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.