, and worry and examine the physiology of attention – the mind/body perception of phenomena.

We have already seen that where the mind goes so goes my interpretive response. In many cases, regardless of my state of mind, be it fear, anxiety, anger, a rush of joy, etc., the physiology of the response is roughly the same. How it begins and the pattern that it follows is remarkably similar for everyone, but most people are not aware of the process. Awareness creates solutions.

Take an example of a person walking down a street into the sun, a short distance from his destination but in an unfamiliar neighborhood. A figure appears, walking toward him on the same side of the street. Because the figure is back-lit by the sun low in the sky, the distinguishing features are not entirely clear. The subject’s interpretive response feels like this: a little quickening of the pulse, a slight tingling in the stomach, a slight increase in the breathing rate, maybe a little twinge in the fingers or knees, all of which symptoms increase noticeably as the person comes closer!

What emotions might this person be feeling?

Fear? The subject is in an unfamiliar area, the figure is not entirely recognizable, the perceived context is one of possible danger because of the unknown area, and it is getting late in the day, etc. Fear could easily be the feeling going on.

Anxiety? The subject does not like the uncertainty of the situation and wonders at the body’s response. It seems to be telling him something uncertain and he begins to worry that maybe he should avoid the on-coming figure, start walking back where he came from; worry that he won’t accomplish his reason for walking here in the first place, etc.

Anger? The subject is unhappy that he has chosen this particular route to walk and that his peace of mind in being interrupted by this stranger. He begins to scold himself for his poor decision and the resulting frustration.

Joy? The subject is not sure but begins to think that the person walking toward him is actually a special friend he has not seen in a long time and feels the anticipation of a happy encounter coming closer.

Nothing has changed in the environment outside the subject but we can clearly see that it is the interpretation that the thinker is putting on the scenario that determines the emotion, while the sensations are the same in each case.

The process is identical; the end result can very different. The subject needs to clarify the information before acknowledging the sentiment. It would be counter productive to run away from a harmless stranger or an old friend; useless to worry about what might happen because the possibilities are just about infinite; detrimental to one’s health to beat oneself up over a mistake that never happened, and so on.

The implications are far-reaching. We don’t even need the external stimulus to be present. Memory of an event, imagination constructing an event, all sorts of mental plotting can initiate the process and drive me to emotional distraction. Controlled emotional responses support clear thinking and positive outcomes.

Chambered Nautilus Training Programs continually stress awareness of the role that emotions play in our judgments. We think with our entire body.  We are ThinkingBodies.  Other Segments of our program emphasize these emotive reactions. This Segment 5 stresses the need for disciplined thought processes that are necessary to maintain the integrity of our ThinkingBody reactions.

Continue reading Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 5: Clear Thought Procesing

Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 4: Managing Anger

nautilus Chambered Nautilus Training Group Permanent Stress Reduction Segment 4 Managing Anger:      Rational Responses to Emotional Pitfalls   Mood, motivation, plans, imagination, self-assessment, all the things we think make us who we are or can be, are found within the constant flow of our consciousness, whether we are awake or asleep. It follows that much of what we feel or choose to do comes from perceptions of our own making. Before you saddle up, grab your lance and head off into the fields of problem windmills, its important to have some idea of what is going on in the “brain shop” between your ears. The more you recognize how your mental process influences your behaviors, the easier it is to apply that process in a positive, constructive way.  The Chambered Nautilus programs of Rational Response training will assist in recognizing your complicated thought processes. Anger, frustration, anxiety, etc., stem in one way or another from faulty thinking and an inability to figure out the real cause of our emotional concern.

  Ignorant humans that we are, we have some in-born need to find stability in a life, a world, that is constantly changing, minute by minute. We resist change when it threatens that  hard-won stability that we try to impose on our daily lives. Paradoxically, we welcome change when that same stability becomes too predictable and boring. We say we need to get away, recharge our batteries and get a new perspective so we can return to the battle of maintaining a meaningful stability. Some of our most important skills then, center upon our ability to deal with change. This is the fine art of adaptation.

