14 Jul I turn on SETI; scanning the signals, I hope for that one elusive thing that so far has remained out of reach for me in my entire life, nearly: A sign of life out there, Yo. “So, you’re searching?”, Hooligan Red asks me as she looks over the findings. #humanAF
“This is why I fell in love with you”, I tell my wife.
Continuing, “I like it when you complain, kinda. You are including me in your life.”
1 TELL ME ABOUT COGNITIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY
To give my best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation, “So What’s The Deal With CBT?”
Or to back up, what is CBT.
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. It’s a form of psychotherapy – Basically, it works by dealing with the mind, or more specifically your thoughts.
The “Cognitive” part refers to your thoughts, as in cognation. The “Behavior” part refers to how you act, your basic behavior. And the “therapy” part implies that it can change with smart and specific steps. This book will walk you through a basic process of taking your thoughts, feelings and behaviors and supercharging them so instead of fighting against them. Get this – You can get them to work for you. I call this “Badass Thinking”. By the end of this book, or sooner for those advanced students, you’ll have a handle on how your behavior is a byproduct of your feelings and thoughts and how to change them so they work for you.
Instead of just the theory, this book will get into the “How” by giving steps you can take now, tomorrow and every day after today to create your future. And the cool part about it? You’re the boss. You are in charge of your life as you begin to take charge of your thoughts and feelings.
CBT, as it will be referred to now on in this book, does not go backwards to deal with past issues but instead focusing on dealing with the NOW.
Here’s an example of CBT in Action so you understand what is about to happen, and how powerful this can be:
Let’s say you are walking in the street, hopefully on the sidewalk and not in the street, and someone passes by you without acknowledging you. Your mind AUTOMATICALLY creates the thought,
1. “They don’t want to know me because no one likes me.” This leads to the feeling of depression.
2. “I hope they don’t stop to talk to me. I never know what to say and then they’ll think I’m boring and stupid.” Enter Anxiety.
3. “This person is a snob.” Hello Anger.
Or, there is the healthier thought response of:
“They probably didn’t see me.”
Here’s another example:
Let’s imagine you are depressed. You wake up in the morning and think,
“This is going to be another awful day.”
“I’m going to mess up again.”
“What’s the point of anything?”
These thoughts lead to increasing the feeling response of depression; leading to a behavior of pulling the sheets over their head. This leads to increased depression. And so the cycle goes.
This is the world of the Thought, Feeling, Behavior cycle.
This is where CBT comes into play to break up the cycle and create a new behavior.
You see when you don’t know what’s going on, it’s really hard to make changes. But, once you have an idea of how this cycle is created, it’s actually really quite easy to make changes. It’s knowing that is the basis of CBT; and it’s from this knowing that we can make changes.
So without any more talk, let’s jump into this guided process of changing your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Let’s jump into Badass Thinking.
Step 1: Identification of Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
Ok, let’s start by looking at what’s keeping your problems, or as I like to call them “challenges” going.
We’ll do another example using this format:
- What was the situation?
What happened? When did it happen? What else was going on? Was it a situation that I often find myself in? Who was with me?
- What thoughts or images went through your mind just before or during that time?
What was bothering me? What did this situation say about me or make me think? Was it a thought that I could answer?
- What distressing emotion did you feel?
What real emotion did I feel? Was it anxiety, depression, anger, terror, rage, frustration, guilt, shame or irritability?
- What did you notice in your body?
For example, in anxiety and anger, or excitement for that matter, the body’s increased adrenaline can make a person feel very real physical sensations such as a racing heart, palpitations, rapid breathing, dizziness, shaky, sweaty, hot, red, pins and needles, butterflies in your stomach and more. This is the basic fight or flight response – and helps us in times of real danger. However, the body does not differentiate between real and perceived danger and this response can be started by an imagined situation. When in depression, the body can have the symptoms of tired, lethargic, aches and pains, agitation, loss of sex drive and slow movement or speech.
- What did you do? What didn’t you do? How did you cope?
So to give my best Dr. Phil advice, “So what are you going to do about it?”
