004D. Newsletter Highlights: May 2023

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Key Quote

“Opening the toolbox and having the capability to recognize when you can acquire new tools is really important. So, keeping an open mind is very helpful.” – Andrew Gilley

Episode Summary

What if the key to your personal evolution lay within the shadows of your mind? What if you could face those little monsters, those negative thoughts that lurk and pounce, and transform them into your allies? On this episode of our podcast, we delve into the labyrinth of our minds, taking a closer look at our own mental goblins and learning to wield the power they hold.

In a world consumed by social media, a world that often amplifies our anxiety, stress, and self-doubt, we offer a beacon. We explore the powerful magic of reframing negative thoughts to reduce their intensity and light up the darkness. This age-old wisdom is more vital than ever in our hyperconnected era.

Join us as we journey through the enigmatic realms of cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. These modalities are keys to unlock the power to reframe our perspectives, leading us toward a calmer mind and a more balanced life.

We’ll delve into the art of meditation and the rhythm of ho’oponopono — positive affirmations that echo through our consciousness, sweeping away the mental debris that blocks our path. Opening your mind to these potent tools can revolutionize your self-improvement quest.

As we journey within ourselves, seeking self-improvement, we become a magnet of positive energy that can radiate out to others. By focusing on our own growth first, we spark a ripple effect of joy and positivity that can permeate all those around us.

And what about the art of Socratic questioning? As our compass on the journey of self-discovery, it allows us to delve deeper, unveiling layers of understanding that bring us closer to our true selves.

So, do you dare embark on this journey with us? A journey not outward, but within, to reframe your mind and transform your life? Tune in and let the adventure begin.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Andrew Gilley: Welcome to Surviving Humanity: A Self-Help Podcast, where we shift your perspective to help you overcome the obstacles in your life. I’m one of your co-hosts, Andrew Gilley, and today I’ll be reading to you from this month’s newsletter, focusing on reframing negative thoughts and mindshifts. You can sign up to get these newsletters straight to your inbox from the homepage of our website at survivinghumanity.net.

So let’s get started.

We’ll take a look back at the last three episodes that we’ve done over the course of this month. First, we had reframing negative thoughts, the art of new perspectives from me, I did a monologue. In this episode of the show, I shared my personal journey of reframing negative thoughts and how my negative thoughts intensified when I got to grad school and struggled with perfectionism.

I talk about the goblin in my head that fueled intense anxiety and self-doubt, leading me to seek refuge in perfectionism as a defense mechanism. I reflected then on how embracing the totality of myself, good and bad, including imperfections, was a key step in evolving past perfectionism and allowing myself to reframe those negative thought patterns.

I discussed how this had a significant impact on my life, and I come away with a conclusion that reframing negative thoughts is one of, if not the fundamental building block for personal development I picked the goblin metaphor for this episode to talk about thoughts in a way that people normally don’t.

They’re part of a little monster in our heads, personifying our bad thoughts, so they’re not a part of ourselves. This allows us to put space around those thoughts and helps us not identify with them.

We give ourselves mental space to diffuse these thoughts. It’s a helpful technique for not over-identifying with your own thoughts because since we aren’t our thoughts, but it feels that way a lot of the time. Making a little goblin or an old woman in the attic or whatever you want, really, can help not identify with the thoughts themselves, and instead allow you to put some distance there and gain some control over your thinking.

Next, Wes and I had a conversation about reframing negative thought patterns. We talked through some of the numbers and problems in contemporary society with reframing negative thoughts, we talk about how negative thoughts drag you down, leave you in a negative frame of mind, or even manifest in the body.

This is even more important in light of social media and the Internet, where we have a lot of time dedicated to comparing ourselves to other people. Negative thoughts influence all your thoughts, they seep into normally innocuous thoughts, negative thoughts beget negative thoughts. There’s a spiral involved, and people with PTSD, or depression or anxiety or OCD or BPD, or any kind of mental illness are more susceptible to having negative thoughts really negatively impact their lives, as well as if you’re part of any kind of oppressed group, this just intensifies it.

Wes and I close by talking about some ways around negative thoughts, talking about some cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy techniques, CBT and ACT, for short, and we comment on how personal development shifts our whole perspective once we get rolling with reframing our negative thoughts.

And the last episode we had this month was Wes’ interview with Kate Nguyen. Kate is an energy healer and YouTuber who hosts the Best Of You channel. Kate described her experiences with depression and the obstacles she faced in overcoming it, she utilized a form of a technique called ho’oponopono, where she chanted positive affirmations day and night to align herself to more positive thinking. It helped her clear the “trash” out, the obstacles that blocked her path to her goals. She sees problems as opportunities for strengthening our abilities and allowing us to help others who haven’t yet cleared the trash from their lives.

When we find our gifts through these trials, That’s where we can share them with the world and truly make a difference, both for our own happiness and in making the world a better place. So, I’ll delve into a few things we learned from Kate this time and talk about some highlights from her thoughts in the interview.