Adaptation gets us where we need to be when change becomes necessary. By examining our thinking process will we be able to foster better adaptive skills. When we are skilled at a kind of “thought awareness” we can not only recognize when adaptation is necessary but also come up with the best tools or methods to deal with the change. How I respond to the world around me is easily prejudiced by the quality of my thinking. If my thinking is swamped with negative outlooks or “no-can-do” precepts that I may not even be aware of, my responses will likely be in the form of negative behaviors. What comes out in my actions always starts in the workshop of ideas. Positive ideas produce positive results. The following is a simplified example but it serves a purpose;  

  1. the need to adapt to a changing situation presents itself; (formulate your own example, big or small):

 I report to work one day and find the memo in my email that corporate beings in far-off Decision Land have made some substantial changes to how the company is to operate, beginning today, and have issued corresponding changes in the work flow. This is bothersome to me as I have been at my job several years, trained hard to learn the specifics, refined my techniques, so that I’m very comfortable with what I do and have a positive self-image and very specific hopes for advancement. Now every thing is about to change.  My response mechanism is being challenged.  If I’ve learned positive thinking techniques. I’m sure I have some choice in the matter. I know I have access to a variety of responses; how do I choose a course of action? My response behaviors generally depend on my personal beliefs, which I think are relatively stable and consistent – they represent me and the person I have become.  If my adaptive skills are not sharp enough I might find myself making a counter-productive response to the situation because I have been UN-aware, UN-conscious of the link between my belief system and my behavior.  The result of course would be negative and could reinforce the belief that I cannot adapt. This leaves me with growing problem of insecurity and self-doubt.

The next stage might well be depressed moods or severe anger at being a helpless victim of the “System”. Fortunately there are antidotes to careless coping skills,poor thinking habits, regarding stress, anxiety, or anger. Our system of study methods, available at this blog site, combine certain physically relaxing exercises with ways to examine personal thinking habits that influence our emotional responses. These methods of adapting our behaviors are further enhanced by  meditations that aim at reinforcing the changes that must become second nature if an individual is to achieve lasting change.

The system is presented in a number of Segments, which like a chambered nautilus, represent stages of growth that lead to effective adaptation in a sea of constantly shifting waves and currents. The very environment in which we live and thrive can also flood us with constant challenges to our survival.

Chambered Nautilus Training Group offers a complete program:   Segment 1  Program for Permanent Stress Reduction; Segment 2  A Guided Meditation to sustain Self Awareness, Segment 3  Physical and Mental Relaxation Techniques Made Habitual, Segment 4  Rational Response to Anger Segment 5  Clear Thought Processing. 

 Segment 4   A Rational Response to Anger

Table of Contents Part I.  Anger types defined – Key ideas [Pt. I] Anger characteristics Part II. Brief Analysis of Anger Process – Key ideas [Pt. II] Addressing the Anger Process – Part III.  Recognizing Thinking Styles in Myself and Others – Thinking Habits that contribute to negative anger responses – Part IV   Practice Makes Perfect

Part 1- Anger Types  

  1.    Anger.  It’s like a tiger in the closet.

Everyone gets angry and that’s a good thing. However, there are different kinds of anger and we need to be aware of anger “styles”. To keep it simple, anger is either “Just” or legitimate or it is “Unjust or illegitimate, i.e. it is out of control emotion. Legitimate or Just Anger is a natural function of the human response system and could be called Useful Anger. Without it we would have been devoured by our enemies a long time ago. Just Anger moves us to action when social wrongs for example become intolerable and we need to take strong action to set things right. Just Anger is helpful when dealing with negative and threatening situations. It is a part of the animal “fight or flight” response that is an instinctive survival technique of human nature. Unjust Anger , or Useless Anger is when our emotional response to a perceived wrong or threat is out of control. This type of anger can actually be harmful to the person responding to the threat. In both cases the emotional experience of anger can feel exactly the same.

