Autohypnosis: Controlling Your Own Mind

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In this era of psychology, the most common method of mitigating mental illness is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This involves taking control of your mind in a big way. You take an outside viewpoint on your thoughts, and rationally decide if they lead to positive or negative behaviors. Based on that, you increase or decrease their strength and frequency.

Doing this can, over time, completely change the way you think. You are in effect actively manipulating your thought processes.  The core behavior behind CBT can be applied to a multitude of areas in all categories of life.

A Note on Professional Help

If you are chronically depressed, or have experienced suicidal ideation, cognitive self-medication is not the answer. Seek professional help and don’t risk your livelihood.

Turning it to Your Benefit

The core idea behind CBT is a powerful one: we can fundamentally change the way we think. We can fundamentally change ourselves into different people. This means that, contrary to much popular opinion, we’re not stuck with the mental cards we’re dealt. Instead, the cards we have are purely our own to choose.

There have been many times in my life that I have reached a point of despair. The only way out was to force myself into a feeling of lightness and productivity. The “jump out of bed” moments have been pivotal in my life, and I seek them out as I continue.

Where CBT comes in is that I consciously control my thoughts. I prevent myself from thinking negative thoughts: when a negative thought pops into existence, I rationalize it into non-existence. I know that they do not help me, so there is no reason to let them continue to exist. Without mitigating negative thoughts, they will grow. Self-doubt will spiral, becoming larger and larger until it topples your paradigm.

This is an avoidable disaster. There is no need to fall at all, as long as you properly manage yourself. Run your mind like a business. You have to have enough stock of certain commodities or you are doomed to failure; if you do not have enough social interaction, exercise, food, etc then you will not be able to build upwards towards greatness and self-actualization.

Run Your Mind Like a Business

Imagine that social interaction is a product you’re selling. You’re selling it to your body and to your subconscious mind: through social interaction you gain a lively energy that will push you forward unlike any other. 

If you notice that your stock of social interaction is running low, and that soon you’ll run out, what would you do as the CEO of yourself? Would you let it run out, disappointing your customers and leaving them bereft of a product they’ve come to rely on, or would you order enough to last for a while? The answer is the latter, of course. Again, run your mind like a business. The same concept applies to all of the aforementioned concepts, especially base things such as social interaction, exercise, diet, and drugs such as caffeine. Some products, you want to order a lot. Others, you want to order just a little. Caffeine would be an example of a product where you just want to order a little.

Narrowly Focusing Willpower

Secondary to running your mind like a business, there is the tenet of being appropriately and narrowly focused. If you attempt to push your energy in too many directions, you will find that you can’t affect any major change in any of them; instead, focus your energy in only one or two directions. Treat your energy as a laser, not a lamp. Do not radiate in all directions, but push an overwhelming force against your goals and they will not be able to hold up.

The Hose Analogy

A useful analogy I’ve found for this concept is that your willpower is as a hose (or a pipe, if you fancy): if you have only one exit for the water in the hose, you will have the maximum and intended amount of willpower: you will have the pressure required to erode any stone. If instead, you poke many holes in the hose, your willpower and energy will dribble out in several different directions. Who ever thought a dribble was powerful?

Controlling Your Outward Influence

Noticing Your Effects

The third most important tenet of autohypnosis is mindfulness. There has been a large current towards mindfulness in psychology, with many studies finding it to be the most important factor for success. Mindfulness means taking a critical stance towards yourself: it means analyzing yourself from an outside perspective when necessary and noticing overarching patterns in your actions. A useful exercise for this is to imagine you’re talking to a clone of yourself. You are giving him/her advice. What advice would you give? What problems would you say aren’t really problems? Would you advice him/her to take more action, or less action? Take a moment to do this and you’ll see how powerful mindfulness can be.

When you write in a journal, you are essentially doing this. You are writing to an imaginary, idealized you: you are telling him/her what is important to you, and what changes you want to make. Personally, I’ve taken to the habit of a weekly review: I sit down on Sunday and I analyze my past week. What were my successes and failures? What should I be proud of doing well, and what could I do better? Through this habit, I’ve nearly completely eliminated the risk of losing myself. It doesn’t happen.

