Monthly Archives: February 2023

Lecture: Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change

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Lecture: Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change
Lake Shore Unitarian Society, Winnetka, Illinois
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2023

Moderator introduction

Dr. Robert F. Mullen is the director of ReChanneling Inc, a national organization dedicated to the research and development of programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our aptitude for extraordinary living. His paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing neuroscience and psychology to capture the diversity of human thought and experience. A leading expert on social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities, Dr. Mullen is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity, enabled by the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information (DRNI). A radical behaviorist and internationally published author, he facilitates workshops and seminars on emotional recovery and self–empowerment. 

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Italicized portions were omitted from the lecture due to time constraints.

I am a radical behaviorist. What does that mean? A radical behaviorist not only considers observable behaviors but also the diversity of human thought and experience. That calls for a collaboration of science, philosophy, and psychology. And philosophy, existentially defined, welcomes religious and spiritual insight. 

The role of neuroplasticity in positive behavioral change. The definition of recovery is regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. Self-empowerment is making a conscious decision to become stronger and more confident in controlling our lives. In neuroses such as anxiety, depression, and comorbidities, what has been stolen or lost is our emotional well-being and quality of life. In self-empowerment, it is the loss of self-esteem and motivation. So both recovery and self-empowerment deal with regaining what has been lost. And both are supported by neuroplasticity.

If there is an underlying theme in my work, it is that we are not defined by our insufficiencies, but by our character strengths, virtues, and attributes – and our achievements.


Plasticity is simply the quality of being easily shaped or molded. Neuroplasticity is our brain’s constant adaptation and restructuring to information.  

Before 1960, researchers thought that neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons, stopped after birth. Today, science recognizes that our neural network is dynamic and malleable – realigning its pathways and rebuilding its circuits in response to information.

What is information? Thought, experience, phenomena, sensation, sights, sounds, smells, tactile impressions – anything and everything that impacts our neural network. Our wonderful brain never stops learning and unlearning. Absent that, we would be incapable of replacing unhealthy behaviors with productive ones.

What is significant is our ability to dramatically accelerate and consolidate learning by compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. Our neural network is structured around negative information. The primary objective in recovery and self-empowerment is replacing or overwhelming that negative information with positive neural input.

Human neuroplasticity comes in three forms. The two that concern us are active and proactive. Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural response to things over which we have limited to no control – stimuli we absorb but do not initiate or focus on. Our neural network automatically restructures itself to what happens around us.

Active neuroplasticity is cognitive pursuits like teaching, aerobics, journaling, and creating. We control this aspect of neuroplasticity because we consciously choose the activity. An important component of active neuroplasticity is ethical and compassionate social behavior. We’ll expand on that shortly.

The third form is proactive neuroplasticity – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information called DRNI. It is the most effective means of accelerating and consolidating learning and unlearning.

Both active and proactive neuroplasticity empower us to transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy NEW mindsets, skills, and abilities. Through informed and deliberate engagement, we compel change rather than reacting to it. 

What does all this mean?  It confirms that our psychological health is self–determined. We control our emotional well–being. Now bad things happen, much of which we have limited to no control over. We are impacted by outside forces: life experiences, physical deterioration, hostilities, the quirks of nature. Psychological well–being means how we react to things is self–determined. How we respond to adversity as well as fortune and prosperity.

[Origins and Trajectory of Negativity]

So, where does all this negative information come from? Why are our neural networks so clogged with harmful, growth-impeding information? 

It starts with our core beliefs. Core beliefs are the deeply held convictions that determine how we see ourselves in the world. We form them during childhood in response to information and experiences, and by accepting what we are told as true. Core beliefs can remain our belief system throughout life unless challenged.

[Childhood Disturbance]

Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in emotional instability or insecurity has been well established. During the development of our core beliefs, we are subject to a childhood disturbance – a broad and generic term for anything that interferes with our optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, or social development. Disturbances are ubiquitous –  they happen to all of us. What differentiates us is how we react or respond to the disturbance – our susceptibility and vulnerability. Any number of things can precipitate childhood disturbance. Our parents are controlling or don’t provide emotional validation. Perhaps we are subject to sibling rivalry or a broken home. It is important to recognize, the disturbance may be real or imagined, intentional or accidental. I give the example of the toddler, whose parental quality time is interrupted by a phone call. That seemingly insignificant event can foster in the child a sense of abandonment, which can then generate feelings of unworthiness and insignificance. We are not accountable for childhood disturbance or subsequent behaviors. As we mature, we are responsible for moderating our destructive behaviors, but we are not accountable for their origins. It’s important to remain mindful of that.