The secret to dealing with anger lies in understanding how I perceive the situation and recognizing my ability to control my responses. Just Anger usually takes some time to develop and express itself. A person may not be sure how to address the anger provoking issues and must decide on the most efficient mode of action to effect change. Unjust Anger can be more sudden and usually arises from the daily, frequent, frustrating incidents that test my patience. I can be angered in no time flat by the slowness of the check-out line, the turtle-pace of rush hour traffic, or the insistence of young children, mine or others’, to do what they please and not what I am insisting they should do. My angry out-bursts can be totally out of proportion to the situation.

This kind of Unjust Anger has both a history and a pattern of emergence.  It is a learned response that I have acquired from my past behaviors. Lucky for me, anger is a process which means I am able to interrupt my growing anger and avert a possible over-reaction or loss of control. Unfortunately, bad habits of thinking and poor coping skills lead to a “shortening of the fuse” of unjust anger. They tend to disrupt the response process.  Thus, I need to explore my emotional history and my habits of how I think about what is going on around me.(See Segment 5 on Clear Thought Processing). Remember the principle: actions follow upon perceptions;my perceptions are unique and could easily be erroneous. it is essential that I know how I am actually perceiving the situation and what I am telling myself about what is happening.

Key Ideas Summarized – part I.  Anger characteristics.  

  1. there are different kinds of anger.
  2. Anger is a process that can be interrupted.
  3. Perceiving and assessing the object of my anger allows me time to choose how to respond.
  4. Unjust anger is a learned response.
  5. To be in control of my anger I must take responsibility for my feelings. People or situations that happen to me have no power to MAKE me angry. In reality, I allow myself to become angry. In this program we are learning how to choose a controlled response precisely because my anger is within my control.

  Part II.  A Brief Analysis of the anger process. Put two people in the same situation and watch as one calmly sorts out the issues and reaches some kind of solution while the other “goes ballistic” and escalates the situation out of control. The difference lies in how each person perceives the situation and what their possible responses are. Let’s analyze the perception-response process. Two things must be considered.

1). First there is my thought process. Am I aware of my self-talk?  What am I “automatically” telling myself about this situation? A wrong interpretation of the facts might make me a victim of my personal perceptions rather than a cool head who is able to resolve the situation.

2). At the same time, there is a physical, bodily, emotional response that tells me I am becoming angry and feeding into my response. I can learn to recognize this process and short-circuit it before it becomes a disaster. If I am quick to anger I need to be aware of the changes in my body that are driving my physical response to the situation. If my child or another driver on the road is not doing what I think they should, this is not usually a life and death situation that requires all my energies of “fight or flight” and does not require an extreme response on my part. When I feel my anger growing I need to take some counter-measures to offset my feelings before they grow into rage.  The typical physical, bodily emotional response is signaled by but not necessarily in this order:

  1. an increase in heart rate
  2. “butterflies in the stomach” nerve reactions
  3. tensing of muscles, alerting “flight response”
  4. more rapid and more shallow breathing
  5. increase in perspiration

These feelings are common to most people, in varying degrees of course. This is a process and as such it has a beginning and an end. Some people seem to be more “volatile” than others, some are more laid back. Regardless of one’s natural disposition, it is essential that as responsible individuals, we learn how that process works in our own bodies and what we can do in order to keep our anger response within manageable limits. Oddly enough, the bodily, emotional responses are the same in different stimulus situations. That means that when I feel a strong sense of anger growing it is essentially the same feeling, described above, as when I experience heightened anxiety, stress or fear. The good news is, once I have mastered the skill of controlling my anger with deep breathing and muscle relaxation, and calm self-talk I can apply this control tactic in a variety of emotional settings.