Ok, ok, ok… Now let’s get into examples of three feelings.
First let’s do Anxiety:
So, I was expecting a call from a woman after we went out on a date. I was waiting by the phone, not literally, but I was waiting for her to call. The thought kept going through my head, “she’s not going to call because I’m not valuable to her.” My hands got clammy; my heart was racing; I wanted to pace. This lead to tightness in my body like a panic attack. I started getting into the grips of Anxiety. Enter Anxiety. So I drank a glass of water; followed by a walk around the neighborhood; and finally, forced myself to start thinking of a project at work that needed my undivided attention.
Here’s another example about Depression:
I get paid once a month. Let’s pick a random month and say I had a lot of bills at the beginning to pay, so towards the end of the month, the money is nearly gone. This triggers thoughts of, “I’ll never have the life I want. Why can’t I save money like normal people? Why is life always such a struggle? Am I not worth a good life?” Welcome depression. Welcome returning to a warm bed when it’s time to get up. Or specifically, it’s a Monday. The clock has just struck 10am and I’m in bed. I feel tired; I can’t focus on the present moment; I just feel sick with a pain in my stomach. So what do I do? I get out of bed. I start a cup of coffee brewing. I take a shower. I do anything but stay in bed. I take action to change my situation. I write a book. 😉
Ok, let’s sum it up with Anger:
For this situation, let’s say that I am driving in traffic. I am trying to turn right at the light but there’s a car next to me that won’t let me merge. Hello Anger. I think, “this person is so preoccupied with their own problems that they can’t even give me one small thing that would help my day.” And on and on, my mind goes how, “this person’s problems are creating problems for me.” I start to feel hot; I start to feel inpatient; I start to get sweaty palms; my heart is racing now. So what do I do? I take a deep breath and remind myself, “Yo, no worries. I’ll take a right at the next intersection. Being safe is better than arriving on time. Yo, it’s not really a problem in the big picture. Stay composed.” And I get through it.
Through all of these situations, I was aware of my feelings, behaviors and thoughts. The most important part is that I was AWARE. I knew what was going on. I was an observer to my thoughts, not a responder. And, I had control to take an action to deal with them. It’s all about breaking the cycle.
Step 2: How are Thoughts, Feelings and Behavior Connected?
Let’s get more into the connection between thoughts, feelings and behavior.
In the previous chapter we had the examples of waiting for a phone call, running low on money and driving with traffic. With the first example of the phone call, it started with waiting for the phone to ring. This lead to the thought that I wasn’t valuable, and an action of getting out of the house was taken.
Now, we’re going to get deeper into the connection between these three things to see – Where does it all start? What leads to what? How can this help me think like a Badass?
Depression as the first example:
We should probably get clear that depression is natural. It has been shown to affect 1 in 4 people and has a variety of different causes including up-bringing, biological make-up and reaction to life events. So it’s natural for it to happen, but that’s where it can stop – That’s where with the right skills it can be changed.
Depression is a feeling which is often accompanied by other feelings such as guilt, shame, anger and anxiety. Depression can naturally lead to any one of these thoughts:
- Everything is hopeless – Nothing can change.
- I’m useless, worthless.
- It’s all my fault.
- The world is a terrible place – Everything goes wrong.
As we think of these thoughts, our bodies begin to react and physical sensations can manifest, such as:
- Tiredness, fatigue, lethargy
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Sleep changes (sleep more or less)
- Eating changes (eat more or less)
- Lose interest in hobbies, activities, sex
With these physical sensations manifest, our minds spiral down into more and more thoughts of depression. And with the tiredness, difficulty eating and sleeping, and negative style of thinking, we do less and less actions. Things that you enjoy, you no longer have the ability to do; it can cause a loss of job; and, eventually will lead to isolation. The thoughts, feelings and behavior are all related. Enter Depression.
Now, let’s get into Anxiety.