[Negative Core Beliefs]

Feelings of detachment, neglect, exploitation are common consequences of childhood disturbance, and they generate negative core beliefs so rigid, we refuse to question them, and ignore evidence that contradicts them. This establishes what is called a cognitive bias – a subconscious error in our thinking that leads us to misinterpret information, questioning the accuracy of our perspectives and decisions. This is why we have such societal divisiveness. We don’t challenge our hard-core beliefs.

[Intermediate Beliefs]

The confluence of childhood disturbance and negative core beliefs impacts our intermediate beliefs, the next phase of our psychological development. Intermediate beliefs establish our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Attitudes refer to our emotions, convictions, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations or moral interpretations that influence our behaviors. Our assumptions are what we believe to be true or real. These intermediate beliefs, of course, are influenced by our social, cultural, and environmental experiences.

Let me emphasize, that none of this negative trajectory is extraordinary. It is a natural progression common to all of us. Our unique personalities and experiences determine our susceptibility to it and the severity of its impact.


This accumulation of negative core and intermediate self-beliefs impacts the development of our self-esteem. Self-esteem, loosely defined, is a complex interrelationship between how we think about ourselves, how we think others think about us, and how we process and present that information.

We are social beings, driven by a fundamental human need for intimacy and interpersonal exchange. Human interconnectedness is necessary for our mental and physical health. Low levels of self-esteem jeopardize our social competency and impact our motivation to recover and pursue certain goals and objectives, to self-empower.

We also have an inherent negative bias, similar to our cognitive bias, which compels us to focus more on negative experiences than positive ones. When we lie in bed reminiscing about experiences, it’s usually about bad ones. Add to our accumulation of negativity are the experiences of life – outside forces over which we have little to no control. Hostility, divisiveness, illness, social media. The long and short of it, our brains are structured around an overabundance of negative information. Proactive and active neuroplasticity counter that negativity with positive neural input. That is their role.

Let’s briefly talk about what goes on [in our brain] with active and proactive neuroplasticity. Neurons are the core components of our brain and central nervous system. They convey information through electrical impulses or energy. Whether that energy is positive or negative depends upon the integrity of our information. Our brain receives around two million bits of data per second but is capable of processing roughly 126 bits, so it is important to provide substantial and incorrupt information. 

[Neural Trajectory of Information]

Information alerts or sparks a receptor neuron that algorithmically converts it into electrical impulse energy which forwards that energy to a sensory neuron that stimulates presynaptic or transmitter neurons that pass that energy to postsynaptic or receiving neurons that then forward that energy to millions of participating neurons, causing a cellular chain reaction in multiple interconnected areas of our brain. Confusing? Absolutely.

Here’s an easy way to visualize it.

Neurons don’t act by themselves but through circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on our information. Like muscles, the more repetitions, the more robust the energy of the information, and the stronger the circuits.

In addition to positively restructuring our neural network, proactive and active neuroplasticity trigger what is called long-term potentiation. Neurons repeatedly stimulate succeeding neurons sometimes for weeks on end. This strengthens the nerve impulses along the connecting pathways, generating more energy and more neural chain reactions.

They produce higher levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) – proteins associated with improved cognitive functioning, mental health, memory, and concentration.

The positive energy of our information is picked up by millions of neurons that amplify the impulse (or energy or activity) on a massive scale. Positive information in, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Conversely, negative information in, negative energy reciprocated in abundance. Thus the significance of positive reinforcement.

When the activity of the connecting pathways is heightened, the natural neurotransmission of chemical hormones accelerates, releasing cognitive and physiological support. GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure and motivation, endorphins to boost our self–esteem, and serotonin for a sense of well-being.

Acetylcholine supports neuroplasticity, glutamate enhances our memory, and noradrenaline improves concentration. 

Those are the highlights. Scientists have identified over fifty chemical hormones in the human body. Every input or bit of information or data accelerates and consolidates the neurotransmission of these hormones. 

Unfortunately, as physics would have it, we receive these same neural benefits whether our information is positive or negative. All information is rewarded by restructuring, long–term potentiation, BDNF, reciprocation, and supportive hormones. The same neural responses are activated. That’s one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or moderating our behaviors is challenging. Our brain acclimates to whatever we input and every time we repeat a destructive behavior or a bad habit, our neural circuits adapt and reward us. Thus the importance of the integrity of our information.

We are already physiologically adverse to change. Our bodies and brains are structured to attack anything that disrupts their equilibrium. A new diet or exercise regimen produces uncomfortable, physiological changes in our heart rate, metabolism, and respiration. Inertia senses and resists these changes, and our basal ganglia – the group of nuclei responsible for our emotional behaviors and habit formation –  resist any modification in our patterns of behavior. Thus, habits like smoking, gambling, or gossiping are hard to break, and new undertakings like recovery, improvement, and self-empowerment, are challenging to maintain. 

We inherently desire to be better persons and to contribute to others and society, but we are entrenched with negative self-beliefs. We have tried everything to overcome our condition and achieved less than desired results, which makes us feel incompetent and worthless, generating an overriding sense of futility. 

