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What do you do with those pesky unwanted, irrational, and sometimes downright inappropriate or scary thoughts? Hint - trying to stop them, push them away, or change them can often make them even stronger. Tony shares the "numbers" metaphor from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which teaches that the brain works by addition, not subtraction, and shares the most helpful way to look at thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

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[00:00:01] So the year was 2016, and my wife Wendy and my daughter McKinley and I were driving to the start of the Davis turkey trot. It was a half marathon held about an hour or so away from where we live. And I was excited. I was feeling in the moment I was about to do something that I loved with people that I loved even more. And when I get excited and I'm in the car and I want to help people take their minds off of something stressful, then I like to play music. And I love having the ability to look up any song from my youth and play it instantly. I don't know if my family, especially my kids, love that so much. It's still kind of blows my mind that I used to have to record a song on the radio, or if you were lucky, one of your friends would buy the tape or the record or a CD of an artist that you wanted to hear just so that you could hear one or two songs that they would play on the radio. So on this particular day, my live DJ mode had somehow kicked in and I had found my way to sharing with my daughter MacKinley old Jackson, five songs in particular, Michael Jackson belting out Who's Loving You at the age of 11, which reminded me of the artist Terence Trent Darby, who covered that cover, because that song, Just for the Gee Whiz file, was originally written by Smokey Robinson and performed by his group The Miracles in 1960

[00:01:12] But I digress. So on his album, Introducing The Hard Line, according to Terence Trent D'Arby, that's the name of the album back in nineteen eighty seven. When I was a junior in high school, I first heard that song and so I ask her to play this version, this Terence Trent D'Arby version and the second to start it up. I immediately felt tears well up in my eyes so fast as I thought of the person who introduced me to that rendition. That was my best friend, Trent Curl, who tragically died a year later in a car accident the summer after our graduation, along with his younger brother, Toby and Toby, his best friend Chris, and Trent's girlfriend Lisa Warren, who also, for the record, I once held hands with after asking her to, quote, go with me back in sixth or seventh grade. But what was fascinating about that entire experience was despite the fact that, yeah, I thought about Trent so often over the last 30 years, along with Toby and Chris and Lisa, and I've heard the Michael Jackson version of Who's Loving You probably far too many times to count and to admit if I'm being honest, I tend to belt that thing out at the top of my lungs when I was driving to help keep myself awake if I was on a long solo car trip, but combined that particular version by Terrence Trent Darby, who I have not given much to any thought of over the last 30 years plus.

[00:02:27] And my brain remembered all man that I remember in that moment. It brought back such vivid memories that I had tears welling up at my eyes before I even knew what hit me. And that led me to a particular concept within the therapy model that I use on a daily basis. If you're a virtual couch listener, you've heard me talk about this so many times, ACT or acceptance and commitment therapy. And that principle is best described by the following metaphor. And before I get to the metaphor, at least I forget. Welcome to the Virtual Couch, my guest. This is episode two hundred and seventy five. If you're a frequent listener, welcome back. If you're a new listener, you can head over to TonyOverbay.com. You can learn more about about me, about my magnetic marriage course that is about to start pick up or go to Tony Overbay.com magnetic and just get in the queue or I have a free parenting course. They are an online recovery course. But let's get back to the topic at hand. So memories, thoughts when they pop up, what do you do with them and why can't you just get rid of them? So back to what I was what I was just saying. I think it is best described in the following metaphor.

[00:03:27] And this metaphor is from the acceptance and commitment therapy for OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder and abbreviated treatment manual, which was put together by an amazing ACT clinician and researcher named Michael Twigg. So this metaphor, and I'm going to read it off of this ACT, abbreviated treatment manual for OCD, but this metaphor is just phenomenal. Here goes. I will play the role of the therapist. You will be the role listener of the client. So suppose I came up to you and I said, I am going to give you three numbers to remember. And it's really important that you remember them, because here's the thing. Several years from now, I'm going to tap you on the shoulder. I'm going to ask, hey, what are those numbers? And if you can answer me correctly, I will give you one million dollars. So remember, this is incredibly important. So if you can answer, I won't give you a million dollars. So remember, do not forget these things because these three numbers I'm about to give you are worth a million dollars. So here they are. Are you ready? One, two, three. That isn't the lead up. Those are the numbers. One, two and three. So what are the numbers and view and the role of client would hopefully respond back one, two, three. So then the to say good, so don't forget them. And if you do, it's going to cost you a lot. So what are they again? And at this point you are apparently if I'm following the script, you give it a little chuckle, a laugh, and you say still the numbers are one, two and three.

[00:04:42] I say super. Do you think you'll be able to remember them? And you would then say, I suppose so. If I really believed that you would give me a million dollars and I say, then, believe me, a million dollars. So what are the numbers? And you say one, two and three. So then I say right now, if you really did believe me, and this is the part in the metaphor where I'm supposed to let you know, unfortunately, I really am not going to give you a million dollars. So when I see you down the road and give you these numbers, but so, yes, I lied, but it's quite likely that you might remember these silly numbers for a very long time to which you would say, sure, and then I'm going to chime in and say, but isn't that kind of ridiculous? I mean, just because some therapist wants to make a point now, you may go around honestly for the rest of your life, remembering the numbers one, two and three in correlation with this concept that I might tap you on the shoulder and give you a million dollars that can be stuck in your head. Now, honestly, for the rest of your life, just like this Terence Trent D'Arby version of Who's Loving You popped up in my mind.

[00:05:30] So for no reason has anything to do with you. Just an accident, really. The luck of the draw, the fact that you if you're in my office, you have me as a therapist. If you happen to be listening to this podcast that the next thing you know, you're going to have these numbers rolling around in your head for who knows how long. So what are the numbers again? And I'm sure that you can think of them one, two and three. And so now I say, OK, once they're in your head, they aren't leaving. Here comes the fascinating part. Our nervous system works by addition, not by subtraction. So once stuff goes in, it is in. So then then I say, check this out. What if I say to you that it is very important that you have the experience that the numbers are not one, two and three? OK, so I am going to ask you about I want you to give me three more numbers, but I want you to answer in a way that absolutely has nothing to do with one, two and three. OK, so now what are what are the numbers? And it's fascinating because I've done this metaphor with so many people in my office and I would say a solid 90 percent or higher immediately, say four or five and six. Now, some people try to overthink it and they give me decimal points or that sort of thing, and that's fine.

[00:06:35] But the point is, if you thought four or five and six or whatever numbers you did, now you're doing great. So then I say, did you do what I asked you? And the client says, I thought four or five and six. And so I said. And then I say, and did that meet the goal that I set? And let me ask it in this way. How do you know that four or five and six is a good answer? And that's where the client says will, because they aren't one, two and three. And I say exactly. So four or five and six still has to do with one, two and three. And I asked you not to make these numbers have anything to do with one, two and three. So let's do it again. Think of anything except one, two and three and make sure that your answer is absolutely unconnected to one, two and three, to which maybe you're thinking this right now. I can't do it. It's impossible. And that's what I say. Me too. It is absolutely impossible. I couldn't do it either. And so the nervous system again works only by addition unless you get a lobotomy or something. So four or five and six is just adding to one, two and three because one, two and three is now in your head and those numbers aren't leaving when you are 80 years old.

[00:07:36] I could probably walk up to you and say, hey, what are those numbers again? And you might actually say one, two and three, simply because I had asked you to remember them however many years earlier. But it isn't just the numbers. One, two and three. That's not it's not some trick or some mind game. You've got all kinds of people telling you all kinds of things. Your mind has been programed by all sorts of experiences. And all of these experiences are just like those numbers one, two and three. So let me give you some examples of things, experiences like where you may feel like you are not enough or you're unlovable or you're broken or you'll never get ahead or you never stick to anything. You've been told so many things by others as well as by yourself that those things are now there. And you can't just remove them as much as we would like to. The brain does not have a delete button. And just for fun, I can't lie. I did a little Google search on that. I want to find some clever quotes or that sort of thing. Actually found someone that it's real. They're trying to develop this ginormous machine that would be able to literally go in and at the Peko meter level and remove thought. And so I had copied a bunch of the data of there. They're talking about a gamma wavelength passes through a pipe with an aperture that small enough to make the beam to be around twenty to fifteen microns and width.

[00:08:49] And then a single neuron in the brain ranges in size from four to one hundred microns. So a group of twenty neurons should be housed inside a cubic area of around 80 microns anyway. So until all of that is figured out, which I don't know when that would happen, you can't just simply get rid of a thought. You can't simply just delete something from your brain. So the fascinating part about this is that. How do you know that your thought that's in your mind isn't just another example of one, two and three, especially those negative thoughts that are in there that you sometimes even notice that these thoughts maybe are in your parents' voices or your spouse's voice or your boss's voice or something that is connected to what people have told you. And if you are nothing more than your reactions and you get some trouble because you didn't choose what they would be, you didn't choose what the thoughts would be, the thoughts just pop up in your head. How many times have you had these completely irrational or irreverent thoughts or they can be inappropriate or violent or any of these kind of thoughts? And how many times to those just pop up in your mind and you immediately react and think, oh, my gosh, what's wrong with me? Why am I thinking when when I go speak sometimes if I'm just chatting with the crowd or getting ready to to start, I will often talk about this thing called inappropriate thought syndrome, which kind of plays on this.

[00:09:59] And what that means is I get people on a regular basis to say to me, hey, I thought this thing and it's crazy, right? I can't believe I just thought that I can't believe. I just thought about turning my steering wheel of my car over a little bit and running into a tree or into oncoming traffic. Or I often talk about how when I stay at a hotel or if I'm up really high, my I get these jelly legs and my heart just rushes and my brain thinks you can totally jump. But for the record, I have never done that. So when you think about this concept of what's called inappropriate thought syndrome, there's three tenets to it. No. One, everybody has these thoughts, be them irrational, irreverent, immoral, violent, ridiculous, silly, wrong thoughts. At the particular time, you often hear the the jokes about people that are at a funeral and they just think something funny and they think, oh, my gosh, what's wrong with me? Your brains just going to do whatever the heck it wants. So no one of inappropriate thought syndrome is we all have these thoughts. They just happen. They just pop up. And number two, tent number two of inappropriate thought syndrome is just because you have the thoughts doesn't mean you are any sort bad, unlovable, broken.