Anxiety, in a nutshell, is how the body responds to being in danger. It is a rush of adrenaline that gives us the power to fight or run; fight or flight. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be something real to trigger this release; it can be something imagined that also causes the release of adrenaline that leads to anxiety. It is the body’s natural alarm system – it’s about survival. And, while at times, it is beneficial – it has a dark side in manifesting anxiety; leading to behaviors such as scouting for danger, a sense of being hyper alert, and a hairline trigger to activating the full blown fight or flight response.
When you are anxious, some of your thoughts will include:
- I’m in danger right now.
- The worst possible scenario is going to happen.
- I won’t be able to cope with it.
Which then turn into physical sensations such as:
- The Adrenaline Response – this is triggered when there is real, or perceived to be real danger. We get energized by the rush of adrenaline into the fight or flight syndrome. The very real physical sensations, might include:
- Heart Racing – the heart starts working over-time to pump blood to the areas where it is most needed: the legs to run faster (Flight), the arms to attack (fight), and the lungs to increase stamina for action. While this happens, the blood is redirected from places it’s not needed, like the fingers, toes and skin. Hence, the reason your body starts to tingle and go cold.
- Breathing Gets Faster – suddenly your body wants to get more oxygen to the arms, legs and lungs. This is to increase power, but also causes the side effects of chest pain, breathlessness and a choking feeling. With the blood being redirected from the brain, the other side effects include a dizzy or light headed feeling, and possibly blurred vision.
- Muscles Tense and Prepare – the large skeletal muscles tense and create power – this can lead to pain, aching and shaking. Crazy right?
- Sweating – the purpose of sweating is to cool the muscles.
- Pupils Dilate – by dilating, more light is let in thereby increasing sight. And it makes us look crazy, which is a little Badass, right?
- Digestive System Slows – because when it’s fight or flight does it really matter how quickly you break down the burrito in your stomach? It’s better to have this energy sent to more important places. This can create a feeling of nausea, butterflies and dry mouth.
- More Alert – consider this a hyper sense of looking for danger, at the side effect that concentration on anything else is nearly impossible. Instead of being proactive, in this sensation a person is waiting. This in a nutshell forms the basis of worry.
Behaviors when you are anxious can include:
- Avoiding people or places, just in general
- Not even leaving the house
- Going to certain places at certain times – let’s say to avoid people in general
- Not wanting to be alone so ALWAYS bringing someone along
- Escaping – basically where you’re always looking for a way out of a situation
- Actually going to this feared situation – but using a coping skill like drinking, smoking, fiddling with clothing, avoiding eye contact or taking medication. These are called safety behaviors.
Safety behaviors seem like they are a smart way to control your anxiety; but, in reality they are actually keeping your anxiety going. By using them like a crutch, you don’t develop the skills to actually deal with the situation without them. It would be like always wearing a life jacket to swim – you never actually develop the skill to swim on your own if you always have help. And the thing is, these safety habits are more about a perceived risk than an actual risk – so by avoiding living the situation, a person never learns if their imagination was right. Like a person that carries a turned on flash light in the daytime, always afraid to turn it off – they never realize that it’s not needed. Safety behaviors are avoidance; and hurt you in the long run.
While there are ways to handle anxiety, to think that a person, any one, would ever be completely clear of it – is ABSURD. Everyone has anxiety. It functions to increase or level of alertness and focus. Remember taking a test in school, when it started to when you completed it, it took your entire focus – in this way, it’s a positive. It makes you more alert to the situation. But, too much, or a constant of anxiety, however, of course, becomes a problem as you and your relationships around you fall apart. This Anxiety is the problem, Ahem, Challenge.
Now, let’s shift gears and get into Anger.
Anger is simple, consider it this:
A result of thinking that we have been unfairly treated or disrespected; others have broken or fallen short of our rules, standards and expectations; and, basically we aren’t cool with it. That’s anger. And it ain’t pretty.
When we think these things, we feel different – we have a sense to act, either feeling like it or having the urge. Our body’s adrenaline response has been activated – and we’re in the mode that there are two possible outcomes: fight or flight. And there’s no gray area.
Our thoughts in the Anger state could be:
- I’m being treated unfair.
- I’m being disrespected.
- They’re breaking a rule or standard.