We beat ourselves up daily for our perceptual inadequacies. Our inherent negative bias causes us to store information consistent with our negative beliefs and image. Psychology still focuses on what’s wrong with us. We consume ourselves with our problems instead of celebrating our achievements, and we constantly look for ways to justify or support our thoughts and behaviors. We blame ourselves for our defects as if they are the pervading forces of our true being, rather than celebrate our character strengths, virtues, attributes, and achievements. 

We are consumed and conditioned by negative words. By the age of sixteen, we have heard the word no from our parents, roughly, 135,000 times. That’s a statistic and we take statistics with a large grain of salt but, you get the drift.  Some of us use the same unfortunate words over and over again. The more we hear, read, or speak a word or phrase, the more power it has over us. Our brain learns through repetition.

It is not just the words we say aloud in criticism and conversations. The self-annihilating words we silently call ourselves convince us we are helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless the four horsemen of emotional dysfunction. They cause our neural network to transmit chemical hormones that impair our logic, reasoning, and communication, impacting the parts of our brain that regulate our memory, concentration, and emotions.

Our neural network is replete with toxic information.

Proactive neuroplasticity is initiated by DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information. What is this information? It is self-motivating and empowering statements that help us focus on our goals, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and reprogram our subconscious minds. Individually focused statements that we repeat to ourselves to describe what and who we want to be. Think of them as aspirations or self-fulfilling prophecies. We incorporate them into positive personal affirmations and rational responses to our negative self-beliefs.

  • I belong here.
  • I am valuable and significant.
  • I am confident and self–assured.
  • I am strong and resilient.
  • I am worthy of success and abundance.

We drastically underestimate the significance and effectiveness of these self-affirming statements when we do not understand the science behind them. Practicing positive personal affirmations and rational responses dramatically accelerate and consolidate the positive restructuring of our neural network and we experience a perceptible change in our thoughts, behaviors, and outlook on life. 

It is the integrity of the information that compels the algorithmic conversion into positive electrical impulse or energy. Information of integrity is honest, unconditional, sound, and of strong moral principles. We have established certain criteria so that our neural network will recognize the integrity of our information and restructure accordingly. Our information is rational, reasonable, possible, positive, goal–focused, unconditional, and first–person present or future time. Again, we recognize that actual wording is not as important as its integrity, but it is better emotionally if we are secure in our intent.

  • Rational. The only logical recourse to irrational thought. 
  • Reasonable. Unreasonable aspirations get us nowhere. It’s unreasonable to expect a grammy for song of the year if we’re tone-deaf.
  • Possible. If we are incapable of achieving our goal, it is ridiculous to pursue it. 
  • PositiveNegative information is counterproductive to positive neural restructuring. 
  • Goal-focused. If we do not know our destination, we will not recognize it when we arrive. 
  • Unconditional. Our commitment must be certain. The affirmation, I will give up drinking – when my wife is in the room, defeats the purpose.
  • First-person present or future. The past is irrevocable so let’s concentrate on what we have control over.
  • Brief. Succinct and easily memorized. Our personal affirmations are mantras; they evolve. We change them according to need and circumstance.

Let’s talk about how proactive and active neuroplasticity support each other and how their collaboration advances our goal. While proactive neuroplasticity accelerates neural restructuring because of our deliberate, repetitive, neural input, incorporating both active and proactive neuroplasticity consolidates the process. It reinforces and strengthens our efforts. DRNI is a mental process designed to initiate the rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation that transmits the electrical energy. It is proactive because we construct the information prior to utilizing it.

However, we are more than mere mental organisms. We are also emotional, social, and spiritual beings. Neglecting these human components is limiting and irrational. Mind, body, spirit, social, and emotions are the gestalt of our humanness. Proactive neuroplasticity is a mental exercise.

Active neuroplasticity taps into the emotional, the social, and the spiritual. Beyond healthy activities like yoga, journaling, creating, and listening to music, is our ethical and compassionate social behavior. Altruistic contributions to society are extraordinary assets to neural restructuring. The value of volunteering – providing support, empathy, and concern for those in need, random acts of kindness – is extraordinary, not only in promoting positive behavioral change but in enhancing the integrity of our information. The social interconnectedness established by caring and compassion supports the regeneration of our self-esteem and self-appreciation.

One more rather mundane reason we turn to active neuroplasticity. DRNI requires a calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information that is not only tedious but also fails to deliver immediate tangible results, causing us to readily concede defeat and abandon hope in this era of instant gratification. I can tell you from experience, it is challenging to maintain the rigorous process demanded of DRNI – the tedious repetition. Tedium generates avoidance, and we know how difficult it is to establish and maintain new habits. Active neuroplasticity fills any gaps and brings our entire being into play.