[00:10:58] Anything's wrong with you because most likely you're not going to follow through on them again. I've never jumped. And and boy, I haven't told the story in a long time. But when I first started looking into inappropriate thought syndrome, it was years ago and we would all the kids were at home. We're eating dinner at the table often. And I'm talking about this. And it was funny because my kids chime right in about these little Yorkie dogs and they're like, have you ever thought about just how little their legs are? What could you just break one? And it's funny because as much as I just said, yeah, we all have these thoughts, they're crazy, right? Who knows? But that doesn't mean you're your bad. And my first reaction was, whoa, whoa, that went OK. And I'm like, wow. Yeah, it totally is. And my wife wasn't in on that conversation to begin with. And so there was another time where we were using a melon baller to get watermelon out, I think of a watermelon. And and I think there was something like one of my kids said, when you scoop, this doesn't seem like you're scooping out an eyeball. And I can tell my wife is like, whoa, is everything OK? And I was like, oh, no, no inappropriate thoughts. We all have these thoughts. So again, we all have them.

[00:11:54] Just because you have them doesn't mean you're going to act out on them or that anything's wrong with you. And then the third piece of inappropriate thought syndrome, third tenant is thought suppression doesn't work, which means, of course, it's the old don't think about a white polar bear right now. And you think about a white polar bear and especially don't think about them wearing a green hat. So now I've got my white polar bear and he's wearing a green hat. And so if you try to say, don't think about the thing, then your brain says, what this? And so if you go back to this metaphor, then why it is so brilliant is that we've got two things going on, is that seeing that reactions are just sort of a program than theory that undermines the credibility of engaging in a successful struggle against this undesirable psychological content, because the reactions are these automatic conditioned responses. And so say to yourself, man, I'm bad. It's not inherently any more meaningful than saying the number numbers one, two and three. And so what happens is that you start to look at the fact that a thought is just a thought. And so when we go back to this metaphor again, why I love it so much is that if your thought is I am bad, if that is your numbers one, two and three, then if you tell yourself, OK, I need to stop thinking one, two and three.

[00:13:03] First of all, your brain's going to say, do you mean one, two and three? So you mean you're bad. And so it's almost reinforcing this. I shouldn't be thinking this. And then here's the other fascinating part. So let's say now that you think, OK, when I think I'm bad, I need to think, no, you're actually good. But so and that's a little bit of some of the types of therapy that I used to to work in that world. And I'm not saying that it doesn't have a place, but think about that concept in this metaphor. So if I think when I think one, two, three. Oh, no, I need to think for five and six, then I'm still thinking one, two and three. So if I'm like, man, I'm so bad, I'm bad. I'm a big piece of garbage, I'm horrible and bad only instead of I'm bad. I need to think I'm good. And so it sounds great. But then often and most most often the brain says, okay, you're not fooling anybody. I still think you're bad. And so that's that equivalent to don't think about one, two and three, but come up with three more numbers. So when you come up with four or five and six, it's based on the fact that it's not one, two and three. So what's the solution? So oftentimes when we learn that I'm not bad isn't any more meaningful than the numbers one, two and three, then when you really start to to bring.

[00:14:11] Send your daily life that can start to bring more of a sense of peace and this isn't. So this is the key to this metaphor. It's not that this is intended to make bad thoughts or bad feelings go away, but if done properly, the more that you work off of this metaphor within acceptance and commitment therapy, then it allows people to really exercise the of the ability to recognize a thought or a feeling is simply just that a thought or a feeling, and that any experience of peace is a byproduct of this success, of being able to just recognize. That's a thought. That's a feeling. That's interesting. So the point is to make this kind of experiential contact with the place from where thoughts and feelings and urges come from and that they don't have to be believed or acted upon or run from or any of those things. So when you think of this metaphor, I would love to empower you to be able to notice the different aspects of the experience that, you know, really what what what becomes empowering is the lack of struggle. When you notice the thought, it's just the thoughts. Just one, two and three. Or if you notice that when I think one, two and three, man here I go to four or five and six again, just their thoughts. Notice them and don't when you try to push them away, when you try to say, don't think that it's right there at you, when you try to think when I think that I'm going to think something different, you're still giving some power to that that that thought to begin with.

[00:15:30] So let's go back to the man. I am bad. So again, if you say, OK, I shouldn't be thinking I'm bad. We've got our own psychological reactants in our brain. Our own version of you can't tell me what to do. Our own brain does. That's what thoughts suppression is. When you say don't think I'm bad, our brain says I'll do whatever I want. Matter of fact, you're bad. So it's like it holds this mirror up and says, oh, this thing that you're thinking. So that's like, don't think one, two and three. And then or if I think OK, when I think I'm bad, I need to think, no, I'm good, then I'm still giving power to that I'm bad. I stuff to sit with that reaction of bad I got to think I'm good. So instead what we really want to do is just be able to notice these are just thoughts. Oh I'm noticing the thought of I'm bad. It's just a thought. I'm noticing the feeling of feeling bad. Isn't that fascinating? And then what do you do? And here's one of the most powerful things of act. I can get people to do that that acceptance piece of like, OK, I need to accept that I'm feeling bad.

[00:16:24] I'm not a broken person. I'm feeling this way because of all the experiences that I've been through in my life that have led me to this very moment. Let's say that I have to make a tough decision and I have to pick one person over another for something, a job, a team or any of those sort of things. So I feel bad. So in that scenario, yeah, you're human. So you feel the way you feel because you're human. If you are a person who has program with a fair amount of empathy, then you're going to feel bad. If you're somebody who just feels like this is all about winning a game, you may not feel bad. And neither one of those is inherently the wrong thing to do. It's just the thing that you're doing based on who you are. So we go back to the scenario of where, OK, I feel bad for choose one person over the other, hey, you're human. And so but if you say, man, I shouldn't. I need to not feel bad. You're like, oh, you feel bad. Or if you're like no instead of feeling bad and you feel good and that might give you a little burst. You know, I can do this. And you look at the two people that you have to choose between, you're like, Oh man, I feel bad. So what do you do? So in that scenario, you recognize the thought.

[00:17:22] You acknowledge the thought. That's a thought. I have lots of thoughts, have lots of feelings. I have lots of emotions. I'm human. But now what am I going to do? What am I going to take action on? So at that point, instead of trying to push away a thought, change of thought, you acknowledge the thought. You recognize the thought, you make room for the thought. You don't try to push it away. You invite that thought to come along with you while you choose somebody for the team. And so you can invite those feelings to come along with you. It's the process of trying to push them away or the process of trying to just change them, to just magically change them. That's the part that I get into my office on a daily basis of what's wrong with me. Why can't I stop thinking this thing? Well, because you're human or why don't I believe the story that when I feel a certain way, then I just tell myself no. Or it could be this other situation. Why am I not buying it? Well, because you're human. So the key is to be able to recognize the thought, recognize the feeling, recognize the emotion, because you have lots of them every given minute of the day. You have lots of thoughts, feelings and emotions because you're a human being and now point yourself and take action on something of value.

[00:18:23] So the example I had was recently I had someone that when they had a lot of time, free time, and they were in a work situation where they had a lot of free time and I gave them anxiety. And so because they weren't necessarily as engaged in the work that they were doing. So let's go to this example. They've got three hours left in the day. They're working on something that's pretty tedious and they don't even really know exactly what they're supposed to be doing. So that's going to cause anxiety, because they're human. Of course, it's going to cause anxiety, especially for this person. So when they notice that they are feeling anxious. Now, here's the that's the numbers one, two and three. So it's like, oh, wow, one, two and three anxiety. I'm noticing anxiety. So I can't just tell myself, don't think about it. Don't feel anxious because the brain is going to say, oh, you mean this anxiety that you're feeling or that they've tried before. Or to say, OK, when I feel anxious, I need to realize there's a lot of good but a lot of good things in my life now, inherently, that is a wonderful thing to do. But does it what does it do with that anxiety? It gives that person a brief moment where they're like, but you know what? I get my health. I get my strength. I'm in a nice building, so this is good.

[00:19:27] But then they turn right back to the three hours they have and the project that they don't feel engaged with. So instead of trying to push the thoughts away, instead of trying to just change the thought they notice, I am feeling anxious. I'm noticing that. And so the key at this point then, is to now make a pivot turn toward a Value-Based Goal or activity. So in this scenario, we identified that this person has a value of knowledge. So even if they are not doing something that has to do with that project that they're supposed to be working on in that very moment for work, but if they are going to find themselves caught up in anxiety and emotions and feelings and not being productive and not only not being productive, but feeling worse about themselves than when they recognize those thoughts, feelings and emotions acknowledge them, don't try to push them away. Don't try to change them, make room for them, and now turn to a Value-Based Goal of knowledge. So in this scenario, this person actually then turns toward the Internet and they started Google more about, in a broad sense, the document that they were supposed to be working on. They wanted to get as much data as they could about what is it that I'm even working with? What is it this company even really does? What is it about the big picture of what I'm trying to do? And so their brain said, yeah, but you're supposed to be working on this document.

[00:20:40] And so it was trying to hook them back to, hey, you need to deal with this right now. And they were able to acknowledge, OK, I see what you're doing, Brain. I appreciate it. It's a good it's a good thought, but that hasn't worked for me. Go back to the metaphor of a few episodes ago where it's like they're in the bottom of this hole and the only tool they have is a shovel. So in that scenario, they're like, I just got a I just got to sit here and pound this out. I just got to focus. That's like picking up their shovel and trying to dig more, finding themselves deeper in the hole. Maybe they don't have the right tool. Shovel shovels, a great tool for digging holes, but they're in a hole. They need to get out of the hole. They need a ladder. And so in that scenario, the ladder is turning towards some Value-Based Goal or activity. So the ladder is using this. I'm going to turn toward my value of knowledge or curiosity, and I'm going to learn more about something because that's going to raise my baseline. I'm going to feel better about myself. I didn't tell the thoughts to go away. I didn't try to change the thoughts. I invited them to come along with me and they're right there. They're a little bit annoying buzzing in the background.