So, Kate talked about how meditation can guide us into a better place, and it’s a tool that we can use. And she uses a toolbox metaphor, she says, “So, imagine you have that toolbox. When we open the toolbox, there’s no tool in there for us to fix problems, right? So go out there, open your heart, open your mind to learn new things. So, whenever the problem comes up, you open your toolbox and look at the box to see what tool you have in there.”

This is a really good point, because in personal development, when we learn more, when we read a new book, or listen to a new podcast, or watch a new talk or things like that, we get access to more tools.

They might be reframing techniques or new paradigms, new ways to think about a situation, anything like that. So, opening our hearts and minds to new ideas is important to give us the opportunity to acquire new techniques that best serve us. And it’s important to not pigeonhole yourself too specifically when looking at new things.

I’m not a very spiritual person, I’m not religious. So, things like that don’t always land with me. But, over the past few years I’ve tried to be open to some new concepts of spirituality, and I’m not religious now, but there’s some stuff in there I hadn’t thought about. Stuff I’d maybe dismissed, allowing oneself to go with the flow, a lot of stuff from Taoism has been appealing to me, and that stuff I never really thought five years ago would be something that would interest me. So, it’s allowing yourself to be open that produces these best results. Allow yourself to be open to meditation techniques, new modes of thinking… and new concepts allow you to have the most room to grow and change.

So, opening the toolbox and having the capability to recognize when you can acquire new tools is really important. So keeping an open mind is very helpful.

And then Kate goes on and talks about clearing out the trash. I alluded to this earlier. She says, “So, imagine this is you and this is your goal. Between you and your goal are the obstacles. In ancient Hawaiian, these obstacles, they call it trash. So, the trash is your obstacle. So, the more you do the clearing technique, the more trash you can clear out, so you and your goals should become closer and closer. It’s helped a lot because sometimes we don’t have enough motivation to move forward because life is not easy every day, So, when we don’t have enough motivation, what can help us to come to our goals is how we clear the trash. The more we clear the trash, the more power we have to keep moving forward to our goal.”

I really like this. This is a good way of helping with the anxiety avoidance cycle when something really makes you anxious, – you’re starting a YouTube channel or applying for a new job or having a difficult conversation our anxiety just makes us wanna avoid the situation overall, just don’t deal with it. And there’s some days where that impulse wins. I have a lot of experience with this, unfortunately. There’s some days you just can’t, for whatever reason. It might be, physical or mental limitations on your energy.

It might be just life circumstances, getting you down, whatever it is. Some days you just can’t. You’re unable to get yourself to do the thing that you want to do. Life is hard, and Shad Helmstetter notes in the book, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, “Self-improvement competes with the demands of daily living.”

So, we can’t always devote all of our energy to self-improvement. When we can’t do the big things, Kate remind us to do the small things. Some examples I have, you might clean your house or organize your calendar or call someone you love. These things aren’t gonna help you directly If your goal is to write a book or start a YouTube channel, but they’ll make your life run more smoothly.

They’ll reduce the friction and that’s why clearing the trash is so good for helping yourself because the next time you’re ready to work on your goal, you’ve made life easier on yourself. You’ve reduced that friction that comes with trying to accomplish something in an environment where it’s a little bit rough to do so.

Kate finally says, at some age, the work you do can help many other people. Then just keep doing it. Just do it. The more you take action, the more you feel good about yourself. Do not focus your energy on the outside world.

This is a difficult but key component of self-improvement, and it sounds a little contradictory, but it isn’t. A lot of us create suffering for ourselves because our focus is external. When I described my struggle with perfectionism in this month’s first episode, this is what I was talking about. I had my focus on other people’s reactions, expectations, and opinions.

I let those control my happiness and control what I did and controlled the way I approached situations. When I pulled back from that with a lot of work, I became a lot happier. At the same time though, focusing on yourself and improving yourself doesn’t mean withdrawal from the world. The more we help other people, the better we feel.

It’s not about others’ opinions or what they think of us. It’s about us going out into the world and making the world better. We start from a place of focusing on ourself, making our energy positive and sustainable through self-development, then do the work that helps other people. That’s sustainable happiness.

When we’re doing all of these things, we have difficulty a lot of the time focusing on ourselves in self-improvement, because a lot of our motivation is external. A lot of people want to become better for other people. I think it’s very common. I want to be a better person so I can be a better husband to be a better friend, and it could often feel like focusing on yourself is the wrong way to go, but it’s about the energy.

And if you’re putting your energy into yourself, then you get a lot more out of it. You can’t change other people’s thoughts, not in the same way you can work on your own.

And once you have that focus, not only are you spreading the improvement you’ve made to other people, teaching other people how to overcome these obstacles in their lives, you’ve also brought yourself more happiness by helping other people.

That’s the number one guaranteed way to become happier, is to help other people become happier. It’s tricky, but it’s worth it. Because it’s those experiences with other people despite how vulnerable they are, that really enrich our lives. So, we don’t want to be controlled by the world, but we wanna be in the world.

