Friday, 22 May 2020

Why catastrophe thinking is neither accurate nor a good idea


With everything that is going on in the world at present, anxiety could feel like a natural, even inevitable, response. But there is nothing inevitable about it; there is a key thinking pattern involved in anxiety, often called catastrophe thinking, and there are simple ways to learn to change it. Feeling anxious generally involves telling yourself a horror story about your future ….. usually the worst possible outcome and then some! Our brain goes something like this; if I focus on the worst thing that can happen, I’ll be prepared for it, and if something better happens, I’ll feel relieved and pleased. And if I keep repeating this, I will always be prepared.

But there are several reasons why that doesn’t work:
  • None of us know what will happen in the future. When we predict the future it’s a guess, a story that we are telling ourselves. However, by focusing only on the worst thing that could happen, our brain ends up believing that this is the truth, not just one of many possibilities, so you are not giving it accurate information.
  • It’s not even the most likely outcome. Mostly you are choosing the possible or the very unlikely, rather than the probable. 90% of what you worry about never happens!
  • You scare yourself, and turn on the fight or flight response. But since this story is about the future, there is nothing to run from or fight. Instead, the chemicals associated with the inappropriate fight or flight response just stop us from thinking straight or making good clear decisions, stop our immune system from working properly, and create all the symptoms of anxiety. And if you repeat the same horror story time after time in your mind, you get stuck in this state.
  • It’s the story that creates the anxiety, not the event. Human beings are really good at problem solving. People are often surprised to find, when something they fear actually happens, that they rise to the occasion and find the inner resources to deal with it. They may even become stronger, happier, and more resilient people as a result. We miss this ending out of our horror stories!
What you can do to change this pattern

Start noticing the stories you are telling yourself, recognise them as stories rather than the truth, and ask yourself, ’Is it helping me to focus on this?’
If the answer is no, here are some ways to learn to tell yourself more useful stories;
  1. Start by remembering times in the past when you successfully resolved a challenging situation. What did you do? How did that feel? Notice how creative we can be in these situations.
  2. Don’t allow yourself to tell the same story more than once. Interrupt the repetitive cycling round by insisting that you change it each time.
  3. Deliberately tell yourself as many different stories about what could happen as you can. Use your creativity! Include ones where everything goes really well, and ones with good and difficult things mixed together, to balance your original “worst case” scenario.
  4. Make sure every story you tell has a successful outcome, in which you rise to the occasion, find the inner resources to handle it well, and move on to a happy life. Go far into the future if you need to: ‘What will I feel like in 10 years time?’ Psychologists talk about post traumatic growth; the idea that difficult experiences can be a powerful positive impetus to move forwards and grow.
  5. But most of all, keep coming back into the present. Our amazing ability to predict the future and problem solve can be very useful, but it’s important to come back to the present and remember that the future doesn’t actually exist! My favourite way of doing this is to look at a tree:



Sunday, 10 May 2020

A Better Future is Possible

In Bristol a few days ago I saw a colourful banner that read "A better future is possible." 

Here is an inspiring children's story about how the dramatic events of the last months could lead to a much more positive future for the world. 

The stories that we tell ourselves DO make a difference! What story are you telling yourself?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw5KQMXDiM4

Friday, 14 February 2020

What IS the Lightning Process?


I am often asked this question; and it is surprisingly hard to answer, given that I have been a Lightning Process practitioner for over 11 years! This is mainly because it is quite complex to answer, and takes 3 days to explain properly. But over the years I have tried lots of ways of giving a flavour of the LP, and I thought I would share a few of them.

The one line answer is ‘It’s a training course that teaches you powerful tools, to enable you to influence your health and life’. All human beings have amazing abilities, but often we don’t even know we have these abilities, let alone how to use them to help ourselves. The Lightning Process teaches you this.

Using how your body works to make changes to your health

People’s next question, especially when they want to influence their own physical health, is often “How on earth can a training course help me to get well from a physical illness?” Good question! I generally find the most effective way to answer is to explain a little about how your body works.

One of the amazing abilities that your body has is the natural ability to heal. Think of how a cut heals, or your body recovers from a cold. The LP shows you how to activate this innate natural ability, and get it working well for you.

Our brain and nerve pathways (in fact our whole body) are constantly changing in response to how we use them. That’s neuroplasticity, and it’s behind all learning. This means that you can learn to strengthen your healthy, happy pathways, and allow stuff which is not useful to fade away. To find out more you might like to look at my blog about sheeptracks and neuroplasticity.

Then there is the powerful fight or flight response. This is only meant to be turned on when there is a true physical emergency. But sometimes, without meaning to, our body has learned to turn it on for situations where running away or thumping someone is the last thing that is going to help! As a result you can end up being stuck in the fight or flight response long term, which takes a huge physical toll on your body. In the LP you learn to:
1.      Turn off the fight or flight response if it is inappropriate
2.      And the rest of the time keep your healthy happy physiology switched on instead.