• brainperpetuum

Week 1: Farewell to the old, welcome to the new


Dear Reader,


Welcome to our very first post, on the very first day of the New Year. What a great day to turn over a new leaf and start something new.


You are probably here for a purpose. Does being stressed, anxious, unhappy, or angry interfere with your life in a negative way? Have you been feeling difficulties controlling your unpleasant emotions lately?


If the answer is yes, the BrainPerpetuum blog zone is here to show you some perspectives and tricks that may help.


Just as saying farewell to the challenges of the old year, and embracing the optimistic uncertainty of the incoming year, we invite you to say goodbye to some of your old, unhelpful patterns and welcome the new ones that are more likely to make you feel better.


Easier said than done, right?


Letting go of the patterns we know may be a real challenge. This is why our introductory post is dedicated to your readiness to make positive change, a precondition for all the other steps of this journey.


Readiness to change may depend on your understanding and trust in the method of change, on the “size” of your emotional problem, as well as on other factors that may make you dwell.



The BrainPerpetuum self-help method


The BrainPerpetuum blog is based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a treatment modality that has been largely scientifically supported for its effectiveness in controlling negative emotions, especially when it comes to depression and anxiety.


The CBT sees emotions as a result of our perception of the stimulus event that provoked it, and not as a result of the stimulus itself. Therefore, emotions depend on how we think about the stimuli (the cognitive factors). Furthermore, our emotions are trained every day of our lives, through how we deal with them. Therefore, emotions depend on how we behave upon them (the behavioral factors). Thus, thoughts and behaviors are key ways CBT accesses emotions.


This is very important because emotions can’t be approached directly (as behaviors for example) since they are directed by the automatic part of our brain. We can partly control the level of emotional arousal through calming our bodily sensations with relaxation techniques, but the emotion itself still requires dealing with thoughts and behaviors for the emotional change to be substantial.


Please click on the video below to see how CBT targets emotions.



For more videos, subscribe to our youtube channel.


Change based on CBT principles requires your active efforts. Even in one-on-one CBT treatment, sessions are usually devoted to educating the clients on techniques and skills, but it is the weeks of clients' practice, in between the sessions, that actually produce the change itself. CBT teaches the client to become his or her own therapist in terms of mastering the needed skills and applying them outside sessions, whenever and wherever a client needs them to work. This is exactly why CBT principles can handily be applied through self-help methods.


Self-help programs are important since lots of people worldwide who have emotional difficulties, do not receive treatment for a variety of reasons, and this especially goes for psychotherapy due to the requirements in terms of committed time and financial expenses.

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of self-help CBT programs in people with mild and moderate depression or anxiety, which can even be combined with one-on-one therapy, as long as the treatment goals match. More severe problems, however, should always be addressed by one-to-one assessment and treatment by a mental health professional, without delay.


There is a variety of self-help materials based on CBT, available as books, web applications, blog-articles, and all of them have their perks and flaws.


Books provide very detailed explanations of the CBT principles, techniques, and exercises, but it’s up to the reader to schedule his or her own reading sessions which depends much on personal discipline since there’s no one else to set reminders.


The web applications are convenient, interactive, and very helpful, offering options for the individualized monitoring of mood or anxiety; however, there are people who may not prefer having an experience of talking to a machine.


When it comes to blogs, there are lots of very useful articles worldwide that help readers’ psychoeducation, written by mental health professionals. However, they usually cover separate topics without connecting them very systematically.


We have decided to offer you self-help in the form of a systematically lead blog on how to control negative emotions, trying to address some of the possible challenges by including the following:


  • a specific order of posts that allows you to comprehensively and systematically build your knowledge and skills;

  • emulating the pace of one-to-one psychotherapy by inviting you to read one post per week;

  • setting homework tasks within each post, for you to exercise in the weeks between the posts;

  • sending you email reminders about your homework tasks and the scheduled next post;

  • providing tools for you to self-check on how successful you were at your homework tasks;

  • providing troubleshooting information for homework tasks and teaching you how to apply the more general material to your specific problems and needs.


The first group of posts will present information on the basic tools for controlling negative emotions. The second group will provide data on specific tools for each of the key conditions based on negative emotions. The third group of posts will cover the tips for situations when more fine-tuning is needed.


As in one-on-one CBT, your homework and writing a diary is of the essence. Writing a diary has been proven to help with better focus and performance on challenging tasks, faster learning, self-monitoring, and serves as a reminder of what you have learned so far, to be used in case of need. The structured written word captures a moment that will, otherwise - pass by.




What’s the “size” of your emotional problem?


There are different ways to classify emotions. The model of four basic emotions recognizes happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. Basic emotions are internal states accompanied by bodily changes, that can trigger instinctive behavior that is genetically imprinted in our brains. This means that basic emotions have the function to support our survival.