I’ll close out here with some highlights from our blog posts from the month. First article was called Reframing Negative Thoughts: How to Make Negativity Work for You. And we write, “Negative as a concept doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Thoughts have the power we give them. There’s nothing inherently bad about a thought itself. It’s about how it makes us feel or what it makes us do. That’s the problem. Most of our negative thoughts are rooted in survival. A lot of our anxious triggers are handed down to us from early human instinct. This was great back in hunter-gatherer times. Being wary of new things is useful when nature is cruel and unforgiving, but we now apply the severity we used to give to tiger attacks, to asking someone out on a date or getting negative feedback at work. This heightens our everyday experiences to debilitating trials.”

It’s important to remember this about a lot of our emotional processes – they come from times that were way tougher, where there was a lot more danger around us and it’s not an appropriate level of danger that we fire at our brains now, because our brain is still back in tiger times. So we have to help adjust it a little bit there.

Then, we have Challenging Negative Automatic Thoughts: Our Brains in the World. Our daily auctions are often driven by habits, which are ingrained behaviors that can be difficult to change or eliminate.

The habit loop consists of a cue, routine, and reward, creating a repetitive cycle that strengthens the habit pathway in the brain. This pathway can become so deeply embedded in the neural networks we may not even realize we’re engaging in the habit. Negative automatic thoughts or NATs, become habits very easily.

The brain doesn’t know if a pathway in your brain is good or bad for you. What it knows is to make any pathway that you use a lot stronger. We use our automatic thinking pathways a lot, and when that happens, they become entrenched in our neural networks and we can find ourself on autopilot. Negative automatic thoughts are a little trickier because they’re automatic, hence the name. They just pop up by association with other things. A lot of these come from childhood. And yeah, autopilot is a very powerful thing. We talked a lot about this in our episodes on habits.

It’s very difficult to break a habit once it is entrenched because of how the brain works. Because the more it’s used to something, the more time it takes to shift it. The brain is very plastic, it’s very adaptable, but the longer something goes on, the more permanent it becomes. It’s never fully permanent, but sometimes it takes more work.

We have to be conscious of our habits because our thinking habits are influential too. It’s not just our actions, it’s our thoughts that are habitual. And so being conscious of those habits and being conscious of when we automatically think negatively, that helps overcome negative thinking even better when we can identify those thoughts and patterns.

Our final article was called Shift Your Mind: Cognitive Reframing Strategies to Overcome Negativity. Here I outline one specific technique that we might not be all that familiar with. Using Socratic questioning involves asking specific and probing questions that help to uncover deeper levels of understanding.

When it comes to reframing negative thoughts, Socratic questioning can be a powerful tool. By asking questions that challenge negative beliefs and assumptions, we can learn to examine their thinking and uncover a more positive and accurate way of viewing yourself and the situation. When you encounter a negative thought, start a dialogue with yourself about it.

Ask, “Why do you think this? Is there a good reason? Is there another way to look at this? What happens if it isn’t true?”

Ask yourself for the evidence for the thought and against it, and consider the alternatives and consequences of the thought. Once we identify and question our negative thoughts, it’s time to challenge them.

We can do this by asking ourselves questions about the accuracy of the thought. So, based on facts or assumptions, does the evidence support it? What would the consequences be if it were true? The more we examine our negative thoughts, the more we will see where they’re distorted and inaccurate. Socratic questioning is not just about finding answers.

It’s about learning to ask better questions and becoming more comfortable with uncertainty and complexity. It helps us to approach the world with a curious and open mind, ready to learn and grow from experience. There’s a lot of techniques to do, but I find Socratic questioning very helpful. Having a conversation with yourself, is always useful for allowing for room to grow, for questioning things you may not have questioned, looking at the unexamined biases you have in yourself.

We all have them, in many forms that we don’t even recognize. Learning to navigate yourself by knowing what questions to ask is really helpful. You can even start by writing it down, whatever works for you. But, it’s a matter of really being able to ask yourself honestly, “Where do my thoughts come from?”

And you won’t always know, and that’s okay. We’ve all got a lot going on in our minds. We’ve got influential memories we can’t remember, big life events that didn’t matter, and little ones that mattered a lot we’re complicated people, all of us. So, Socratic questioning can be really useful because it leads to self-discovery.

You’re interrogating yourself not in an aggressive way, but you’re interrogating the concept of self. It can sound a little intimidating to do, but if you treat yourself like a friend and have a conversation with yourself, I think Socratic questioning is a good thing to put in your toolbox. And it might not be for everybody, but as I said earlier, and as Kate said last week, the more tools you have in your toolbox, the more open you are to those tools, the more success you’ll see in the long run, and the more opportunities you’ll have to improve your life and increase everyone’s happiness around you as well as your own.

Well, that will do it for this time everyone, thank you for listening.

Tune in next Tuesday to hear a story from Wes for the first episode in our series on overcoming trauma, and that’s relation to mindshifts. If you wanna help support us, please join our exclusive monthly book club on Patreon, share the podcast with others, and don’t forget to follow, rate, and review on your favorite podcast platform.

And before you go, do you feel like you could benefit from a boost to your morale? Well then, why not give our 7-Day Self-Confidence Challenge a go? For only seven bucks, you’ll get exclusive access to content that will help you determine your core values and strengths, reframe negative thoughts, and break old habits to build new ones, all while setting realistic personal development goals.

Links to our Patreon and the challenge can be found in the show notes and we will see you next week.

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