In closing. Proactive and active neuroplasticity are formidable tools in neural restructuring and the corresponding positive transformation of our thoughts, behaviors, and perspectives. Recovery and self-empowerment are achieved through a collaboration of targeted approaches that compel the rediscovery and self-appreciation of our character strengths, virtues, and attributes. While the realignment of our neural network is the framework for recovery and self–empowerment, a coalescence of science and east-west psychologies is essential to capture the diversity of human thought and experience. 

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Cognitive Distortions Germane to Social Anxiety

Dr. Robert F. Mullen

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“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid)

Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that perpetuate our anxiety and depression. In essence, we twist reality to reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors and validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Our attitudes refer to our emotions, convictions, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations that influence our behaviors, and our assumptions are what we believe to be accurate or real. Social anxiety and other emotional dysfunctions paint an inaccurate picture of the self in the world with others. 

Understanding how we use cognitive distortions as subconscious strategies to avoid facing certain truths is crucial to recovery. SAD drives our illogical thought patterns. Countering them requires mindfulness of our motives and rational response. Our compulsion to twist the truth to validate our negative self-beliefs and image is powerful; we need to understand how these distortions sustain our social anxiety. Cognitive distortions are rarely cut and dried but tend to overlap and share traits and characteristics. That’s what makes them difficult to clearly distinguish.

We are highly susceptible to cognitive distortions when under stress. During a situation, they are like IEDs capable of destroying our confidence and composure. Because of their similarities, it is challenging and unnecessary to distinguish one from the others as long as we remain mindful of their accessibility, so we can nip them in the bud. Our symptoms are easy targets for cognitive distortions.

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The number of cognitive distortions listed by experts ranges substantially. The following thirteen are particularly germane to social anxiety.

ALWAYS BEING RIGHT. Our need to be right protects the fragile self-image sustained by our fears of criticism, ridicule, and rejection. Being right is more important than the truth or the feelings of others. Thoughts or opinions that contradict are harmful to our emotional structure. 

The core and intermediate beliefs of a person living with social anxiety are rigid; we dismiss new ideas and concepts. Even when our belief system is inaccurate, it defines how we see ourselves in the world. If the facts don’t comport with our beliefs, we dispute or disregard them. When we decline to question our beliefs, we act upon them as though they are valid and reasonable, ignoring evidence that contradicts – even if we doubt the veracity of our claims. Our insecurity is so severe, our maladjusted attitudes, rules, and assumptions run roughshod over the truth and the feelings of others.

We store information consistent with these beliefs, which generates a cognitive bias – a subconscious error in thinking that leads us to misinterpret information, impacting the accuracy of our perspectives and decisions. Our low implicit and explicit self-esteem keeps us on the defensive and compels the need to compensate for our perceptual lack of positive self-qualities. We ignore or contest anything that poses a threat, especially information inconsistent with what we assert to be true. The need to always be right can also reflect the narcissism evident in the irrational belief that we are the center of attention in any situation.

Because of our neediness to always be right, we tend to ignore what others are saying. We avoid recognizing anything that might lead us to conclude we are mistaken. Even when we know we are wrong, we find it hard to admit it because it exacerbates our fears of ridicule and criticism. 

In situations where we are ill-advised to dispute our superiors or other authority figures, we subvert our need to be right. We bow to pressure and imply that we accept their truth, covertly convinced we are right, and they are not. This subservience forces us to give away our power, generating anger and resentment. We smile and agree with those who hold sway over us. but secretly envy their power, becoming irritated and bitter.

In our formative years, many of us were undervalued – subject to the circumstances of our childhood disturbance. Our parents may have been controlling or dismissive, our siblings overbearing. Some of us rarely experienced positive feedback or appreciation. As adults, we are driven to disregard thoughts and viewpoints that conflict with our own.

Always Being Right does not bode well for healthy relationships because we do not reciprocate shared issues or experiences. Counterfeit, ignoring, selective, and hostile listening devalues the relevance of others and inhibits the prospect of healthy connectivity. Being right is more important than establishing and maintaining friendships and intimacy. 

Recovery promotes considered and attentive listening skills – active communication where we value what is being said by the other. In empathic listening, we seek first to understand and then to be understood.

SAD Symptoms, Fears, and Apprehensions

BLAMING. Blaming is wrongly assigning responsibility for things and happenings. Social anxiety disorder thrives by making us feel helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. The burden of responsibility for our negative self-image can be overwhelming and compels us to hold someone or something accountable.

Since we have determined that SAD onset is a consequence of childhood disturbance, we recognize that attributing blame for our symptoms makes no sense. The Fallacy of Fairness, however, alerts us to the perceived unjustness of SAD, and our Emotional Reasoning compels us to assign blame. Something or someone provokes our fears and anxieties, and blaming SAD for everything does not relieve the anguish of our negative self-beliefs. When we see ourselves as victims, we need to blame someone or something for our victimization. 