To lose yourself is the worst thing that can happen. When you lose yourself, you enter dead time: time that is a sunk cost with no benefit. It’s in this time that you find yourself staying in, playing videogames and consuming two whole pizzas in one sitting. This is not a desirable lifestyle for me, and certainly doesn’t get me closer to any of my goals.

How to Maintain Mindfulness

There are a number of useful habits for maintaining mindfulness. With a combination of meditation, journaling, and heart-to-heart introspective talks with friends and family, you can maintain a clear view on yourself. And having a clear, frank view on yourself is really all you need to succeed. With a true image of yourself, you know exactly where you are. Once you know both where you are and where you want to go (the fun part), you can easily get there. You just have to find out the how. And if you can effectively utilize yourself to maximum efficiency, most hows become exceedingly small. 

Nearly all of the blocks exist not in the outside world, but inside your head: there are mental blocks everywhere. We are both socially conditioned to act a certain way and have a predisposition to act a certain way because of tribal psychology. We are cavemen in modern-human clothing. Just exceedingly smart and capable cavemen, with larger social networks than ever before.

Learn to exploit yourself. Treat yourself like a business, make sure you order enough stock to last the season. Make sure you give yourself the appropriate amount of everything, and you’ll be able to afford that self-actualization with the heated seats you’ve always wanted to buy.

By using the ideas behind CBT for your own benefit, you can change yourself completely. You can shift paradigms and remove your identity as a limiting factor. 

Build Bridges

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Don’t tread water, build bridges.

There are few things that provide more clarity than a walk. Being among nature, looking at the rooftops and the treeline that we so often miss, you find a rare quiet.

The mind piles with minutiae over time. They physically manifest as anything from a mild burning sensation in the forehead to extreme headaches. As these come to a critical point, they must be flushed.

This is quite easy. The natural world–still existing, unabashed–must be rediscovered. I, myself am often guilty of losing sight of the things that matter. I find myself stressed, dead tired and sore for no good reason. There is always a simple cause. I have neglected my body, and I have neglected nature.

There are so many things in life that sap our humanity. From inescapable financial worries to the gigantic social networks you must manage, life encroaches. This artificially inflated realm becomes our own–and worse, our only–world. It pays to reel yourself back in from time to time. You must be reminded that that is not the real world. Being with nature serves this purpose. It connects you to the past.

I live in a cycle. I have weeks of upward spirals: increased productivity and a bolstering of both mood and life satisfaction. But a small problem inevitably comes along and I topple. Everything comes down, and it takes several days to repair myself. But in this time of recession, I don’t worry. Certain things never leave. The wonder of nature and the peace found in quiet contemplation are constants.

When the going gets tough, you must mitigate. And you must have procedures in place to do so. While you are in a high state, create for your future: make a plan for when you have trouble. What will you do, day to day? What will you eat, how often will you exercise? These preset behavior acts as the scaffolding to hold you up during tough times.

The most important part of this scaffolding is journaling. Journaling gives you a birds-eye view of your life. You will identify patterns in your behavior, and you will learn how to play them. You will find yourself consciously heading towards your ideal self. Without journaling, I have found it easy to fall into a rut. In life it is simple to let the small worries absorb you; it is easy to give into baser needs. But in giving in, you lose sight of all that is grand and important. Through journaling, you can end the cycle of being caught by these baser needs and pulling yourself out. You can be permanently conscientious, permanently mindful.

Beyond journaling, you must not forget to keep yourself anchored in reality. The world is split: there is the world of your physical surroundings, and the world through your devices and screens. These must be kept separate, and you must take care to avoid excessive time in the virtual world. Too much time there will cause it to meld with your physical reality; this is dangerous. The internet is a torrent of knowledge. To harvest it, you must take it one bucket at a time. To immerse yourself is to be caught in the torrent and to drown.

I have found that if you let the torrent take hold, with all of its dissonant ideas, you will never accomplish much of note. You will be lost in a whirlwind of love and hate. Accomplish one goal at a time. Quietly empower yourself. There is no need to solve every problem at once. In attempting, you will be paralyzed by choice. I have found that I am most lacking in productivity and purpose when I do not know what I want to do. Once I am sure of where I want to go, things become simple: lay out the steps and follow them. Yogi Berra described this best: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”