[00:21:34] But then as I feel like I understand more and I gain my value of knowledge now, I can oftentimes turn back toward whatever the task is in front of me. And I can look at it from a different angle, because if I just continue to try to sit there and power through it, then that's the part where I'm just digging myself deeper into a hole. So this is why it is so important to recognize things that matter to you, things that are important to you, find value based goals, find value based activities, find your values. What does matter to you? And I think I might have talked about this on a previous episode. I'm putting together one of all the things I learned going to Disneyland a few weeks ago, all the therapist, Linn's things from going to Disneyland. But one of them that I recognized with this metaphor in mind was I do have a very strong value of curiosity, knowledge, information. And so when we would be in a line and I'm going to be very open and honest here, but if if we weren't all talking, it was my daughter, my niece, my wife and I. And if we weren't just talking, I would start to feel like pressure and feeling noticing. I feel like I need to carry the conversation. Or if everybody isn't engaged and laughing, then they aren't having fun. So I would notice that I didn't try to stop thinking that I didn't try to push it away.

[00:22:41] But instead then I just, I reckon, kind of got myself present centered and I turned toward a Value-Based Goal of connection or knowledge. And I found myself Googling whatever I could about whatever the ride was, the history of the ride, the park attendance, any of those things to then bring up conversation. And then we were locked in. Then it was, hey, tell me about your experience. Tell me more. What do you think about. And then I feel like that really scratch this itch or this value of connection or value of knowledge. So I would love for you to be able to really find what those values are, find whatever your values are. If you have a value of curiosity, evaluate adventure, a value of connection, a value of compassion, a value of fun, a value of humor, then make sure that you are working those values into whatever your environment is. And if it's not, can you turn toward value based goals or value based active? One of the fun things when I help people identify values is that value of adventure. I find that a lot of people had a value of adventure and curiosity as a kid, and then they feel like now that I'm an adult, I shouldn't have that. No one nobody likes to be shown on, especially our own brains. If you tell your own brain you shouldn't care about adventure, you need to just buckle down.

[00:23:44] And an adult. Well, says who? So if you have this value of adventure, then work adventure into your day, work adventure into your. I've had people, one of them some corporate training people that then if they if you have a strong leader who has a value of adventure or value of fun, then they work in things like one had a one of those mystery murder boxes that they would solve it as a group. So they always had this shared experience that they were talking about or they would have once a month. They would all. Go out together at the office I'm in here, they will often shoot me a text on Friday at noon and say, hey, we're all going out to to lunch. So can you make sure you lock up at the end of the day? Bunch of attorneys that do that. So it's just fascinating that if you if you can work your values into your current situation or if you're in a position to make a big change in your life, make sure that you're moving toward value based activities or value based goals. And this is where I feel like my biggest value of all values is being authentic. And that has been something that's been a long journey to be authentic, to be differentiated, to be interdependent, to show up and really state my feelings, my opinions, my what really matters to me, even if I risk invalidation.

[00:24:51] So if I say something now that I like a particular movie or I believe a particular thing, whether it's politics, religion, pop culture, you name it, to be able to be ready for, braced for, make room for invalidation, if somebody says, oh, wow, I didn't know you thought that and said, well, sort of fallen back on these old anxious attachment patterns and say, oh, no, I totally do think that. And guess what? If I change my mind, totally OK to because I am an adult and adults are welcome to change their mind as they experience more things throughout their lives. So going off on a little bit of a tangent at that point, but I hope that you can see where I was going today. The brain, bless its heart, does not have a delete button, at least for now. And until it does, then just recognize thoughts are just thoughts. And again, I understand because I used to be a very practicing therapist of the model that thoughts lead to emotion and emotion leads to behavior. And again, that's this mechanistic view of the brain where. So then if you just change a thought, then all the other cogs and pieces fall into place. So if you have this negative thought, which leads to a negative emotion, which leads to a negative behavior, the thought is that if I just change the thought and now say, wait, no, or I might feel happy that it's supposed to lead to a happy emotion and a happy behavior.

[00:26:04] But the brain isn't the machine. The brain is a very complicated thing that consists of all of your thoughts, experiences, nature, nurture, birth, order, DNA, abandonment, rejection, hopes, fears, dreams, all the things that make you so. It isn't just as simple as replacing one thing and then watching the rest of the pieces fall in order. I wish it was I don't wish it was that simple because it's amazing to be able to have different thoughts, emotions and have different relationships with words and experiences and all the things that make me uniquely me that make you uniquely you. I remember one of the first ACT trainings I went to and I'll wrap this up. The person said, Hey, how many of you have been taught that your thoughts, your emotions, your emotions need your behaviors? And most all of us were like, yeah, I've heard that. It's OK, I want you to put your hands in your lap. And you said, so think about raising your hand. That's the thought. And that leads to an emotion of right now you're going like, well, should I raise my hand? Or and so that should lead to a behavior of raising your hand. You said you're not raising your hand, are you? So it's not that mechanistic. It's not that linear. It's not that that much of a fact that a thought is going to lead to an action.

[00:27:07] It's not a thought is just a thought. A feeling is just a feeling and emotion is just an emotion. And being able to recognize them is a very powerful tool. And then it's what you do next. What action do you take? You can recognize thoughts, feelings and emotions all day long, but then what action do you take? And if you are taking action on a value based goal or a value based activity, now you're moving the ball forward. If you're simply distracting yourself when you get done with your distraction, then you're still going to be back in that same environment. So back to Michael Twigg, who is the one that I quoted the metaphor on today. I heard him on a podcast. The OCD diary is talking about ACT and OCD. And I need to get this quote from him. I just jotted it down to my notes. So this is not the exact quote. But he said something to the effect of eighty percent of life is about trying to manage emotions, not trying to live this good, purpose filled, value based life. And he said the goal and act is to switch things to eighty percent of your life is living your best because we have all these thoughts and emotions and feelings all the time. But again, that doesn't mean that we're going to take action on him. I think he had talked about that. People often worry about harming their kid and but they don't.

[00:28:15] But they'll be so in fear of harming their kid that then they don't do the things that would really help them feel alive. And so he said thoughts just happened, make room for them, live your life the way you choose to live your life, even if your internal dialog is screaming. And so he had talked about twenty years and he still speaks all the time. And I and this so resonated with me before I speak, before I record a podcast, before I do this today, I still feel a little bit of anxiety. I noticed it. I acknowledge it. I don't try to push it away. I don't even spend much time with it anymore. I just say, there it is. There you are. Anxiety, come on along. But to record a podcast. So I hope that you're able to take from this metaphor thoughts are just thoughts, emotions or just emotions, feelings or feelings. There they are. And now move towards some value based activity. And that's when you're really going to see that you're taking more control of what you get out of your life, what you do with your life, what you put into your life, and not just sitting there being reactionary because those thoughts are going to come out of nowhere. They really are. So I hope you have an amazing week. Taking us out, as per usual, is the wonderful the talented Aurora Florence with her song, It's Wonderful.

Have you ever heard that you can somewhat easily choose to be happy by simply switching all your thoughts from unhappy, to happy? Sure, that sounds fantastic, but unfortunately, it's not that simple, and there's plenty of data that shows that for some, it can make matters worse! Within the day, or the hour, or even the minute, chances are your thoughts have been all over the map. Happy, sad, angry, funny, scary, manipulative, inappropriate, these are just a few of the many thoughts that somewhat magically appear in the theater of the brain. For some reason, we let our thoughts often dictate our moods, as well as our actions, when in reality all they are are thoughts...just images, and words, that can bring a slew of emotions along with them. Plus Tony discusses "analysis paralysis" from the article "Analysis Paralysis: When Thinking Too Much Blocks You" by Jennifer Delgado https://psychology-spot.com/analysis-paralysis/
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This episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.
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Tony also mentioned his appearances this week on two podcasts, The Betrayed, The Addicted and The Expert with hosts Ashlyn and Coby, and Virtual Couch former guest Brannon Patrick where we discuss narcissism in detail and the challenges people face in relationships with narcissistic individuals https://www.betrayedaddictedexpert.com/podcast/episode/25d19bf1/is-narcissism-nature-or-nurture and The Millennial Member Podcast hosted by Emily Ensign where we discuss the topic of pornography, what helps with recovery, and what doesn’t https://www.buzzsprout.com/1072564/6209683-tony-overbay-pornography-and-recovery
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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ
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Please subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheVirtualCouchPodcast/ and sign up at http://tonyoverbay.comto learn more about Tony’s upcoming “Magnetic Marriage” program!
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Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to https://www.tonyoverbay.com/courses-2/ and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.
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Tony's new best-selling book "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" is now available on Kindle. https://amzn.to/38mauBo
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Tony Overbay, is the co-author of "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" now available on Amazon https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.
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You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs, and podcasts.

TRANSCRIPT:


[00:00:00] Coming up on today's episode of The Virtual Couch, we're going to be talking about thoughts, positive, negative.

[00:00:06] We all have them. Can we control them? Does it help to try to control them? And what about all those posts you see on social media from people who say that they can control their thoughts? So why can't you? So what do you think? And right now, finally, somebody that knows my struggle or this guy just needs to think happier thoughts. We're going to cover all of that coming up on this episode of The Virtual Couch.

[00:00:40] Come on, take a seat.

[00:00:47] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 232 of The Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back 2.0, a online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from the harmful effects of pornography. If you are anybody that you know is struggling to put pornography behind them once and for all, and trust me, it can be done in a strength based hold the shame, become the person you've always wanted to be kind of way, then head over to Path Bakary to recovery. It's actually recovery path back recovery dotcom. There you can download a copy of the book Five Myths People Fall For When Trying to overcome pornography and the Pat Back 2.0. It's big. It's now complete with a forum where people can share success stories, the latest research and data, and find accountability partners, as well as participate in a weekly group call hosted by Yours Truly, which has been so much fun, though the community that we're building there where I answer any and all questions about how to put turning to pornography as a coping mechanism once and for all behind you. Again, that's path back recovery dotcom. And you'll find me on Instagram, a virtual couch, and there's videos on YouTube and my free parenting course and how to sign up and learn more about my upcoming magnetic marriage course. All that can be found at Tony Overbay dot com. So head there and sign up and click and do all the things and I will be forever grateful for you doing that.

