Q: I constantly interrupt my pops (automatic negative thoughts) but they don't stop. I've tried many different strategies but none seem to work. It is driving me crazy! Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.
A: A common pitfall that re-trainers fall into is interrupting their thoughts/focus on symptoms and then immediately checking in to see if they have changed. It takes time to build the foundation of new neural pathways to the point that the automatic negative thoughts go away in the moment we interrupt them. That does not mean that changes in the brain aren't happening before this point. Every time we interrupt and redirect, we are laying a brick in the foundation of those new pathways. Every time we check in to see if anything has changed, we are body checking/focusing on symptoms and therefore feeding the maladaptive pathways, the very thing we are trying to undo. No wonder re-trainers feel like they are going crazy if they are locked in this pattern of tug-of-war between reinforcing the old pathways and the new!
The best thing you can do for yourself is to train your brain to stop checking in to see if anything has changed. Trust the process. Know that if you continue to actively redirect your brain and reinforce the new pathways, your brain has no choice but to change. It will follow your guidance and whatever you focus on is what you grow.
Revisit the information on what causes limbic system impairment and the resulting conditions, in whichever program you are doing. It is important to periodically review this to ensure your understanding of what is happening in the brain, nervous and immune systems, and to reinforce why retraining is the way out. This helps to keep us on track.
Additionally, recognize that where we give our focus and attention is ultimately what matters. This means that you may have unwanted thoughts playing in the background while you are actively directing your focus elsewhere. That is okay. They will go away in their own time. Think of it like background music in a coffee shop. It is there, but your attention is on enjoying your beverage or perhaps the conversation you are having with a friend. You don't give that music a second thought. And that's how we want it to be with the persistent thoughts. Let go of your resistance to them, because that is feeding the maladaptive pathways. Minimize the attention and importance given to them. One way to do this is to say to yourself, "So what?" Your brain is telling you ______, so what if it is? It doesn't mean you have to listen to it, believe it, or give it any attention. It can go on doing what it likes and your attention will be over here on something more constructive or positive. And you can do this because you know that eventually those old thoughts will give way, now that they are no longer being reinforced.
In terms of a re-training intervention, if you are doing the Gupta program, consider using the Accelerator Technique to help you release the more persistent thoughts. If you are doing DNRS or another program, consider actively bringing up the thought at full volume, immediately going into the first part of your rounds or a shortened version of interruption, then reinforce a positive statement or congratulate yourself for interrupting. Repeat this process several times in a row (7 times or more would be good) before moving to a longer elevated emotional state through visualization or actively cultivating the feeling. This will help to break apart the stuck pathways and reduce their intensity.
Until next time!
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Candy Widdifield is Certified Master Coach, Registered Reiki Master Teacher and former Registered Clinical Counsellor, living in Calgary Alberta, Canada. She has a background in brain retraining & nervous system regulation, trauma, grief & loss, mindfulness, somatic therapy, & positive psychology. She taught the DNRS in-person program for 5 years, has over a decade of experience coaching brain re-trainers & provides mentorship to other coaches. Candy works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com