Monthly Archives: February 2009

Thought Attacks That Cause Heart Attacks

Mark Twain once said, “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” I call this “Thought Attacks.” Thoughts attacks are fearful thoughts that, when believed, escalate into negative emotions that produce perceptions of threats. It is the reactive mind that repeatedly mistakes a stick for a snake. Dr. Robert Sapolsky — the famous stress researcher at Stanford and author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers — states: “We humans are smart enough to generate all sorts of stressful events purely in our heads. We can experience wildly strong emotions, provoking our bodies into an accompanying uproar, all linked to mere thought.”

Thought attacks are the origin of the anxious, stress-provoking attitude called Type-A that leads to heart attacks. It also generates the stream of stress hormones that debilitate higher brain function. This makes it impossible to sustain peak performance or generate the resonance and empathy for meaningful relationships.

Tools That Keep You At The Top Of Your Game

In my book Mystic Cool, three of the ten tools I provide (described below) serve to quiet thought attacks by promoting the power of non-negative thinking. These exercises are simple, on-the-spot intercessions that add nothing to our to-do list. They work by increasing awareness, which is half the battle in transcending stress and unhappiness. Practice even one of these exercises over two weeks and positive change is inevitable. You will start to recover the emotional calm, mental clarity, and physical energy that sustains you at the top of your game.

At first, it may feel distressing to face the stream of negativity the unconscious mind is capable of generating. But as you make the content conscious you begin to recognize toxic thoughts for what they are: stressful delusions. After a while, you will begin to laugh at the very thoughts that used to punish you. Eventually, you will stop thinking this way because your logical mind will no longer find any value in it, meaning that you’ve freed yourself from the critic within. Below is a description of each process. Click on each link for a set of instructions for the exercise.

TOOL #1. Transcending the Background Negativity: This process involves becoming aware, as much as possible, of the negative feelings and thoughts your mind generates. Each time you are aware of a negative thought or feeling, you tell yourself “this stressful thought or this pessimistic feeling is in me, not in reality.” You remind yourself that you have the power to let it go — by not believing it.

TOOL #2. The Clear Button: Most stress reactions begin with fearful or toxic thinking. If we collapse the thought pattern before it proliferates, we can thwart most stress reactions. A psycho-kinetic exercise called “The Clear Button” is a proven way to do that. It resets the brain.

TOOL #3. Refuting the Critical Voice: We can transcend the judging, critical mind to achieve a more optimistic self-view. In a series of simple steps, we can effectively refute the typically negative, generally overstated, and tacitly unfair judgments the critical voice flings at us.

Click-on here for all three exercises.

Can People Under Pressure Sustain Highly Creative Levels of Performance For Long Periods And Not Burn-Out?

Recently I was asked: Can people work ten hours a day, five and sometimes six days a week for extended periods of time and enjoy high levels of creative performance without burning out? The answer is yes . . . if — and only if — a person is adept at transcending stress. If he or she can do that, they are much more likely to succeed, and in ways that will make work intrinsically rewarding.

Start Today
Neurologically, transcending stress is achieved through the shift in attitude that takes us from anxious to peaceful. Stress is psychological fear; peace is neurological power. That’s not my opinion; that’s science’s definition. Mercifully, making this shift is simpler than we might think, producing meaningful results in a relatively short period of time. In my book, Mystic Cool, and in workshops, I provide ten simple tools that sustain the shift from stress to peace, without adding to your to-do list. But you can make this shift right away. Starting tomorrow, begin your day in peace and dedicate the rest of the day to the goal of sustaining your peace of mind, regardless of what happens. Here’s one approach:

  • In the morning, when you come into the kitchen to make coffee or tea, while it is brewing sit in a chair and quietly look out the window at the morning.
  • Be present, here and now. Simply follow your breathing, relax your mind, and open your heart.
  • If there is any tightness in your body, feel it. Feeling it actually releases the tightness.
  • Feel whatever emotion you feel. Meet it with a willingness to feel it and then let it pass.
  • Forgive whatever transgressions you or someone else committed that still linger from the day before and make this day new.
    Commit yourself to being at peace today, remembering the brain power science tells us it inevitably provides.

During the five minutes it takes to make the coffee, you can brew the attitude that will make your day. What could be simpler? Stress, on the other hand, is what makes things difficult. The cost to us, personally and professionally, is enormous. Stress depletes the higher order brain function, physical stamina, and enthusiasm that sustain peak performance. A dynamically peaceful attitude restores the brain power that keeps you at the top of your game.

Perfection Is Not An Option

On the Discovery/Health website there is a test to determine whether or not you are a “perfectionist.” The preface to the tests asks: Are you putting unreasonable demands on yourself by setting the bar too high? Do you expect too much from your children or lover? Or do you feel that the world is exerting pressure on you?

The test asks 15 questions. Here are a few of the questions:
  • In general, the prospect of making a mistake angers me.
  • I am frequently disappointed in my mate, friends, kids, co-workers.
  • I get impatient with people around me – they always screw up in one way or another.
  • I believe that if I do things badly, others will reject me.
  • When my plans don’t go as I envision, I get extremely stressed out.
  • Being ‘average’ is a terrible thought for me.

Type-A

It’s easy to see why a perfectionist is regarded as Type-A, meaning they produce an extreme level of stress that, over a decade or two, is likely to ravage their cardio-vascular system and threaten their life. There was a time when the unreasonable demands I placed on myself at work meant I didn’t get home some nights until midnight. It’s telling that I cannot remember one thing I did that seemed so important at the time. But I do remember the toll it took on my mind and body. There is a lot to be said for making it home for dinner with enough energy, mindfulness and good heart to make the evening pleasant. Those evenings we do remember.

Transcending Type-A

Ralph Waldo Emerson advises to do this: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”

Ernest Holmes is also worth quoting. Here is his perspective: “What we demonstrate today, tomorrow, and the next day is not as important as the tendency which our thought is taking: the dominant attitude of our mind. If everyday things are a little better, a little more harmonious, a little more health giving and joyous; if each day we are expressing more life, we are going in the right direction.”

A Choice

Ask yourself, which do you want? Do you want an attitude that berates you for a mistake, obsesses over details that hardly matter, and causes you to criticize and distance yourself from people, especially those you love. Or do you want an attitude that sheds your mistakes along with your old nonsense in exchange for a new day filled with new possibilities that each day increase your capacity to generate new life. We choose, and as we choose we create our life.