[00:02:09] OK, so this is not an exaggeration, but I am I'm very excited to talk about today's topic and I think we're going to get through this quick. I'll make this I'll make this short and sweet, but I think it's going to be powerful. One of the most asked questions I get or one of the things that people bring up in my office is truly the concept of positive thoughts, thinking positive and what to do with negative thoughts and more specifically, people saying what is wrong with me for having negative thoughts or how about those emotions? Am I right? So I had someone just a couple of days ago describe what I believe is so typical and it's so normal, but they were so distraught. So this person had been feeling down really, really down to the point of where. And a lot of times people don't necessarily come in and say that they are having those suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideations. But I call it the getting hit by a meteor theory where at times they just think, you know, if I walk out of your office and a meteor hits me, I'd be all right with that. And it breaks my heart, of course, to hear somebody that has gotten to that point. So they they were that distraught and feeling that far down. And so as we started talking, we laid out what's going on in their life. And just want to start by saying, covid anybody, worldwide lockdown's quarantine.

[00:03:23] This is somebody who had not only was a people person, but who had to be a people person to survive based on all their experiences growing up. That was what they did. That was who they were. They are who they are. So somebody who's exercise routine was not something that was done solo. It was done around people or their job was talking to people face to face their faith, which is something incredibly important to them. So worshipping in person was how they recharge their batteries. And yet they came to my office feeling down and depressed and anxious and frozen and wondering what is wrong with them? Why can't they just rally? Why can't they simply pull that energy that they had that they had pre pandemic and get out there and zoom the heck out of people? And why wasn't doing some burping and jumping jacks and writing an old stationary bike in the garage, not doing it for him? And why couldn't they just be grateful? What the heck was wrong with them? And so I therapy and I empathy. And I validated and I listened and I expressed concern and I sighed in the right places and during the appropriate times and on the inside I was just dying to just grab them and shake them after applying hand sanitizer. Good. I'm not a complete barbarian and just say, you know what you just laid out in front of me. Of course, you are going to feel the way you do because you're you and you just laid that out.

[00:04:44] You laid out that because of everything that you've been through in your life, if you didn't feel that way, that would be odd. So when you pull up Instagram or Facebook or when you have a friend who sends you a motivational talk or a phrase or a quote, of course you're going to want to hit reply. And, you know, if you're having one of these moments where you're feeling all these things and feelings and emotions and you may want to share with them exactly where you feel that quote would best be placed for the time being granted, you don't actually do that. You might type it out, but then delete, which actually reminds me of a very quick, funny story. Back in my software days, somebody in the company I worked for had their office upstairs. I was downstairs and one time we all heard the hard pounding of footsteps across the floor upstairs and the door was thrown open and this person just made a beeline down the metal stairs outside. You could just hear the clanging and the downstairs door open and slammed and then a guttural yell of "agghhhhh". And later we learned that. This particular person, and I'll give them credit, this is back in the 90s, so seriously, email was kind of a new thing. We had one company email account and then we will get pretty jazzed when Someone would email us so the email would get copied then from there to me and I think an engineer and a couple of other people in management.

[00:05:53] So one of the people in management had hit reply thinking that he was emailing the rest of us in the company and he was cracking wise on the email that we just received from our largest customer. And while what he meant to say to us, which I found out later, would have been pretty funny, it was not going to be taken funny by the customer. So after this person had then realized that they didn't it didn't go to the people within the company, he ran down to it guy and wanted him to pull the plug on the entire building and hopes that this email that literally had traveled instantly to this customer might have decided to take a pit stop in the network somewhere before heading out of the building. So we never quite had as good of a relationship with that customer moving forward. But go figure. But back to todays topic that truly was a tool. I took you on a train of thought there, but it's those those pesky negative thoughts and those feelings and those emotions. So the question that I get asked constantly is, can you choose your feelings? Can you control your thoughts? And can you simply think positive, happy thoughts and live happily ever after? And let me go back to the story that I laid out of this individual. What happened with that individual? Well, we again, we acknowledged he owned up to these thoughts and these feelings and emotions.

[00:07:02] We, again, acknowledge that based on all the things that were going on in this person's life, in the way that they lived their best life and their values that they had, that they lived by their senses of being and doing, of being a people person, of being connected with others, of of getting themselves out there in the wild and talking to people that based on all of those things that, again, of course, it made sense why they were struggling the way that they were. But then they still had these value based goals of providing for family or connection with other people. And so we plugged that into the acceptance and commitment therapy framework, which then said if they are truly going to follow and go and strive for these value based goals, that they have just connection with other people, then the the story that their brain was trying to hook them on of the fact that they just didn't feel like doing it became somewhat irrelevant. I mean, we acknowledged it, but but it's of course, you're going to feel like you don't want to do it based on all those things that you just laid out. And so we're not even arguing if you want to do it or if you don't want to do it. But is that a productive or a workable thought toward your value goal of connection? No. So then we learn some diffusion skills and learned how to invite those feelings of not wanting to go connect with somebody the way that he has to connect right now.

[00:08:14] He invited those feelings and emotions to come along with him while he went and connected with somebody the way that he could connect with somebody now. So and we'll see how that goes. But I mean, that is the way to work that scenario, not the what's wrong with me? Why am I thinking this? I'm so broken. So I am going to sound a tiny bit condescending and I don't want to because I am being one hundred percent sincere, that honestly, if you if you can if you can wake up and choose to be happy and think happy, positive thoughts and it works all day and you don't get down or frustrated or ever wonder what's wrong with me or why can't I be more grateful for what I have or why can't I pull off what I did yesterday or last week or last year? You know, why do I feel stuck or why can everybody else figure life out but not me? Or why do people that are showing up in my feed or why did the people that I watch in their stories seem to have a challenge? But then by the end of the story or in a later picture, in that same post, they resolve everything and they live happily ever after again. If you haven't thought any of these things or don't know what I'm talking about, then I'm being 100 percent honestly absolutely sincere.

[00:09:19] That that is awesome. And I'm grateful that you found tools in your bag of life that work. And I want you to keep it up. I really do. But if you've had those moments where you decide that today is the day and I'm going to be happy and I'm choosing happiness over misery and my glass is going to be half full, is perfect. It's full, it's spilling over. And you give me a mental napkin so I can clean this table of life from all of this goodness that's making a puddle. And then within a few minutes or a few hours or even a few seconds, your your dog pees on the couch. And I wish I was saying that hypothetically, man, I love my fourteen year old Yorkie to death, but I think it's time to maybe invest in a dog diaper, again a digression, but something happens to frustrate you or maybe you don't even know what just happened. But all of a sudden you're feeling down or you're feeling the blaws or the blues. Then let's talk because I have data, tons of data and I have a few thousand people that I've sat across from who tell me that exact same story. It's Tuesday of this week when I'm recording and I've already had this conversation with a couple of clients.

[00:10:22] And nothing is wrong with you. You're human, but you can learn to change the relationship that you have with your thoughts and your feelings. You can learn to acknowledge them, accept them, study them, see them, and you can learn to make room, expand, expansion. You can bring them. Along with you, while you do something of value for you, while you do something of importance that will help you move the ball forward, and sometimes just moving that ball a little bit forward is what can get you out of that funk that can descend upon you like something that quickly descends upon you. OK, so I have a quiz for you. But first, a quick break to talk about. Betterhelp.com.

[00:11:03] Recently, I received a funny email. This is a true story. I said, Hey, Tony, I love the podcast, especially the free therapy. But your podcast has led me to want to seek out my own therapy. And in this time of worldwide chaos and pandemic, I thought it only made sense to go through betterhelp.com. But I no longer hear your betterhelp.com ads. Did you guys break up? OK, so this is a funny one. No, we did not break up. We aren't seeing other people right now, although admittedly, whenever I do hear a betterhelp.com ad on another podcast, I do think weight doesn't betterhelp.com still care about me. And yes, they do. You can still go to better help dotcom virtual couch and get 10 percent off of your first month's worth of services. And yes, doing so will help take care of some behind the scenes cost to produce and host the Virtual Couch podcast. So why haven't I been running better help that virtual couch ads you may ask. And here's why I love being an honest, raw, vulnerable therapist. Key the dramatic music can't we don't actually have that worked into the budget, but I get giddy recording and getting these podcasts out the door and sometimes I forget to pop an ad in for betterhelp.com less virtual couch. Forget as in it has been many, many episodes, but they are still offering real one on one therapy with a licensed therapist and betterhelp.com's

[00:12:13] network of therapists continues to grow and you can find help for everything from anxiety, depression, OCD, as well as grief and loss, help with parenting challenges. And while it can honestly be darn near impossible to get in with an in-person therapist right now because, a, the stigma behind therapy is finally softening. So people are running to therapy as well as be there's a lot going on in the world and people need help but betterhelp.coms, virtual couch can have you speaking or texting or emailing with a therapist, sometimes within 24 to 48 hours. So what are you waiting for? They make it easy to change therapist if you don't like the fit. So go to betterhelp.com/virtualcouch today and join now the over one million others who have decided that they need to be their best selves in order to deal with all that life is throwing their way. Trust me, life is throwing us a lot. So you owe it to yourself, your family, your kids, your spouse, your pets, you name it. To be at the very least, take a look at what you can do to put you in a position to succeed in life. So go to betterhelp.com/virtualcouch today and receive ten percent off your first month services. OK, lets virtual couch, shall we?

[00:13:18] Let me give you a quiz. And I really I think I did this in an episode long, long ago. This is from the Russ Harris book, The Confidence Gap. And I am going to read a little bit here. True or false, he says, ready for a little quiz, please answer True or false to each of the following statements. Number one, Albert Einstein was a below average school student. Number two, you use only ten percent of your brain in. These are true or false. Number three, positive self statements such as I will succeed or I am lovable are a good way to boost low self-esteem. So Rustler's goes on to say, most people answer true for most or all of these statements. And this is only to be expected. After all, countless books and TV programs and articles on self-improvement tell you these things as if they were hard facts. They tell you that Einstein did poorly at school because the message would be if Einstein could go on to such greatness despite his early failures, then so can you or they tell you that you use just ten percent of your brain. So the message here that imagine what you could achieve if you used all of your brain, or they tell you that positive self statements will give you high self-esteem and the message that it's easy to eliminate negative self talk. And so, as you may have already guessed from my tone, all of these widely known, frequently quoted air quotes, facts are actually false. So, yes, Einstein did do poorly in French in his early teens, but overall, he was a good student, excelling in math and physics and his marks in all subjects averaged more than 80 percent in his final year at school.