Once we understand our own response process we can begin to interrupt that flow and remain calm and safely “in charge”, displaying a level of anger that is not out of proportion to the situation.   Chambered Nautilus approaches controlling the process on 2 fronts. First, limiting negative self talk and secondly, inducing muscle relaxation to counter specific body reactions.

  Making use of positive self-talk. Self-Talk goes on all day in our consciousness. We constantly assess our situation, our work, our moving about, our relation to others in our environment. Most of the time, this is a rewarding experience. We keep on course and we feel good about ourselves. However, there are times when we feel threatened or frustrated by people or places or things and in our frustration we begin to distort our perception of the reality. “Why are the so many cars here right now when I have to be home in 30 minutes!”; “I just stopped in for a quick-lunch and that stupid waiter hasn’t bothered to even come near me!”  “If that driver cuts me off again I’ll run him right off the road!” We all know how this goes and can feed one’s level of agitation. In these scenarios I become my own worst enemy. I scare my self, put myself down, compare my self to others, and only succeed in escalating my anger, blaming others for causing my anger in the first place. I can easily get to the brink of saying and doing things that could have severe consequences for me. Negative self-talk is self-defeating and I have to be able to interrupt and extinguish it quickly.

  Interrupting self-talk can be difficult. First, I have to be aware of what I’m telling myself at any given time in an anger situation. Then I need to have an almost automatic positive self-talk response.   Positive self-talk says; “Wait a minute, I’m getting all worked up when I don’t need to” or “This is not the end of the world. I’ll make the most of this delay”, or “I’ve handled this kind of situation before”. The last thing I need is to lose my temper.” I can actually look at how I have typically responded in certain anger provoking situations in the past and then practice a “script” like that above, a few words that remind me that I can not afford to let my self go over the edge. With a practiced familiarity with my frequent anger situations and a mental stop switch to automatically throw, I will begin to master my anger responses in just about any situation.  

Muscle relaxation and calming breath. If I know what my most noticeable physical reactions are during an anger episode, I can also practice being aware of these bodily changes, just as I can be aware of my negative self-talk, thereby preventing further emotional escalation and risking disaster. We all know the phrase, “count to 10”. It really works if I take a practiced approach to using it. 10 is not a magic number. Counting should be done using a slow, controlled, cleansing or deep breath. Do this, by letting your shoulders relax, taking a deep breath by pushing the stomach down and out and filling the lungs slowly and completely and then doing a slow exhale. Doing this slowly and calmly is more important that trying to get to 10 so you can then scream at somebody. At least 4 or 5 breaths should do it.

The deep breath will help to slow the heart rate and put more oxygen and blood into the muscles to relax them rather than prepare them for a fight. Consciously relaxing the arms, fists, and related muscles will also induce over-all feelings of relaxation and lesson the stomach butterflies’ fluttering. A progressive pattern of moving the major muscles from toe to neck, contracting and releasing them  in series will improve the feeling of relaxation and can be done quickly. For detailed help on muscle relaxing and deep breathing, see our program Segment 3, on Relaxation.

Another principle to live by: I am always responsible for my anger and its consequences.

It is necessary for me to take ownership of how I think and what I do. No one can make me angry – if they are pushing all my buttons, I have to admit that I made those “buttons”. If I have a lot of hot buttons, it’s my responsibility to deal with them. If I can’t do that it will do me no good to blame other people or situations for any negative consequences

I make my self angry.  Few people want to believe this. We prefer “the devil made me do it” excuse but in never holds up in court. In reality, loss of control will always rest with me. Controlling self-talk and deep breath relaxation are deceptively easy measures to counter Unjust Anger. Deceptive, because they do have immediate effect and at the same time will not easily come to mind in an agitated situation. Practicing them is essential to make them as automatic as possible, especially if one is prone to volatile reactions. Being in control of my anger is certainly worth the time invested in learning self-awareness and coping skills. Continue reading Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 4: Managing Anger