- I won’t stand for it. At all.
The physical sensation of the Adrenaline Response:
It doesn’t matter if it’s real, or just in our minds, if there is a sense of danger or threat, or we believe we need to stand up for something that we believe, our bodies automatic response kicks in incredibly quickly. We quickly get energized into the fight or flight mode, and our body changes. The body sensations may include:
- heart racing or pounding – increasing the amount of blood around the body
- breathing quickly – allowing more oxygen into the body
- tense muscles – your body gets primed for the fight or flight response
- hot, sweating
- stomach churning or butterflies
- fist or teeth clenching
Typical behaviors may include:
- Staring or having an angry facial expression
- Body posture that looks aggressive
- Hitting out or the urge to hit
- Shouting or snapping at other people
- Running or storming out of the situation
- Staying silent or closing up
This creates an Angry Cycle:
Anger is a natural part of life. However, with some people it comes on quick, think the short fuse, and with others it is hard to control. In both instances, there are results to angry behaviors – feelings hurt, but also physical pain too. Anger hurts us in all areas of our lives – in our personal life and in the workplace. After an angry outburst, we feel shame at ourselves for losing control; feelings of guilt and withdrawal from others. It can lead to a depression cycle.
So let’s recap this so it’s all clear:
Basically, the purpose of CBT is to change something in the automatic cycle – either something that we think or an action that we take. Rather than finding the biggest challenge, starting with something easy to begin changing what is an automatic response. For example, in the situation where I was waiting for the phone to ring, I go up and got a glass of water to drink and took a walk. Rather than letting the cycle drag me down into depression more or into anger, I took an action to break it – and a simple one at that. By taking this step, it led to the thought that there are other things more important to focus on. Small action changes form the basis of Badass Thinking.
Step 3: Changing Behavior
In the previous chapter, we discussed how thoughts can lead to feelings which create an automatic action. In this chapter, we’re going to get into how this cycle can be broken by taking action regardless of the thought or feeling. The Vicious Cycle is based on automatic response – the way out of it is through changing behavior. Breaking the cycle is done by breaking the automatic.
Let’s get into it by considering these questions about automatic behaviors:
- What helped you cope and get through a situation?
- What didn’t I do or what did I avoid doing?
- What automatic reactions did I have?
- What would my behavior have looked like to an observer?
- What was the reaction or consequences to what I did?
- What were the long term consequences of my action? How did I feel later because of my actions? What could I have done differently?
- Remember those WWJD bracelets – what would someone else have done in this situation? Anyone in mind whose behavior would have been different?
- In the past, how would I have responded in this situation?
- What if I had taken a breath first – then how would my action have been different? What are some different options that I would have done?
- What if I DID do a different action – what possible different outcomes could have occurred?
- Could I have felt different?
- How would I have felt if I did a different action? Purely speculation.
- If I had taken a breath or done a different action, would it have been better for someone else?
- With a different action – how would the long term consequences changed?
Now let’s get into Dealing With Distressing Situations:
We’re going to get into a practice called STOP – which will help to stop and take a breath to consider options before taking an action. It’s really true that all it takes is just a simple breath before taking an action to give you a moment to consider options and consequences before acting. It’s a technique useful to stopping the automatic cycle to break free; by taking this small action it starts to break the cycle. Again, it’s the small changes that lead to Badass Thinking.
While taking this breath, here are a couple questions to run thorough your mind real quick:
- Is this action appropriate and effective towards what I want?
- Is it really proportionate to the event; does the reaction equal the action? Really?
- Am I living my life according to my values and principles? Again, really?
- What consequences do I expect from this action? Long term implications?
- What is the smart move to take right now for me? Is this going to help me get to my long term vision?
Let’s get into a couple suggestions for dealing with Crises and Distressing Situations:
- We already talked about taking a quick breath to assess the situation.
- Do what you normally wouldn’t do. It’s about breaking the automatic cycle.
- Meditation is one practice to develop your awareness of your mind. To start, simply focus on your breath – pull your mind to your mouth and be aware of when you are breathing. It’s a sure fire way to get out of your mind for a brief moment.