[00:14:41] And as we're only using 10 percent of your brain, Russ Harris says this idea started in the early nineteen hundreds, but has been popularized in the past 50 years. Yet despite the fact that thousands of self development programs quote this fact, you will never see one shred of hard scientific evidence that supports it. And that's because it's Russ's words. It is complete and utter nonsense. Scientists have studied the brain extensively in a myriad of different ways, from MRI and PET scans to examination under a microscope. And guess what? They have never located one single part of the brain that is redundant. Every part of it serves a function and you use one hundred percent of your brain every day. If a stroke or tumor or disease or injury destroys even a tiny percentage of the brain, then this usually results in a significant disability. And so what about those positive affirmations? Chances are that you've read are you've been told that you're experiencing self-doubt or low self-esteem, Or generally lacking confidence in yourself, then the solution is to think positive things about yourself over and over until you believe them. So have you tried doing this? And again, if it has worked for you, then that is amazing and fantastic.

[00:15:53] And I do use positive self talk. There are certain times where I think it works well. I've done that with ultramarathons. I've envisioned courses. I've done that when I'm at mile 75 and I'm tired and it's, you know, the middle of the night or I'm like you, you've got this, you can do this now my brain will still say, no, you don't and no you can't. But there are times where I can get in a little flow or rhythm where that is working. So again, back to Russ Harris's. Have you ever tried doing this? And if so, did it work for you or did you find that it just caused your mind to get into an argument with yourself? And remember, this is me jumping in here, psychological reactance, the instant negative reaction of being told what to do. It's innate. It's born within us and it works even in our own brain. So when we tell ourselves, do not think of a white polar bear, we our brain says, I will think of whatever I want. Here is the white polar bear.

[00:16:42] So while motivational speakers and self-help gurus love to espouse the benefits of positive affirmations and and I love how Ross says this and the concept certainly appeals to common sense, but there isn't scientific evidence to show that it works. In fact, he says, science suggests the very opposite. In 2009, a team of Canadian psychologist Joanne Wood and John Lee from the University of Waterloo and WQ Elaine Perovic from the University of New Brunswick, published a groundbreaking study in Psychological Science magazine, which is rated among the top 10 psychology journals in the world, and their study entitled "Positive Self Statements Power for Some, Peril for Others" made world headlines. Why? Because it showed that people with low self-esteem actually feel worse after repeating positive self statements such as I am lovable or I will succeed. Now, when I've talked about this in the past, I think that I went right over that part that says people with low self-esteem so people with low self-esteem actually feel worse after repeating these positive self statements. So there is room there that if someone is overly confident and they are saying these positive self talk, self messages and motivational quotes, then that works and it works consistently, then go with it. Do I have some positive things on my mirror at home? Absolutely. I'm not saying that I feel like, oh, you should not have anything positive around you. You it's a great idea, but it's when those things don't work or when those things cause you to feel less than, that

[00:18:07] We really need to take a look at it. So going back to the study in Psychological Science magazine said, rather than being helpful, these positive thoughts typically triggered a strong negative reaction and a resultant low mood. For example, if a participant with low self-esteem said to herself, excuse me, I am a lovable person, her mind would answer back, No, you're not. And then run through all the lists of ways in which she was not lovable. Not surprisingly, this would make her feel even worse than before. Now, on the other hand, when these participants were told it was OK to have negative thoughts about themselves, their moods lifted. So excuse me, what does this all have to do with confidence? Well, the connection can be a bit oblique, but it does demonstrate the fact that he says we're all full of it. So he says hopefully you're starting to see that we all walk around with their heads full of inaccurate and misleading information. And he says confession. I, too, once believed all of the above myths, as did I, the 10 percent of the brain. I had an incredible conversation with somebody once an old business partner, about what are we going to do with the other 90 percent of our brain, you know, must be saved for the next life or those kind of things, or the Albert Einstein part or especially the positive affirmations.

[00:19:14] So he said we are all too ready to believe all sorts of seemingly common sense ideas without stopping to question their origin or their validity. And this is especially so in the realm of pop psychology. It's important to keep this in mind because if we hold on tightly to these ideas, they can create all sorts of problems for us. And as Mark Twain put it best, "it ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so". So with that in mind, Russ Harris says, you know, quickly review for widely held beliefs. Fear is a sign of weakness. Fear impairs performance, fear hold you back, and confidence is the absence of fear. All of those are debunked that I even have an episode later called the earlier called The Fear Trap, where I talk about that. So I feel like that that quiz, the debunking those pop psychology myths is so important. And if we if we kind of move on here, I want to talk about one more thing. While I'm on the topic of fear, I don't let me throw in a little bit of a bonus content, and it is the fear of making decisions. I wanted to do an episode on this for quite some time, its Analysis Paralysis.

[00:20:20] And if you're not familiar with the term, it's not making a decision. I mean, analysis and analysis paralysis is it's when we have too many thoughts. I found an amazing article on a site called PsychologyDashSpot.com, where they talk about analysis paralysis. And I really like this as our society exults, thought and reason, but in some cases, thinking too much can be counterproductive. Leading to what is known in psychology is analysis paralysis. The concept is not new. And I didn't know this because I've talked about this before, but it's even inspired by one of Aesop's famous fables. And I won't read that for you now, but it's essentially about a cat and a fox traveling together, both thinking that they are very clever and wise. When some hounds eventually come to get them, the cat immediately runs up the tree. And the fox, who had all kinds of things in his bag of tricks, didn't really know what to do first, and that got him in trouble. In essence, the fable shows that sometimes it's better to know something useful than to consider a thousand options that don't serve us well and also shows us that when time is short, that often thinking too much can be harmful, leading to analysis paralysis. The problem is that analysis paralysis can lead to a situation where the cost of that reflection exceeds the benefits that we could have obtained if we simply chose a path.

[00:21:39] So in other words, we lose more by getting stuck or ruminating or overthinking things than we would have lost in making the decision, even if it wasn't the best decision. So in life, this article says analysis paralysis can lead us to lose great opportunities and can represent high emotional or economic costs. Now, why does analysis paralysis occur? It's that fear of making mistakes, because every single day we have a lot of decisions to make and some of them are more important than others. And at times we're not even quite sure how important something is. So we tend to overthink it. And all decisions, in essence, generate some type of anxiety. So depending on the impact they have on our lives, that anxiety might be great and might be small. And so that fear of making mistakes, of not being able to go back once we've made the decision is one of the main causes, if not the main cause of analysis paralysis, because we want to be sure. But but here's the key. We will never be absolutely sure or we will never be absolutely certain. And our brain just wants to gather all the data that we can. And that puts us that makes us paralyzed in this analysis phase. And so at times, we may even have too much information. And I loved it in the article.

[00:22:55] And Psychology Spot says, in modern society, the capacity to choose has been over over estimated to the point where the amount of options available will overwhelm us. And so, in fact, it's been shown that the more options the consumer has, the less likely he or she will be to buy and the longer it will take to make the decision if he or she takes it. In these cases, the problems that we lose ourselves by valuing more and more details, trying to differentiate one option from another, and in the end we end up mentally exhausted, frustrated, and it's really hard to make a decision or many of us might have this tendency toward perfectionism. We get stuck in these circles because we pursue perfection. We want everything to make sense. We want to have that aha moment, that clarity, because we want the result to be perfect or we may have an aversion to the opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is a concept from economics which is there to designate the value of the not chosen option. Think about that one. So we're trying to analyze this opportunity cost with human behavior and human emotion and that that one is just can just again cause us to freeze. And this article says the worst of all is that in many cases we make excuses to explain that that that analysis paralysis, for example, we say that we need more information to make the decision when in reality what stops us is the fear of making mistakes.

[00:24:12] So in those cases, it's important for you to be aware of what causes that decision paralysis so as to not run around in circles and worrying and wasting our psychological energy, as they call it. So how do you overcome analysis or decision paralysis? And I'll just skip through these quickly, but establishing deadlines and that can be hard because sometimes your brain will say, I don't really have a deadline or I love this concept. Restraining your curiosity. details can be one of the main culprits of analysis paralysis, the desire to dig more and more. And that sounds counterintuitive to restrain your curiosity, but you are the only one who ultimately knows is my curiosity causing me more harm than good. And I love this one. One of the things of how to avoid decision or analysis paralysis assume that the planets will never line up, conditions will never be optimal. Therefore, you must assume that you have to make a decision with the knowledge and data that you already have. Don't wait to know everything and reach the perfect moment because delaying the decision by waiting for the planets to align can be just an excuse for not taking the right step. And don't don't look for perfection. Perfection is the enemy of the good, wrote Voltaire.

[00:25:22] If you insist on everything to be perfect, you'll end up being a victim of decision paralysis, analysis, paralysis, because it is practically impossible to control the details. Take one step at a time, limit the number of options. This is a hard one. Add or eliminate the emotion in certain cases. You have to add a bit of rationality to the decision making and others need to add a bit of intuition, and I love that the best decisions are those thought with objectivity, but validated by intuition. Therefore, if you are paralyzed because you think that you're being too rational or on the contrary, too emotional, that can cause this analysis paralysis as well and then do all that you can to try to prioritize the decisions that are more important. But let me kind of wrap this up. So I mean, and business this analysis paralysis term is a game changer. You get some data, you make the decision, you move on. You'll always miss something, I was talking with a friend this morning, he said you'll always miss something. There will always be something in hindsight that you'll realize you may not have thought of or that you would have done differently next time. And that is how you learn. And this is one of the things I remember learning that I brought over from the business world as I became a therapist, was working with this business consultant at one point who said you're going to have other opportunities to make other decisions, that, you know, that is one of the most important things to know, make the decision because you're going to have lots of other decisions you get to make as well.

[00:26:43] So then we wonder, well, what if I haven't done enough to have the data and I can't answer that fast? Or, you know, sometimes you truly do have to trust your gut. We can make it sound fancier in psychology and talk about your intuition that once you know, you know, and try that out. And here's the part where I don't have a clinical study to back this next statement up, but I believe it. I have the anecdotal data. I've talked to clients who have over analyze things for days, for weeks, even months, and eventually worked themselves back to their initial decision. So whether it's having a rule, things out, whatever that is, as one friend told me, there is never a perfect pair of pants just buy the pants. So there is definitely a benefit. What did we learn today? A benefit to learning how to recognize your feelings? My wife, my wife, my wife talked to a neighbor recently who was going through some particularly difficult situations in life, and she said that this neighbor talked about needing to, quote, "sit in the fire". And I love that expression. Now, it doesn't sound great, right? But I just ran with that analogy. So let me see if this works honestly. And I'm not I'm not the best at analogies, because in couples therapy, sometimes analogies are used to weaponize their weaponized and used against each other. And whoever has the best analogy thinks that they've made the better point. But let me let me try to run with this one.