One alternative is external blaming – holding others accountable for things that are our responsibility. Blaming someone or something for our personal choices and decisions seems illogical, but remember, SAD sustains itself on our irrationality. Besides, if we feel helpless, how can we hold ourselves accountable? If we believe we do not have the power to overcome our challenges, does it not make sense to blame someone else?

Internal blaming is assuming personal responsibility for the problems of other people and things that go wrong which do not involve us. We view everything as our fault and think we are responsible for everyone. If our roommate is unhappy, it must be something we did. Internal or self-blaming can be expressed as power or weakness (Control Fallacies). When we blame ourselves for our symptoms, we feed into our perceptions of incompetence and ineptitude. Believing we have power and influence over other people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can be seen as grandiosity. Both correspond to our low self-esteem and sense of inferiority.

There is a difference between internal blaming and taking responsibility. Holding ourselves accountable for our actions is the mature and ethical approach to emotional well-being and social responsibility. Internal blaming is when we take responsibility for things that we are not accountable for. 

Until we devise rational responses to our fears and social avoidance, we tend to assign blame for our negative thoughts and behaviors. The ability to look at our actions through the prism of intellectual awareness is a necessary component of the transformative act and indispensable to recovery. Rational response allows the flow of positive thought and behavior necessary for recovery, eliminating the need to blame. Until we master recovery, we will continue to search for avenues to unburden ourselves of responsibility. 

CATASTROPHIZING. One morning, as Chicken Little was plucking worms in the henyard, an acorn dropped from a tree onto her head. She had no idea what hit her and assumed the worst. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” Catastrophizing is concluding the worst-case scenario when things happen to us, rather than considering more plausible explanations. It is the irrational assumption that something is far worse than it is. We prophesize the worst and twist reality to support our projection. If our significant other complains of a headache, we assume our relationship is doomed. When this happens again, our belief is confirmed.

A symptom of SAD is our tendency to expect negative consequences to things that happen during a situation. Because of our life-consistent negative self-appraisal, and inherent negative bias, we tend to assume the worst. Often, we justify our catastrophizing based on prior events, believing that catastrophe will ensue because we blew the former out of proportion. This is similar to Overgeneralization where one bad apple means the entire bushel is rotten. Our four horsemen of social anxiety disorder – helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and unworthiness aggravate our negative assumptions. Catastrophizing is often a consequence of our symptomatic fears of criticism, ridicule, and rejection. We take something we believe is inevitable and presuppose its actuality. We will be rejected and therefore, never find love. We will be criticized and, therefore, never be taken seriously. 

Catastrophizing is paralyzing. It limits our interactivity and social engagement because we avoid situations that posit the possibility of disaster. Our fatalistic obsessions prevent us from experiencing and enjoying life. We express it in our SAD-induced automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). “What if no one talks to me?” “What if they criticize my presentation?” “What if they find me unattractive?” Worrying about something that hasn’t happened is an exercise in futility and supports our sense of hopelessness. It can negatively impact our entire outlook in life, causing issues of motivation and self-esteem that lead to self-disappointment and underachievement. 

Considering the consequences of what can happen is a regular and rational part of determining our actions and activities. The compulsion to project the worst possible outcome, no matter how improbable, is self-destructive. 

When those of us with social anxiety disorder find ourselves in a situation where we dread being criticized, ridiculed, and or rejected, the smallest incident, like a failed attempt at humor, can trigger the belief that the entire evening is a personal disaster. This projection can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy because we are convinced of its inevitability. 

Again, the obvious remedy is to become mindful of our susceptibility to this distortion, rationally assess the situation, and consider plausible explanations for the incident that triggered our catastrophizing.

CONTROL FALLACIES. A fallacy is a belief based on unreliable evidence and unsound arguments. As we discussed earlier, we cognitively distort to reinforce or justify our self-beliefs and validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions – how we perceive, think, and behave. 

Control Fallacy is the conviction that (1) something or someone has power and control over things that happen to us, or (2) we hold that type of power over others. We either believe events in our lives are beyond our control, or we assume responsibility for everything.

When we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as weak and powerless. We blame outside forces (fate, the weather, authority figures) for the adversity in our lives. We accuse our gender, race, sexuality, weight, income, and education rather than assume responsibility for our actions. A health scare becomes an act of god, the philanderer blames his wife for leaving him, and our failing grade is because our instructor has a personal grudge. 

Conversely, the fallacy of internal control is when we assume unrealistic responsibility for everything. We believe we have power and influence over other people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. We blame ourselves for their mishaps and misfortunes. It is our fault our friend turns to drugs because we weren’t supportive. Our supervisor suffers a heart attack because we continually miss deadlines. 

Both external and internal control fallacies correspond to our SAD-induced feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and worthlessness. 

