Positive Mental Attitude Plus

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Don’t Worry – Be Positive

By Terence T. Gorski, Author
December 31, 2013

Positive mental attitude (PMA) is effective in many ways. There are limits to the effectiveness of positive thinking. It is not always enough to change deeply entrenched irrational core beliefs about self, others and the world that developed in early childhood. These core mistaken beliefs are often described using the idea of a  SCHEMA. When a core schema is challenged, it I feels like having a killer put a gun to our head and threaten to shoot. Our survival reactions kick in and our brains kick our body into action to get ready to fight or flee. These, of course are the classical fight or flight responses.

The consciously created positive thoughts are often unable to penetrate the survival responses (Fight, Flight, Freeze) that are activated in defense of our core beliefs.

Our core beliefs are developed in childhood to defend us from threats to our survival. Alfred Adler was the first to talk about the idea of core mistaken beliefs. Today, there is a method of therapy entirely devoted to identifying and changing core bore beliefs.

Our childhood beliefs have become the truth as we see t. As a result we defend these core irrational and destructive beliefs because we are firmly convinced that they are needed for survival.

Mindfulness meditation helps people to develop the skill of being detached and aware. As a result we can become aware of these core irrational beliefs about self, others, and the world without activating self-destructive survival behaviors driven by high stress. There are simple ways to get people into using mindfulness meditation.

Combining mindfulness meditation, which allows a detached awareness of emerging thoughts, without activating survival mechanisms, can add to the effectiveness of positive thinking and affirmations. Mindfulness meditation also stops the automatic self-talk, called rumination, driven by mistaken childhood beliefs from constantly running through our minds.

The final component is a learned system for emotional management and problems solving. A comprehensive system for managing thoughts and feelings and the core belies that drive them is described in the workbook entitled Cognitive Restructuring for Addiction.

These components can make an effective combined practice for recovery:
1. Positive (Rational) Thinking
2. Mindfulness Meditation
3. Emotional Management
4. Problem solving.

8 Responses to Positive Mental Attitude Plus

  1. Guy Lamunyon says:

    Recent research has found negative thinking stimulates the sympathetic nervous system increasing stress.

    Don’t Worry, Be Happy ! ! ! !

  2. neasamartin says:

    Neasa Martin

    Strategic Advisor on Recovery at Mental Health Commission of Canada

    Wow, I was shocked to read in your blog that negative thoughts are “like having a psychotic killer put a gun to our head and threaten to shoot”. I am committed to changing negative beliefs towards people living with mental illness. This is a terribly stigmatizing and harmful comment. Linking mental illness with violence is a common and misplaced stereotype. Stigma is also a major reason people do not seek help or remain in treatment. Unfortunately people in the helping professions hold more deeply prejudicial beliefs about mental illness than the public. The point could be as easily made by talking about being confronted by a bear. I hope we can all be mindful of how we use language. Please revise this posting. Words hurt!

    • Terry Gorski says:

      The statement involving negative thinking being “like a psychotic killer holding a gun to you head” was meant metaphorically and not literally. I am a strong supporter if removing stigma from both addiction and mental Heath. I can see where the term “psychotic” may be inappropriate. I will fix it right now.

      • neasamartin says:

        Thank you Terry for responding positively. No doubt you are a kind, caring and thoughtful man. I think the intent of your metaphor was to have the reader conceptualize the most fearful event imaginable. As a person affected by mental illness there rests my sadness. I have also worked as a professional all across the mental health system. Because we work as “helpers” we can easily become blind to our our prejudice. In extensive consultations with service users their deepest pain was the prejudiced felt at the hands of those they turned to for help at their most vulnerable time. We have a lot of
        work to do as helpers to turn that around. Again, thank you for your positive response. Good luck with your work.

      • Terry Gorski says:

        STIGMA, LANGUAGE, AND CULTURE

        Stigma of people who are different has plaqueD humanity since before the beginning of recorded history. Many things we recognize as illnesses today were misunderstood and the victims were thought to be possessed of the devil, sinners being punished by god, or just plain immoral or stupid people.

        This stigma is still with us regarding alcohol and drug problems and mental illness. The stigma is so ingrained it has worked its way into common expressions that are used every day without thinking. Here are some of those phrases: “That’s crazy! Are you insane? You’re acting like a falling down drunk! That’s looney! You’re nuts! Are you brain-dead or something?” I could present more, but I think the point is made.

        When pointed out, these embedded phrases are are obviously hurtful and work against understanding mental illness as a disease in the same sense as cancer or heart disease. Yet these expressions are used everyday, even by people who do not mean to hurt and judge. As with anything embedded in language, the first step to change is pointing it out so people can notice these judgmental statements that are “hidden in plain view.” Then we need to take responsibility for changing how we speak and write.

        I was not even aware of the judgment and stigma that was carried in simple phrase used as common English – “psychotic killer.” In fact few people suffering from mental illness marked by psychotic symptoms hurt or kill anyone. Usually they are hurt or killed by others who let misunderstanding and fear control their behavior.

        I will do my best to stamp that phrase from my speech and writing. It shocked me when I realized how absolutely unaware I was of how harmful this habit of speech could be. I was amazed I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out.

        Our culture and our language has a long way to go in taking stigma inducing phrases out of our everyday language and culture. It is definitely an important thing to do.

  3. sarah says:

    Mindfulness meditation and deescalating techniques are a enormous stress reliever and a wonderful way of life however, individuals need to be reminded continuously on how to transform these thoughts.Although these blogs r a wonderful starting point most ppl have a hard time incorporating techniques there needs to be a more hands on format. My participants struggle with the concept but I am diligent. Happy N.Yr.

    • Terry Gorski says:

      Accurate information is a part of recovery, but only a part. Having professional guidance in how to use recovery tools and an active community-based recovery support group are extremely important. I hope these blogs may be of some help to recovering people, their families and friends, and the professionals that work so hard to provide services. Many therapists have told be they refer their patients to various blogs and print them out to use as hand outs.

    • Terry Gorski says:

      Thank you for your comment.

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