[00:27:57] So the problems in your life, it's almost like they're this bonfire and it's blazing over there in the corner and the flames are hot and you just want to stay away from them. You'll deal with them later. And as a matter of fact, you might even find yourself constantly thinking and researching ways around having to go deal with the fire. You don't want to go anywhere near those flames. And as you pull up a post on social media, it may say that, hey, you are in charge of your feelings and you need to choose not to feel those flames. But you do feel them because you're human and you have the skin and nerve endings. And that might be easy for somebody to say who hasn't had to tend to your fire or maybe their fire honestly wasn't very hot at all, or they haven't even had to tend to a fire of their own.

[00:28:40] But they read about them and they've studied them and they know that if they were in front of your fire, they would just push away those thoughts and choose not to feel the flames. So you're going to feel them and they are going to be hot. And until you go get close to those flames and here's where the analogy runs a little bit out of steam, I'll acknowledge. So think of it as a choose your own adventure type of analogy, but you have to go pour water on it or however else you have put out the flames. And if any of you guys were twelve years old and in the Boy Scouts, don't put the fire out that way, but you have to deal with your fire at some point.

[00:29:11] If you don't, it will actually get larger and hotter. So the key is to changing your relationship with the flames. And even with the heat, it's hot. If you don't feel the heat, you'd kind of be crazy. So but you may not want to go close to the flame and try to put it out. Absolutely. I get it. That makes sense. And you can bring those thoughts of not wanting to go close right along with you while you walk up close to the flame and put it out. A client of mine recently wrote a letter to help a friend of theirs, and they put in there something that I just thought was beautiful. They were referring to some of the sessions that we've had, the client who wrote the letter, her husband and myself.

[00:29:47] And in writing to comfort this other friend of hers, she answered a question about what to do when conversations are hard or when emotions are hard. And my client said that I had shared with her that sometimes you just have to sit with those feelings and emotions and know that sometimes it's going to be hard, but you're going to keep moving forward and you're going to heal. And I think that that is so powerful that sometimes you're going to feel the flames and they're going to be hot. And that's just what's happening. They're hot. Those are flames. But running away from the flame or blaming somebody else or overthinking the flames, well, that doesn't work for you either. So here's the part where I start to ramble. So I'm going to stop here. You are OK. You are not broken. You're you you're human. You're the only version of you that's ever lived. Even if you're a twin, you're still you. And you have all the thoughts and the feelings and emotions you have because thank goodness you're you you're the only one that's experienced all of the things that you've experienced in life. So start with the story that. Nothing is wrong with you, and if you decide to acknowledge the thoughts, even the negative ones, the sad ones, and and just say, there you are, I see you thoughts. I appreciate you. You're part of my my existence. You're part of my story. And you're welcome to come along with me while I do something a little more productive. Again, I didn't say that you need to do something extraordinary right this moment, but just something a little more productive. And if you aren't able to OK, noted, but don't get down on yourself. Don't beat yourself up. Just lather and rinse and repeat something that this baldhead hasn't done in over 20 years. But I still like the sentiment. All right. Have an amazing day. Bring those thoughts along with you. And I will see you next time on the virtual couch.

What if your thoughts, even ones that you previously considered to be negative, harmful, unproductive, or even toxic, when put into context weren’t the monsters that you have made them out to be? Welcome to the world of Functional Contextualism.” This key principle of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) will help you understand that often even our most unproductive thoughts when put into the right context, can simply be stories that our brain is trying to get us to buy into in order to protect us. Too often we hear that we simply need to change the thought, and your behavior will naturally follow. But this isn’t as easy as we make it out to be. Have you ever thought about running away from a situation and then stayed? Or have you ever gotten so mad at someone that you thought about yelling at them to get even...and then not yelled at them? Then clearly your thoughts don’t always control your behaviors. The key is learning how to put the thoughts in the proper context. In today’s episode, we’re going to geek out on an ACT term called “Functional Contextualism.” Functional Contextualism will help you immediately make a small shift in your thought process to recognize thoughts for what they truly are, just pictures and words inside of our head...yet we often give them too much meaning...when taken into context, our thoughts can be clues to what we’re truly afraid of, and, better yet, what we truly want.

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In this episode, Tony references Russ Harris’ values worksheet, as well as a sample chapter from his book, ACT Made Simple. You can find this information here https://res.cloudinary.com/psychwire/image/upload/v1519263962/pw.com/resources/harris/Values_Checklist_-_Russ_Harris.pdf and here https://psychwire.com/harris/resources

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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ

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Please subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheVirtualCouchPodcast/ and sign up at http://tonyoverbay.com to learn more about Tony’s upcoming “Magnetic Marriage” program!

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Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to http://tonyoverbay.com/courses/ and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.

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This episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

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Tony's new best-selling book "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" is now available on Kindle. https://amzn.to/38mauBo

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Tony Overbay, is the co-author of "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" now available on Amazon https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.

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You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs, and podcasts

[00:00:00] Ok, so have you ever felt like your, I don't know, broken something's wrong with you? Why do I keep thinking the things that I'm thinking? Well, by the end of today's episode, I really want to convince you that nothing's wrong with you. And we're going to go super deep, geeky psychology today. You're going to learn all about functional contextual ism. That and so much more coming up on this episode of The Virtual Couch.

[00:00:36] Hey, everybody, thank you for tuning in to Episode 230 of The Virtual Couch, I am your host, Tony, over me. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful. I have a co-writer, speaker, husband, father of four, ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back. And it is the all new brand new reboot Path Back 2.0. If you have not been there for a while, if you have been thinking about putting pornography behind you once and for all and is still being done in a straight face, told the shame, become the person you always wanted to be. We just head over to pathbackrecovery.com. There is an all new e-book, five myths that people make when trying to overcome pornography. That doesn't make sense, does it? There are five myths, five myths to be overcome, five myths that are misunderstood. As a matter of fact, that is all the more reason I would highly recommend you go to pathbackrecovery.com and see see what the title of that e-book actually is. But I have already been doing some pretty exciting things with the new Path Back recovery program, including including a weekly question and answer call. So if you are interested in learning more about that, you can drop me a note at Contact that path back recovery dotcom.

[00:01:43] And just right now, go over to TonyOverbay.com, sign up to find out more information about upcoming programs because the magnetic marriage course is coming soon. And it is wonderful. I am so proud and excited of the magnetic marriage course. There are some concepts, some things there that are going to help you communicate more effectively with your spouse. And that is again coming soon. Dates will be announced soon, but be the first to know about the magnetic marriage course and go to TonyOverbay.com and sign up to find out more and just step over it. Instagram, if you don't mind, at Virtual Couch. I have a couple of people that are just doing some amazing things behind the scenes and putting out some just really good content, taking quotes from my episodes or episodes where there were other guests, and then putting those up on the Instagram page. Or also I believe that Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist and just encouraging a little bit of feedback and to get some of your thoughts on some of the content that I've been sharing. Now, speaking of content that I have been sharing, this is one of those episodes that I'm just going to go off the cuff. I'm going to read a little bit, but I want to just talk because this is about acceptance and commitment therapy. If you listen to the virtual couch for a while, you will know that is my therapy modality of choice, acceptance and commitment.

[00:02:57] Therapy has been an absolute game changer in the way that I act and practice as a therapist. And it is not that I am putting down any other modality or type of therapy. I was schooled at a grad school as a cognitive behavioral therapist. And just really quickly, I'll give you my passionate speech. Cognitive behavioral therapy is wonderful. A lot of motivational speakers work off of that. A lot of amazing life coaches work from a cognitive behavioral therapy lens and a lot of therapists. It's the major modality that's taught in therapy school and grad school because it's been around for a long time. And cognitive behavioral therapy will say that your thoughts lead to your emotions and your emotions lead your behaviors. Now, that is very simply put. And so the theory behind that and we'll talk more about this in a minute, is that if you change your thought and it works from this paradigm of considering your thoughts as automatic negative thoughts, it's a cute acronym of ants and you're going to stomp out the ants or it's your stinking thinking. And any of those acronyms or that concept is saying that you have these automatic negative thoughts that just come up and then you that leads to an emotion and then that emotion leads to a behavior. And again, I was a practicing cognitive behavioral therapist for many, many moons, many years.

[00:04:12] And then after attending a training on acceptance and commitment therapy, it just changed everything, changed everything in my life and also my practice. So acceptance and commitment therapy says, instead of looking at that is, hey, what's wrong with me? My thoughts are wrong. My thoughts are automatically negative or that I'm broken of some sort. It's saying that, no, you actually have the thoughts, feelings, emotions that you have because you're a human being and you have been through all of the life experience that you've been through up to this point that causes you to feel, think or behave the way you do. And again, it's because of your nature, your nurture, your birth order, your DNA, your abandonment, your rejection, your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your losses, that all of those are unique to you as an individual. And that is why you think, feel or behave the way you do. If you didn't have the thoughts, feelings and emotions that you had, then I often interject and there that you may be a robot or perhaps a psychopath, which I don't believe that you are. So you are human and that is why you have the thoughts, feelings and emotions you do. Hey, I know that the significance of what I'm doing right now might not even seem like a big deal because you're just listening to the podcast.

[00:05:21] But after I edited the podcast, I just had this this aha moment, this epiphany. So I came in here and split the file. And I'm recording this on Tuesday morning, really early before I released the podcast. But first of all, and I really didn't mean this to be an add. But I was editing with the software called Descript that I mentioned in the past that is made or created by wizards and magicians, and I'll have a link in the show notes. But basically I upload this audio file that was already done and put it into descript. And then I say remove filler words and it shows all the uhs and ahs. And it is it is amazing. I mean, it makes me realize how often I say and ah, but I'll put a code or not even a code, a link in the show notes. So if you want to go check out the script, give it a shot because it's just, it's, it's next level, it's future. Again, magicians and wizards have created it, but I'm about to just go big on this whole concept and acceptance and commitment therapy called functional contextual textualism. And I got on a roll. I mean this is stuff that I could talk about all day. So prepare for the passion.