We believe external forces control us because we feel powerless over what happens to us. Our sense of hopelessness tells us any effort towards remedy is futile. “They think I’m incompetent.” “She finds me unattractive.” “I don’t belong here.” We subsequently feel guilty for our inadequacy, and shame for our weakness. We wallow in self-pity, convinced that attempts at happiness are pointless. 

Our tendency to unjustifiably blame ourselves for our social anxiety disorder leads to internal control fallacies. Had we moderated our adolescent behavior, we claim, we could have prevented the onset. This leads us to believe we have control over other things we bear no responsibility for. “It’s my fault she’s unhappy.” “He drinks because I ignored him.” The belief we have let everyone down wreaks havoc on our emotional well-being and our sense of competence. 

These Control Fallacies inform us we are not assigning blame in the appropriate ways. We need to stop taking responsibility for problems we do not create and assume responsibility for our actions. That is only logical. Unfortunately, SAD subsists on our irrational thoughts and behaviors. Those of us living with social anxiety frequently use cognitive distortions because we feel trapped in its vicious circle, restricted from living a normal life. A fundamental component of recovery is learning how to identify our cognitive distortions to devise rational responses. 

EMOTIONAL REASONING is the catalyst for many of the other distortions. The irrational thought patterns that underscore our cognitive distortions stem from the SAD-provoked convictions we are helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless (the SAD four horsemen). For example, when we engage in Filtering, we selectively ignore the positive aspects of a situation, because of our life-consistent negative self-beliefs. This unbalanced perspective leads to Polarized Thinking, where perceive things only in black or white. Because of our negative self-appraisal, we assume everything that happens is our fault, and anything said derogatorily is a reference to us. That’s called Personalization, which is very much like internal blaming. How our Emotional Reasoning relates to the cognitive distortions most relevant to our social anxiety will become more evident as we explore them, individually, throughout this book. We can safely state that Emotional Reasoning is the progenitor of all of our cognitive distortions as they are ruled by our emotions.

Emotional Reasoning is feeling without thinking – relying on our emotions over objective evidence. It is best defined by the colloquialism, my gut tells me…  This emotional dependency dictates how we erroneously relate to the world. At the root of Emotional Reasoning is the belief that what we feel must be true. If we feel like a loser, then we must be a loser. If we feel guilty, then we must have done something wrong. All the negative things we feel about ourselves, others, and the world must be true because they feel true. Emotional Reasoning is an oxymoron. In recovery, resolving this opposition is the primary task at hand. 

Emotions are the reactions that we experience in response to our situations. The type of emotion a person experiences is determined by multiple factors including our core and intermediate beliefs, experiences, and the situational fear that triggers the emotion. Emotions by themselves have little relevance to the truth of a situation. They are products of what we think or assume is happening.

We are hard-wired to hearken to our emotions. We consider them first because they are unconscious and automatic. It is more natural to base our conclusions on feelings than on facts. If we have distorted thoughts and beliefs, then our emotions will reflect those distortions. Emotional Reasoning is not only dichotomous but also irrational. When we pass judgments and make decisions based on our feelings without supporting evidence, we are likely misinterpreting reality. 

We are all susceptible to Emotional Reasoning, and not all decisions made are wrong or destructive. It is healthy to stay in touch with our feelings assuming they correspond with reality. A balanced perspective embraces instinct, feelings, and experience as well as evidence. The challenge to us is that our SAD sustains itself on our irrationality, and our negative core and intermediate beliefs lead us to ignore evidence that contradicts them, compelling us to make poor decisions. 

FALLACY OF FAIRNESS is the unrealistic assumption that life should be fair. It is human nature to equate fairness with how well our personal preferences are met. We know how we want to be treated and anything that infringes upon seems unreasonable and emotionally unacceptable. Fairness is subjective, however. Two people seldom agree on what is fair. The fact that those of us living with SAD are predisposed to personalize does not make things any easier. 

We have been at our job longer, but the newer arrival gets the promotion. It may be the better management decision but, to us, it is blatantly unfair. The school bully is selected for the varsity team while we are sidelined to the practice squad. The fact he is a better player does little to mitigate our belief in the unfairness of the coach’s decision. Needless to say, these unsupportive decisions lead to anger, frustration, and self-pity. Envy is a common emotional reaction, especially when we compare ourselves to others who are more successful and feel life or circumstance has treated us unfairly. 

The concept of fairness varies, based on our experiences, culture, and environment. It is a personally biased assessment of how well our expectations, needs, and wants are met by others, institutions, and nature. When real life goes against our perceptions of fairness, as it often does, it generates negative emotions.

The belief that all things in life should be based on fairness and equality is a noble but unrealistic philosophy. We can strive for such things, but life’s vicissitudes have a will of their own. The obvious reality is that much of life is inequitable. People are self-oriented, institutions alternatively focused, and nature indeterminate. Wanting things to work in our favor is normal; expecting them to do so is irrational. 