Our emotions can be both pleasant (positive) and unpleasant (negative) because we need both kinds of emotions in order to survive. Pleasant emotions (happiness) serve as an award to make us reinforce certain behaviors. Unpleasant emotions may serve as a punishment (sadness) to make us extinct certain behaviors or as a stress signal to either avoid danger and harm (fear) or to face and cope with the stressful event (anger).


You may wonder, if negative emotions are given to humans to help them survive, why can they disturb our lives so much?


Not all negative emotions are needed for our survival and functioning.

If they are exaggerated in some way, if they are much stronger and much more life-disturbing than the stimulus logically “deserves”, then they are seen as irrational. These emotions are the ones that are problematic and need help.


Knowing your emotions is not easy. It takes time for you to be able to recognize if the emotion is rational or not (and what thoughts are the triggers), how intensive it is, it may even take time for you to learn to easily recognize what is the emotion that you are experiencing. This blog will try to teach you these skills.


But what you definitely should think about, starting now, is how much this negative feeling disturbs your life i.e. how much you would be better off without it. Think of your relationships with partner, family, colleagues, think of your working hours, your social life and hobbies, think of everything that matters in your life – how much does this negative feeling interfere with your life, from 0 to 100?





To change or not to change?


Let's suppose that you have an irrational negative feeling that largely interferes with your life. Is it all that takes for you to be ready to make a change?


Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There may be more variables in the equation than meets the eye. These variables may affect your motivation to invest significant effort into change.


The pathway to change actually takes several stages, from not thinking about change at all, to making firm steps of change. And just when you think that you have finally gained control, you may relapse into the old patterns, and even go back and forth a number of times. This happens because the brand new patterns that you have acquired need time to adapt to the fluctuations of real life. It is important to accept this entire process as an organic thing and try to discover what stage you may be at, and what is keeping you there.


Please try to locate your stage at the scheme below.




Now, let’s explore the possible other variables that may influence your motivation beyond your awareness. What may be the arguments that speak for or against you making a change? People dwelling on whether to seek help sometimes reveal having fear of being stigmatized by treatment, having doubts in the effectiveness of the solution, or wonder if it is all worth the investment (time, effort, money).


To solve this challenge, you may try a technique of Pros and Cons. Think carefully of all the possible reasons that speak FOR change, and all the possible reasons that speak AGAINST. Put them in two side-by-side columns of the Pros&Cons table.


But do not rush with conclusions. Simply summing each column for the number of items may not give you the right picture, because not all items are worth the same for you. For example, believing in other people's positive experiences with psychotherapy (PRO) may be more significant in your system of values than time and energy invested in change (CON). Therefore, what you should do is measure the importance of every item on a 0-100 scale, add up the points for each column, compare and see which column is worth more points for you.


Please see an example below.





You are the best judge for the importance of your own arguments. And this method may actually help you notice the arguments that you haven't even been aware of, but that, nevertheless, have been working in the back of your brain, influencing your decisions without you knowing it.



For your homework


Dear Reader,

Thank you for staying to the end of our first, introductory post. We hope that today is the first day of your pathway to changing your negative emotional patterns with us. Your first homework will not be too difficult.

Please take a week to explore your readiness, through the following tasks:

  • Discover what stage of readiness to change you are at (using the change path scheme).

  • Identify how much your negative emotions disturb your life (on a 0-100 scale).

  • Make a fair play competition between the arguments for and against changing, by measuring their cumulative importance (make a Pros&Cons table).

To help you with homework, we provide further explanations, charts, self-check, tips and more in our weekly Homework Workbook. Please subscribe for it in the form below the post.


If you decide to stay with us, please see the instructions below on how to follow this blog for the best results:

  1. COMMIT to your journey of positive change

  2. Please read only ONE post PER WEEK, strictly following the CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER of posts

  3. Take each post as a new self-help session

  4. Devote 15-20 minutes on the same day each week to read the post carefully (take notes if needed)

  5. Chose a comfortable setting to sit and read the post

  6. Resist skipping the posts and reading them in a random order

  7. Regularly do your homework after each post

  8. Prepare a diary (we suggest a file directory for your writings, drawings, and printed material)

  9. Please SUBSCRIBE using the form below to get email reminders, homework self-check tools, troubleshooting information, and any advanced material​



We wish you a happy and healthy year of 2021.


Farewell to the old, welcome to the new!


Yours,


BrainPerpetuum


_________

NOTICE: Please note that this self-help blog program is for informational purposes, and cannot replace mental health treatment. Research has shown more potential in CBT self-help if using such a program is guided by a mental health professional throughout the process.

If you have been experiencing significant distress, mood challenges, behavioral dyscontrol, or similar mental health dysfunction, please contact your mental health service provider without delay. Mental health diagnosis and treatment can only be done after conducting a one-on-one clinical examination of the client by a mental health professional. The owners of this website and the writers of the content provided do not take any responsibility for the mental health outcomes of readers.



1,227 views0 comments