[00:06:21] But before I even go there, the epiphany that I had is we're about to talk an awful lot about thoughts. And so I was looking back through the book The Confidence Gap last night, as I was I was I was falling asleep, which led to some pretty crazy dreams. I'm not going to lie, but I just had I was reading the chapter on thoughts again, and I wanted to just throw a couple of things out there before I get into the meat of this episode. What our thoughts. So Dr. Ross Harris in the book The Confidence Gap says thoughts are words and pictures inside of our head. And it can be that simplistic. There are a ton of different categories of thoughts, including memories and images and fantasies and beliefs and ideas and attitudes and assumptions and values, goals, plans, visions, dreams. So there are all kinds of thoughts, but in a nutshell, they are words and pictures inside of our head. But often we just give them so much value. And he also talked about that. If you kind of step back and look at your thoughts, our thoughts have a tendency to be negative. And earlier in the book The Confidence Gap, he talks a little bit about how our brain has evolved to go to this kind of naturally negative vibe.

[00:07:24] But he says, again, that's perfectly natural and normal because the human mind is very quick to judge and criticize and compare and point out what's not good enough. And that, in essence, is telling us what we need to improve upon, even if it's not necessarily something that we care about. And so, although our culture bombards us with the messages about the importance of positive thinking, I think it's important to note before I go big in this episode that the simple fact is the human mind has evolved to think negatively. And so then he goes on and just talks about some really great reasons why we've evolved to be a bit of negative thinkers. But one of the things that I wanted to bring up before I just jump in here big is this concept that we often hear that your thoughts control your emotions and your emotions control your behaviors. And so I just wanted to read out of the confidence gap. Russ Harris says another common idea is that negative thoughts are problematic because, quote, our thoughts control our actions. And I just feel like he laid this out much better than I do in this episode later. So he said if this were true, the human race would be in big trouble.

[00:08:29] After all, how often have you gotten so mad at somebody that you care about, that you thought about hurting them in some way or yelling at them or shaking them, relieving them or getting back at them. And I love how he kind of has an aside there where he says, be honest with yourself. We've all had these thoughts at times. So now just imagine if those thoughts had actually controlled you. If you had actually gone and done all those hurtful things, what would have happened to your closest relationships? Would you still even have any friends left? And he said, have you ever thought about quitting something? But you persisted. Have you ever thought about running away from a situation but stayed and stuck it out? So clearly our thoughts don't it's not just this A to B thing or thoughts don't naturally control our actions. They certainly influence what we do, but they don't control what we do. And so what we're going to talk about today is how you really can reduce the influence of those negative thoughts without trying to get rid of them. So with that said, let me get back to this episode on functional textualism and what to do with those problematic thoughts.

[00:09:27] So a quick example that I like to give, and I give this one often because it was during the time that I went to an acceptance and commitment therapy training. I was working with a client. They had been heavy as a child and I was working with them for some social anxiety issues. They wanted to meet people they wanted to date. So they were attending these single functions, these functions specifically designed for single adults to meet and hopefully find each other wonderful end date and live happily ever after. So when this person would walk into a room, everyone would turn and look at the person and the person would immediately think, oh, my gosh, they're staring at me. They're making fun of me. They're all making fun of me. So with a cognitive behavioral lens, you would say, hey, there, your thoughts are automatically negative. You're automatically thinking these negative thoughts that they're all looking at you and thinking these negative things. And so that would lead to an emotion of sadness in this situation and a behavior of turning around and leaving the room. So in a cognitive behavioral therapy model, you would then say, what else could they be thinking? Could they be thinking that you look awesome? OK, well, if they did think you look awesome, what would that how would you feel about that? Well, maybe I would feel a little bit of happy happiness or excitement, and then what would that behavior be? I would run into that room, jump up on the table and start singing in Oklahoma at the top of my lungs.

[00:10:44] So that's that would be the homework. So then person goes to another activity, opens the door. Everybody looks and this person says, I don't think that they think I look great and I'm not singing Oklahoma at the top of my lungs. So then they would return to therapy and say, what is wrong with me? And so as once I was learning acceptance and commitment therapy with this particular client, it was an immediate shift. The shift was you know what actually tell me more about your past.

[00:11:09] Tell me about growing up. And they talked about being very overweight and they talked about people looking at them wherever they went. And they were so aware of the stares and glares of everybody around them, the jokes, the things that were said as they walked by to their face and even behind their back as they walked by.

[00:11:26] So as they then lost a tremendous amount of weight. Now, when they entered the room and everybody just turned and looked, then they had those thoughts of people are making fun of them or looking at him or thinking he looks bad because that's all of his experience growing up, that people had been looking at him and had been making fun of him. So the first part was, man, if he didn't think, that would be crazy. So he's human. He's had all the experiences that he's had. And now if we even add into there, if somebody says, well, just don't think that, is that going to work? No.

[00:11:59] So that's where our good old friend psychological reactance or the instant negative reaction of being told what to do kicks in when someone is told, don't think that our brain actually says, I'll think whatever I want. And in fact, they'll think what you're just telling me not to think. But I'm getting off the path here. But so in acceptance and commitment therapy, there's that acceptance. You're not broken. You think the way you think because you are the only one who has been through the situations that you've been through. And I absolutely love that concept. So here's the geeky application of that today. And I have brought this up in therapy in sessions often, but I've felt like it's a little bit too dry to bring up on a podcast. So bear with me now. I am a huge fan of Dr. Ross Harris. He is the author of The Confidence Gap The Happiness Trap. Those books that I love, those books that I referred to so often and they are easy reads and they really do lay out the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy.

[00:12:54] Russ Harris also has a book called Act Made Simple, and he has a chapter called The House of Act. And in this House of Act, there is this concept called functional contextualism. So it's probably something that one might glance over and not give it much more thought. But the concept is so good. So I'm going to read from this Chapter three, The House of Act by Russ Harris in the Book Act made simple. So Dr. Harris says functional cantextualism. He said, let's start with the ground up with functional textualism. He said it's the philosophy that underlies a lot of the concepts that go beneath acceptance and commitment therapy. OK, so he says, imagine, if you will, a chair that has four legs. So now imagine that something has happened to this chair so that the moment anybody sits on it, one of the legs drops off. So would you describe this chair as broken or faulty or damaged? Would you call it a dysfunctional chair or even a maladaptive chair? And I want you to think for a second, would you consider this three legged chair is broken or faulty, damaged or even maladaptive? And I love when I do this exercise in my office because I feel like people for the most part, are going to be pretty honest and say, yeah, I would call it that. I feel like this is one of those where if I was teaching a Sunday school class and telling this, given this example to a bunch of 12 year old boys, they would say, no, I wouldn't say that. I think it's perfectly fine. So just because they wanted to be difficult. But if you're I feel like if you're being honest, you. Yeah, a three legged chair, one would consider broken, faulty, damaged, maladaptive, maybe even dysfunctional.

[00:14:31] And Ross Harris says, I've asked this question to many hundreds of therapists than they always answer yes to at least one of the above. The problem is this instinctive answer. Yes, there is something wrong or faulty or flawed, and the chair forgets to take into account the all important role of context. So sit with that for a moment. The context, do we give enough context to a situation or do we give enough context to what we bring into a situation or what someone else brings into a situation? He says, yes, there is something wrong, faulty or flawed. But again, when we put context into play, he says, I want to invite you now to think laterally. Think of at least three or four contexts in which we would say this chair functions very effectively to serve our purposes. So again, what are some contexts that a three legged chair would serve its purpose? And I love doing this exercise in my office. Sometimes people come up with some amazing things. Sometimes people draw a blank and that's OK. So he said, Did you come up with some? Here are a few. Playing a practical joke, creating an art exhibit of broken furniture, finding props for a clown's actor comedy show, and I love at this point when I'm reading these, a lot of times people go, OK, I get it, I see where you're going. Maybe demonstrating design flaws and furniture making class improving balance or coordination or muscle strength. And he says you try sitting without making the leg fall off of sitting down, without making the leg fall off, or hoping to injure yourself at work to get a compensation claim.

[00:15:58] So in all of those contexts, the chair functions very effectively to serve our purposes. So he goes on to say that this example illustrates how functional contextualism gets its name. It looks at how things function in specific contexts. So from the viewpoint of this functional contextualism, no thought or feeling or memory is inherently problematic or dysfunctional or pathological. Rather, it depends on the context. So in a context, that includes what's referred to as cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance, then he says our thoughts and feelings and memories often function in a manner that's toxic or harmful or life distorting. So let me go back and put that one in perspective. So in a context that includes cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance. So if you cannot get yourself to complete a project, a research paper, for example, if you then think, man, what is wrong with me? And now I'm fused to this thought cognitive fusion of useless thought that I will never get this paper done, that I'm horrible at writing papers, then that leads to it's called experiential avoidance, which is in essence, I'm going to avoid this. I'm going to do something else. I'm going to turn to something else right now because I just fuse to this thought that I will never finish this paper, that I don't know what I'm talking about.

[00:17:14] I'm horrible at papers. And look at all those ways that your brain is trying to fuse you, hook you to this story of I don't even know what I'm writing about. I'm not even good at this subject, because if it confuse you to that thought, then you will avoid writing the paper. So there is that experiential avoidance. So he said, again, if the context includes cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance, then our thoughts or feelings or memories often do function in a manner that's toxic or it's harmful or is life distorting because you're not going to write the paper and you're going get the bad grade, you're going to feel like what's wrong with me? And all of a sudden I'm failing out of school and I'll never have a career. And so in that situation, those thoughts are toxic, harmful, life distorting, he said. However, in a context that includes diffusion and acceptance, i.e. mindfulness, then those very same thoughts, feelings, memories function very differently. They have a much less impact and influence over us. They still may be painful, but they're no longer toxic or harmful or life distorting. And more importantly, they don't hold us back from value living.

[00:18:18] So this was a legitimate session that I was talking with someone recently. So they did need to finish a paper. And so if they have a value based goal of education or completion or follow through, then the fact that they aren't even sure if they know the subject or if they their brain is trying to hook them to one of these stories, it's trying to get them to fuse to the story of what if my paper's bad? What if I don't what if I haven't prepared enough? What if I don't get it finished? So in any of those situations, if you've used to that thought, then you don't have to write the paper but diffusion. So in context, those thoughts in context, if you diffuse from those, if you just think your brain for watching out for you.