We all have our ideas of how we like to be treated In personal interactions, but reciprocation is governed by the other, and it rarely comports with our expectations. As a result, we blame others for any adverse response rather than consider their expectations and our self-centered assumptions of fairness. 

The problem is exacerbated in those of us living with social anxiety because it subsists on our irrational thoughts and behaviors, which means that our expectations are often irrational as well. Ironically, we are not surprised when they are not met because we symptomatically anticipate and project negative outcomes. This does not stop us, however, from blaming ourselves or others when our negative prophecies are fulfilled.

The Fallacy of Fairness is often expressed in conditional assumptions. “If my teacher knew how hard I studied, she’d give me a passing grade.” Conditional conclusions allow us to avoid delegating true accountability. Studying does not always lead to comprehension, and our teacher bases grades on test results. ”If my parents had treated me better, I wouldn’t have social anxiety disorder.” The direct cause of emotional dysfunction is indeterminate, and blaming our parents or ourselves is irrational given the evidence.

It is advisable to stand outside the bullseye – to emotionally extract ourselves from an undesirable situation and evaluate it from multiple perspectives. Fairness is subjective, based on personal beliefs and experiences. Mindfulness of the needs and experiences of others is a product of recovery. Moderating our fears of social interaction allows us to entertain other points of view, and reveals the narrow-mindedness of fairness, which is just a state of mind. 

FILTERING. Our negative core and intermediate beliefs form in response to childhood disturbance and the onset of our emotional dysfunction. Core beliefs are more rigid in those of us living with social anxiety because we tend to store information consistent with negative beliefs. Our intermediate beliefs establish our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. These beliefs govern our perceptions and, ostensibly, remain as our belief system throughout life. Even if irrational or inaccurate, our beliefs define how we see ourselves in the world. When we decline to question these beliefs, we act upon them as though they are real and reasonable, ignoring evidence that contradicts them. This produces a cognitive bias – a subconscious error in thinking that causes us to misinterpret information and make irrational decisions. 

To compound this, humans have an inherent negativity bias. We are genetically predisposed to respond more strongly to adversity, which aggravates our SAD symptoms. We anticipate the worst-case scenario. We expect criticism, ridicule, and rejection. We worry about embarrassing or humiliating ourselves. We project unpleasant outcomes that become self-fulfilling prophecies. It is not surprising that we readily turn to Filtering and Polarized Thinking to justify our irrational thought patterns. 

When we engage in Filtering, we selectively choose our perspective. Our tunnel vision gravitates toward the negative aspects of a situation and excludes the positive. This applies to our memories as well. We dwell on the unfortunate aspects of what happened rather than the whole picture. 

A person who consistently filters out negative information is someone with an excessively cheerful or optimistic personality. Conversely, a person who emphasizes gloom and doom is unhappy or defeatist. Those of us living with SAD tend to mirror the latter. We filter out positive aspects of our life, choosing to dwell on situations and memories that support our negative self-image. This creates an emotional imbalance due to the exclusion of healthy thoughts and behaviors. We view ourselves, the world, and our future through an unforgiving lens.

Negative filtering is one of the most common cognitive distortions in anxiety because it sustains our toxic core and intermediate beliefs. Our pessimistic outlook exacerbates our feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. We accentuate the negative. A dozen people in our office celebrate our promotion; one ignores us. We obsess over the lone individual and disregard the goodwill of the rest. By dwelling on the unpleasantness, we reinforce our feelings of undesirability and alienation. 

To effectively challenge our tendency to filter information, we need to identify the situation(s) that provokes our anxiety and the corresponding ANTs (automatic negative thoughts). From there, we analyze the unsoundness of our reaction and devise a rational response. Initially, the conversion process is exacting, but with time and practice, it becomes reflexive and spontaneous. Cognitive behaviorists call it ARTs – automatic rational thoughts. 

The term maladaptive behavior was coined by Aaron Beck, the pioneer of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is prevalent in social anxiety disorder. Maladaptive means we tend to adapt wrongly (negatively) to situations. We must remain mindful that our symptoms encourage a negative perspective and adjust accordingly.

HEAVEN’S REWARD FALLACY is when we put other people’s needs ahead of our own with an expectation of reciprocation. Contrary to others who share this cognitive distortion, SAD persons are not seeking heavenly reward in the afterlife, but acknowledgment in this one. 

We continually say yes to others while denying ourselves, We tell ourselves our motives are selfless, but we do it out of neediness and loneliness. We are consummate enablers trying to compensate for our feelings of undesirability and worthlessness. Rather than setting boundaries, we allow ourselves to be bullied and taken advantage of, seeking respect and appreciation. When we are denied, our disappointment leads to bitterness and resentment.

You are an exemplary office worker – always on time, and willing to go the extra mile. When your co-workers fall behind, you always offer to pick up the slack even if it means staying late or working on the weekend. Your desk is organized, you dress for success, and complete your assignments with diligence and efficiency. You eagerly anticipate a promotion at the end of the quarter. 

The management hires someone from without the organization. Your disappointment turns to anger and resentment. When the company distributes the annual bonuses, yours does not reflect the recognition you think you deserve. Colleagues move on to better employment, but you have spent so much time ingratiating yourselves with management, you have not considered viable alternatives. You mire yourself in The Fallacy of Fairness and your resentment turns to sullenness and hostility. 

People who engage in Heaven’s Reward Fallacy undervalue their worth and significance and have poor self-awareness. It is easier to take on the needs and responsibilities of others rather than face our fears and anxieties. Our actions are self-serving rather than noble. True altruism does not expect reciprocation.

Recovering our self-esteem is an essential element of recovery and cannot be second-tiered. Due to our disruption in natural human development, we are subject to significantly lower implicit and explicit self-esteem relative to healthy controls. Our negative core and intermediate beliefs stemming from childhood disturbance and onset are directly implicated. Our symptomatic fears and anxieties aggravate this deficit.

We rediscover and regenerate our self-esteem through the integration of historically and clinically practical approaches designed to help us become mindful of our inherent strengths, virtues, and achievements, and their propensity to replace our SAD-induced negative self-beliefs and image.

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS is when we judge or decide something without having all the facts to substantiate our conclusion. It is also fortune-telling and mind-reading. We jump to conclusions when we assume to know what another person is feeling or why they act the way they do. When we form our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) we usually jump to conclusions because the only evidence we rely on is our fears and anxieties which are abstractions based on perceptions rather than reality. When we overgeneralize or filter our information to conclude “no one will like me” or “they will make fun of me,” we are Jumping to Conclusions. It is irrational to decide, without a crystal ball, how others will react to us or feel about us.

While our conclusions may be based on prior experience, assuming it will repeat itself in similar situations, while possible, is an implausible conclusion. Yes, we may say something stupid, or experience physical symptoms, but we don’t know that beforehand; we merely prophesize it will happen because it happened before. This is a common assumption among those of us with social anxiety.

Many of our other cognitive distortions are formed by Jumping to Conclusions. When we overgeneralize, we draw a broad conclusion or make a statement about something or someone that is not backed up by the bulk of evidence. When we label someone because of a single characteristic or event, we are Jumping to Conclusions. Likewise, when we personalize or take responsibility for something that has nothing to do with us. 

A primary SAD symptom is the fear of situations in which we believe we will be negatively appraised. We jump to the conclusion we will be criticized, ridiculed, or rejected, usually in advance of the situation. This distorted thinking causes us to react defensively or to avoid the situation entirely. If we assume we are the center of attention, we are not going to let our guard down. Often, we predict a bad outcome to a situation to protect ourselves if it happens. It helps us avoid disappointment.

If our significant other is in a bad mood, we assume we did something wrong. If our manager slams the door to the office, we imagine it’s because we were talking on the phone. If a stranger passes us on the sidewalk, it is because we are unappealing.

When we jump to conclusions, we create self-fulfilling prophecies. We avoid interacting with others because we have predicted a negative outcome. We avoid relationships because we tell ourselves they will not succeed. We avoid recovery because we know it will come to naught. We expect the worst possible consequences of a situation because we jumped to the conclusion things will not end well. Over the years, SAD has convinced us we are helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. It isn’t much of a leap for us to conclude that we are.

LABELING. When we label an individual or group, we reduce them to a single, usually negative, characteristic or descriptor based on a single event or behavior. As a result, we view them (or ourselves) through the label and filter out information that contradicts the stereotype. Labeling others leads to false assumptions, prejudice, and ostracizing. “Because he talks about his neighbor, he is a gossip.” 

Our SAD symptoms compel us to label others to support our preconceived notions about how others perceive us. Our conversational inadequacy might make us label the group as rude and dismissive. If we expect rejection, they are cold and untrustworthy. Because we feel like we are the center of attention, our social failure could lead us to label the entire room as mean or arrogant.

Labeling is common to SAD persons because we resent our symptomatic fears and anxieties, causing us to project our frustrations on those close to us. Labeling a friend or significant other can destroy relationships, especially when the label is for unintentional behavior. If we feel unsupported at a social event, we might label our companion cold or indifferent. In a similar vein, if a parent criticizes us at the dinner table, identifying them as cruel or hateful would not be inconceivable. Polarized Thinking, Filtering, Emotional Reasoning, Jumping to Conclusions, and Overgeneralization lend themselves to Labeling. 

We know how distressing it can be when someone labels us. When we-self label, we sustain our negative self-beliefs. “I didn’t meet anyone at the party; I am unlikeable.” