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Gardener 09-15-2015 09:18 PM

Need advice about negative thoughts
I first read your book in March 2014. I read it a second time and highlighted the basic information and any parts that pertained specifically to me. Then I typed an outline of the whole book (about 17 typed pages) so I could re-read all the information in a short time to refresh my memory. That has been very helpful. I have read many good books about anxiety and depression over the years and have benefited from them, but I think that your Self-Coaching book is one of the best. I bought one for my sister and an extra one to lend out to someone else if needed.
Your simple explanation of the cause and continuation of anxiety and depression is right on target. It has helped me very much to further my journey to becoming a healthier and happier person. I know it takes a lot of work and I still have a long way to go but in the last year I have make progress because of your advice. In March of last year I decided to re-read a lot of my self-help material because I was having trouble with my mind racing on a lot of negative thoughts. After finding and reading your book, I practiced stopping the racing thoughts. At first it was hard and I no sooner stopped one, than my mind was off and racing again. It can be very frustrating. However, I keep stopping them and replacing them with more productive thoughts. After a while I was able to stop them and be at peace for some time. Now, a year later, do not have the “racing” thoughts. However I still have negative thoughts which I have been working to replace.
My questions is this: To stay in the present moment, you gave advice about concentrating on what you were doing – in my case something like washing dishes—look at the soap, think about the hot water, etc. – in other words, keep your mind on what you are doing. It takes me sometimes one-half hour to wash and dry dishes. During that time I can think about what I am doing for only so long. Washing a dish is washing a dish and finally it becomes automatic (like tying your shoelaces). So then I will sometimes look out the window at my vegetable garden while I’m doing the dishes and think about what I will be planting. I love gardening so this should be a happy thought. But then I start thinking about all the problems I will have –trying to decide which seeds to buy and which not to buy and where I should plant them in the garden. All these decisions although very simple decisions cause me stress. Why are simple decisions like this so stressful? How can I overcome that feeling? What I have been trying to do is just “decide something” without worrying so much whether is the very best thing to do and then let it go. If it doesn’t work, then try something else the next year – not worry so much about whether it is the perfect answer. Is this the right way to do it?

Dr. Joe 09-16-2015 02:09 PM

Let me begin by telling you how delighted I am to hear of your progress. It's readers like you that inspire me to continue writing and expanding my Self-Coaching philosophy. For this I am grateful.

Regarding your question. First let me address your efforts to be "present" (i.e., washing the dishes). It's not possible to be in a permanent, meditative state as you found out. What's important is to use such focusing techniques merely to assist you in understanding that you always have the ability to separate from the chatter in your mind. Too often we feel victimized by our insecurities (doubts, fears, negatives). Practicing being more connected to our external world is a way to go from congested thinking to unencumbered living. But, as I said, this is simply a practice to teach you that you have the capacity for stepping apart from any thought that is stressing you.

Regarding the stress you feel about simple, innocuous decisions, let me begin by saying that this happens to be a fantastic opportunity to liberate yourself from the overly cautious need to be safe (in control). No one likes to make a "wrong" decision, but when insecurity enters the picture we often become paralyzed with fear. The fact that you're struggling with non-threatening decision making, makes this a golden opportunity to flex your self-trust muscle. You need to assert yourself against the compulsive, insecurity-driven fears and doubts. How? You do this by boldly, and simply, just making a choice. In this experiment, you're not trying to pick the right choice (i.e., seeds, etc.) you're simply practicing "doing." You're breaking the frozen patterns that insist you have to be sure, accurate, correct, etc. And here's the rub, it doesn't matter if you choose the wrong choice! In fact, sometimes it's to your advantage to be wrong. Why is this? Because you can begin to understand that the world doesn't end if you make a poor choice. Eliminate perfectionistic, controlling tendencies by boldly allowing your intuition to simply choose, right or left, black or white, vanilla or chocolate. It doesn't matter! What does matter is that you're practicing liberating yourself from the compulsivity of insecurity.

Hope this helps

Dr. Joe

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Gardener 09-16-2015 04:00 PM

reply to advice about negative thoughts
Thanks for your response. It IS helpful. What I understand from your reply is that when I keep my mind on what I’m doing, that helps to keep me outside of my head and stop any reflexive thinking. So the more I can “stay in the present” the less chance reflexive thinking has to take over. Also when I need to make a non-threatening decision, don’t spend too much time beating it to death like I usually do! Just decide and accept the results as okay. That will be a challenge for me!!!
I have had anxiety almost my whole life (I am 66 years old). At age 21, I developed Agoraphobia because of panic attacks and had it for 10 years without knowing what my problem was. Then I found Dr. Claire Weekes’ books which helped me understand the problem but I had to read it more than a few times before I began to understand the concept of “fear of fear”. It took me another 5 years to work through some of the panic. I worked as an administrative assistant from age 17 until I retired in 2008. When I was engrossed in my work I was relaxed so I did very well on my job. I hid my problem because I did not want it to affect my job and I felt there was a stigma attached to this sort of thing (I don’t think that is true so much anymore).
During my life, I went to work and came home and did not go many places (except with family members). I met my husband at work and got married for the first time at age 48 (real true love, since he married me knowing about my problem! ). He has been a great support to me over our 18 years of marriage. We laugh about how I have a “backup” for everything (and sometimes a backup to a backup) in an effort to try to control things. That is something I have been working on also.
I have never taken medication for this and always believed that I could overcome it by myself in time. I still have a lot to overcome but hope to do it by learning that I can handle life as it comes and, as a Christian, I also believe that God is watching over me and guiding my life too. The self-help material I had in the past has helped me, but I think the Self-Coaching concept is just what I have been looking for.

Dr. Joe 09-17-2015 02:18 PM

Keep in mind that habits are indeed, stubborn things. Be patient and begin to recognize that a lot of what holds you back is reflexive, knee-jerk insecurity. This is why I stressed taking a "leap of faith" when it comes to making choices. You need to find out that insecurity will always call the shots if you are too passive (this is because it has been your habit for so long). Insecurity is fear-based and in order not to
be ruled by fear, you must find out that trying to over-control life doesn't make you safer, it makes you more anxious. Keep up the good fight.

Dr. Joe

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