[00:18:58] Ok, thank you Brain. I may not know everything I need to know about the subject or. All right, that's a fair point. I might not get a good grade on it. Or even better yet, you're right. I might not finish in time. Thank you for filling me in on that. Thank you for making me aware of that. I know you're looking out for me. Then in that context, you defuse and then accept that it's OK. I could have studied more acceptance or all right, I might not get the best grade. There's some acceptance, so acceptance and then diffusion and all of a sudden those thoughts in context, they just aren't really a big deal.

[00:19:33] They don't hold you back from value living. You continue to turn back to that paper and continue to write the paper. Your brain will still try. Hey, you're not making very much progress. OK, thank you, Brian. I appreciate the warning. I appreciate the heads up. I'm not even arguing if that's a true or false statement. That's not a very productive one for me, trying to get this paper done. So models. And here's what gets really cool. This is why I like the whole concept of functional contextual ism. Most models of psychology are based on a philosophy called mechanism. So mechanistic models treat the mind as if it were a machine made up of lots of separate parts. That if you still hung in with me this far, I think this is what becomes pretty fascinating about a lot of motivational speaker is a lot of people that are using things like cognitive behavioral therapy in life coaching and that sort of thing, that it's based off of this mechanistic thinking, this mechanistic model, again, that treats the mind as if it were a machine made up of separate parts. So in this mechanistic model, problematic thoughts and feelings are just simply seen as faulty parts of the machine or errors in the structure of the machine, so the aim in such models of this mechanistic thinking is to repair or replace or remove the faulty parts so that the machine can function normally.

[00:20:49] So mechanistic models of psychology, they assume that there are things such inherently dysfunctional or maladaptive or pathological as thoughts and feelings and memories. So in other words, in this mechanistic model, then there are memories, thoughts, feelings, emotions, urges, schemas narratives, ego states, core beliefs and so on, which are fundamentally problematic or fundamentally dysfunctional or pathological. And so much like that faulty chair, they either need to be fixed or removed entirely. So mechanism has been the most successful philosophy of science and most scientific fields. So it's not surprising that most models in psychology are based on some sort of this mechanistic philosophy and that there's nothing wrong or bad or inferior or basic about the concept of mechanism. But Russ Hirose merely emphasizes that functional contextual ism is a radically different philosophical approach to the mainstream. And so it naturally leads to a different way of doing therapy. It leads to a way of saying that those are just thoughts and feelings and emotions and urges and ego states and all of those things. And so taken out of context that they can seem very scary and heavy.

[00:22:07] Taken in context. It's just your brain trying to protect you, your brain trying to warn you, your brain trying to stay in this path of least resistance. So it's so important to just learn the concept of context in that model where I'm panicked about finishing a research paper, my brain is actually looking out for me because it's afraid that if I don't finish that, I'm going to be angry with myself pushing myself, or it's afraid that if I don't put in my best work that I'm going get a bad grade, I'm going to feel worse. So even the concepts of things like anxiety, it's there to protect this. It's there to keep our brains in this fight or flight state, in theory, to keep us safe, to keep us nimble and ready to run and ready to flee, because it's we're afraid of the unknown. And I love talking about this concept. While I have this soapbox. Let me continue. Our brains are designed as a don't get killed device. That is what they do. And they have this idea. And this is so funny when we're talking about our own brain, because I'm thinking of mine right now as I'm thinking about it, which I think is meta is the kids say, but our own brains believe that they just have this finite amount of electrical current or electrical activity.

[00:23:20] So the brain's goal is to chill and relax. So the more we think of patterns of thought, the more we do patterns of behavior, the more our brain says, I think this guy is going to keep doing this, or I think this guy is going to keep thinking this. And when you are thinking new thoughts and acting upon new stimuli, your brain is going to work off of a little bit more electrical activity. And it's fine. Again, it does not have a finite amount. Somebody needs to wake the brain up and tell it that. But so our own brain, though, thinks that it does. So every time that we do something, every time that we develop these patterns of behavior, we're paying a little more attention. And at some point when our brain finally says this is what this guy does, this is how he ties his shoe, this is how he backs out of the driveway, this is what he thinks about whenever he goes to work or this is what he thinks about whenever he gets down or depressed, then those thought patterns become habitual and they're moved into this habit center of the brain called the basal ganglia. It's a little walnut sized part of the brain. That is where these habits are stored. And the key part being that your brain does not require a lot of electrical activity when it pulls things from the basal ganglia, from this habit center. So it wants to put things into order. It wants to to identify patterns so that it can put these things in your basal ganglia so that you can use as little electrical activity as you can, so that you can just chill and relax and your brain will live forever. But are you living your best life in that situation?

[00:24:54] The answer is no. You're living a life that is more fearful. It's more avoidant. So learning these tools, this functional, can textualism that learning in context that first of all, you have all these thoughts and feelings and emotions that you have because you are a human being who's been through all the experiences that you've been through. And now when we can identify what really matters to you, what are the values that are core to you, not the ones that your parents have told you would be important.

[00:25:20] You are society's told you it would be important, even your church, your work, the society, just when you're told here's what you should do. Here's what you should think. Here's how you should believe then nobody likes to be should on. So the more that we. Figure out what our particular unique gifts in life are, and we all have these unique individual gifts and perspective and talents and takes and it's a matter of when we find them, then we start to move toward them. Those become our value based goals. But then here's that part I just laid out for you. It's scary. Your brain thinks I don't know what's going to happen if this guy follows his dream or follows is this new path. So I'm going to throw up a lot of what ifs. And if I can get him to hook or fuse to one of those what ifs, then he's not going to go off and do something scary. He's not going to go off and try to learn some new skill or put himself in a new relationship that might hurt him. He's not going to put himself out there and be more vulnerable because that maybe hasn't worked in the past. And I'm worried about if it's going to work in the future and bless your brains little peak squishy heart that it's still just trying to do you a favor. A solid our brain looks to the past and says, hey, this happened.

[00:26:30] And the most productive, powerful thing that we can do is say, thank you, brain. That didn't happen and I appreciate the information. And then it'll say, what if this thing happens in the future? And then the same concept, you know what, brain? That is a very good point. And I will be very aware that could happen in the future. But all I can deal with is what I have in front of me, what is right now. And even then, here comes anxiety saying, OK, what if, though I'm a little bit scared, there's a lot of stuff going on here. And even then we learn to turn to our breathing, a little bit of mindfulness, try to lower that heart rate, get that cortisol level down, and we can be as present as we can. And we start to turn toward those value-based goals. And then that is when we can start to move toward a more productive, more just rich, fulfilling life, because that is life is to be lived. Life is to be explored and lived. And every day that you are fusing to these, I don't think I can do it or I don't think you understand those stories. And I know that part can be incredibly hard. But every day that you're fusing to that and every day that you're saying maybe I'll try tomorrow, maybe I'll try next month, maybe I'll try next year. That is experiential avoidance, my friends. And that is not the key to living a powerful, productive life, but being able to recognize this concept, this functional can textualism that our brain is not this mechanistic model. And the thoughts and feelings and emotions we have are not faulty parts there because of our human experience.

[00:27:55] And then learn that what to do with those in context. Thank your brain for bringing those to your awareness and learn how to diffuse and just turn toward the present, toward a value based goal that means something to you. I could go on and on and on, but I hope that you get an appreciate and understand the concept of functional contextual ism. While I'm talking about acceptance and commitment therapy, I did have an opportunity to train a few hundred therapists last week, Via Zoom, and it was incredible, honest to goodness. It was one of the most powerful moments that I've had in my long career as a therapist. I was able to train them on stages of faith, stages of life, faith, crisis, faith journeys, acceptance and commitment therapy being true to your values, your beliefs, all of these things. This is part of why I was so fired up to just talk about this today, because it's been so on my mind after the preparation for this training. And I will end with this concept. But in this training, I was talking about acceptance and commitment therapy, and I was talking about a concept that is, again, another game changer, which is socially compliant goals. So there's a section in the book, A Liberated Mind, and that is by Dr. Steven Hayes, the founder of ACT. And it's in this section where he's talking about values and he talks about he says in the section about values, values. It requires pivoting from socially compliant goals to chosen values, which then redirects the yearning for self direction and purpose.

[00:29:17] And doctor Hayes, he says people often attempt to achieve goals because they feel that they have to. Otherwise, people we care about or whose views we care about would be displeased or they will be disappointed in themselves. But research shows that such, quote, socially compliant goals give rise to motivation that is weak and ineffective. We may try to drive our own behavior with such external goals, but we also secretly resent them because they undermine our own process of unfolding this, he says. This yearning for self direction and purpose cannot be fully met by goal achievement, since it's always either in the future. I mean, I haven't even met my goal yet or in the past. I already met my goal so that he talked about values and why values are so important, because values are chosen qualities of being and doing, such as being a caring parent, being a dependable friend, being socially aware, being loyal, being honest, being courageous. My very favorite value is being authentic and saying what I feel in my heart. So living in accordance with our values. Now that is never finished. It's a lifelong journey. It's not a goal driven journey, and it provides a way to create enduring sources of motivation based on meaning, because ultimately what your values are is up to you. Your values are simply a matter between you. And the person in the mirror. So if you don't already have an idea of what your core values are, I want you to pick up a book or Google acceptance and commitment, or look at a liberated mind or the happiness trap or look in the show notes of today's episode.

[00:30:50] And I'll link to a wonderful worksheet by Ross Harris, where he lays out a lot of values, 40 to 60 values with definitions. And you owe it to yourself. You really do. To go through and find out what values are important to you and why. And this is an exercise that you can do on your own and then turn toward those values, find things that you can do that are part of these value based goals, because if you are not acting upon a value based goal, then you are doing a socially compliant goal. And again, remember, your motivation is weak and ineffective because it goes against your process of unfolding. All right. I could go on and on and on, but I am so grateful that you took the time to spend with me here on the virtual couch. I welcome any feedback. Contact that TonyOverbay.com will find out more about the magnetic marriage course. That's coming up. And if you have stuck with me this long, I am about to unveil a launch, invite people into an online group. It's ready to go for any women that are are breaking free from some relationships with perhaps a narcissistic spouse or someone is in a relationship with somebody that's struggling with narcissistic personality disorder. So if that's you and you're interested in learning more about this group, please text text me, please email me a contact at TonyOverbay.com. OK, taking us out today, as per usual, the wonderful the talented Aurora Florence with its wonderful.

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