- Get lost in another activity. Like the example where I started working on a different task, get involved in an activity that engages you – I dig playing guitar.
- Not a guitar player, you can still listen to music. It’s amazing the power of music to change your mind set.
- Say in your mind what you are thinking – consider it a prayer that anyone can do. Just be careful of getting a response.
- The human connection is INVALUABLE for getting out of your head. Don’t just call a friend; be with them in person, if only just to have someone around.
- I have been known to walk around outside without shoes – it’s grounding for my mind, or perhaps it’s simply a placebo but it always seems to work.
- I beat drinking by getting a bike and getting a new habit – exercise. Try it, if you don’t already. Even, like in the example, it’s just a walk around the block.
- In this new age, blogging has become a way to express yourself – but keep it away from just complaining about your situation to finding creative ways or sharing knowledge with others. What you feel compelled to write – WRITE. If you feel it, write it, within common reason.
- Get away from getting fixed on the exact steps you take and try to be more fluid; breathing helps to get into the present.
- Say this phrase or think it, or find one that works for you, “Nothing lasts forever – I’ll get through this somehow.”
Another way is through activity – I can’t stress enough how valuable exercise is to the Badass Thinking mindset.
- Just in general makes us feel better – including how we feel about ourselves.
- We have more energy – feel less tired.
- By taking small steps, it starts us in motion – leading to more and more steps.
- A clearer mind. Just try a little exercise and be aware of how you feel afterwards.
- It gets out minds out of the tunnel vision of focusing on negative thoughts.
- This adrenaline rush that we get starts to dissipate as we use up the extra energy.
- You’ll see your motivation increase – as you start to break the automatic cycle.
- You’d be surprised, or you already know, how AWESOME it feels to complete something. Whoa, instant sense of accomplishment. Even for small tasks!!
- When you get to the basics of it – it’s fun. Fun keeps you going.
- Join a meetup.com group or go with friends for the double whammy of building the human connection, plus the benefit of the exercise.
- Science shows that exercise released chemicals in our body that naturally help us feel better. It only takes about 30 minutes of cardio for this to happen.
- No hunger – take a walk. Exercise will increase your hunger, plus it helps to maximize the benefits to your muscles to eat shortly after exercise.
Create a daily routine that includes exercise. I like to walk to my appointments in the afternoon to get out of the house and move my legs.
- Increased sense of achievement.
- Building relationships with others.
- Again, it’s fun. And what we do that is fun, we repeat. Have fun building the Badass Thinking.
I could create a list of activities but I think you already know what you like to do – now do it. And do it regularly. And have fun with it. And ask a friend to join you. I know I am asking a lot – But am I really? And afterwards, take a break and enjoy what you’ve accomplished. Perhaps, you even did something that had special meaning – be aware of what you did. Take a breath and pat yourself on the back. You Rock.
But one last thing on this – before you run out of the house and start running marathons on Day 1. It could happen. Look at creating SMART goals for your activities. This will give you a WAY better chance to meeting them and sticking with them.
SMART is a common life coaching acronym that stands for:
Specific – the more clear you are on what you want, the easier it will be to know when you have achieved it.
Measurable – a common trick to achieving is to add a number to it. Instead of saying, “I want to run really far with a friend.” Say, “I want to run 2 miles with 1 friend.” It makes it a quality – plus you can visualize it easier.
Achievable – Now, let’s be serious – can you really just up and run 2 miles? Yeah probably, but you’ll have a better chance of success if you dial it down to something more realistic. Let’s change it to, “I want to run 1 mile with 1 friend.” Now, you have a better chance of achieving it – you go-getter.
Relevant – just straight forward, “Does it matter to your long term vision.” So say, you want to start basket weaving underwater while playing polo. Are you sure that’s really relevant to what you want in life? If so, I want to meet you. You sound very interesting.
Timely – is it the right time? Running this mile when you need to focus on building your business is not necessarily the right time. Although, yes exercise helps your mind; be really honest with yourself. Is this the right time to do this goal?
I have the best success when I give myself a week to complete my SMART goal. It gives me seven days to just focus on completing this one task. This week the task is to write 10,000 words in 7 days. When I go to sleeps, when I wake up, when I am going about my day – I think, “Ok, I have stuff to get done. How am I going to achieve it?”
Plus without a deadline, works keeps going and expanding in complexity. The seven day SMART goal is essential to having Badass Thinking. And it starts breaking the automatic cycle. So this week you do 1 mile. Cool. See how it goes and redirect next week. Maybe you try again, increase the miles, or do something completely new – you’re the boss.
You can also set a SMART goal to do nothing. For some people this is difficult, others impossible, for me a challenge – to do nothing. It’s not a bad idea to break up your running around with a SMART goal of ME time. I’ve had success with a weekly 30 minute meditation group. 30 minutes of doing nothing? Sounds perfect at times. Set it up if you think it will help you get farther.
It’s not always about achieving – it’s also about keeping your sanity. And when you keep your sanity, you indirectly ACHIEVE at a higher level – then say, when you’re all burned out and want to throw in the towel. There’s nothing wrong with recharging the batteries by doing nothing. You deserve it!! It may be a good time to breathe and get used to relaxation.
I pressed pause on the VCR. It had been quite an adventure last time that I went to Dorinto. This time what was going to happen?
I took a breath and hit continue on the VCR.
“Damn it!,” I shouted as it jumped ahead to the last chapter.
I was so tired of using these things.
“It had been just a mistake to think I could figure it out with this”, I thought aloud, the only way I was programmed to do.
It had been over 1,500 millenniums since I left Earth’s atmosphere on a layover. Just that 2 minutes had started corrupting my UKOWB. I didn’t know how much time there was to fix it on my home planet of Dorinto before it went complete ape shit and I was fucked!
I backed up the VCR to what was called, “Chapter 4”. I had never even touched something of this sort.
“What a stupid QUNADE”, I had to think out loud at this device.*
*The 5th constitution of the visible galaxy had required common language to be taught, as a universal protocol. QUNADE had been the attempt at combining verbal and telepathic communication. This word had several different meanings, including a device, the language name, and small houseplants laid out in a pattern resembling a triangle on an inverted plane.
Continue was pressed on the machine. It started playing the last chapter, again.
Continuing: Practice Makes Better
So you want to have Badass Thinking. Well, if you made it this far, you are well on your way to developing the mind by changing the way you think. Already we have talked about the automatic cycle, ways to break free from it, and exercises to get the next level. But the thing with all of this, is that it only works if you do – but the good news is that as you start and continue, it gets easier. New patterns emerge in how you think, feel, and behave – better patterns, more badass patterns.
In continuing on, here are a couple things to remember:
- Think about the future – can you visualize a time where it may be hard to break free from the automatic thinking cycle? What do you see yourself doing differently in those situation? Can you practice those situation ahead of time? Yes, of course, you can.
- From what we’re talked about, what has been most helpful? There were different methods talked about in here – find which ones work for you and start building the Badass Thinking mindset.
- What have you learned? What doesn’t work for you? What practices are you going to continue? Any ways you can help remember to keep practicing? Do you need support or help to continue on this path to changing your way of life?
One last note.
Keep this information close to you. Refer to it when you start to fall into the automatic cycle. Read it again when you need a refresher. Practice, practice, practice, and repeat these lessons as you start to break free from the automatic cycle. In time, you’ll start to develop a deeper mindfulness. You’ll be more aware when you are reacting like victim 1; when you need to be victim 2; and, where victim 3 mindset is more appropriate. It’s natural to drift back into old habits – but when you catch yourself drifting and getting into the old rut, you have the skills to change – don’t just react to life, create it with purposeful action. Use this guide as often as needed when you need to keep going forward.
In time you’re old mindset will seem foreign and you’ll start to think things differently. You’ll get out of the habit of reacting – and, instead you’ll begin to see things differently. Situations and events will have different meanings to you. You will see the world through new eyes, new sensations and with new understandings. You will change – you will grow. You will have Badass Thinking.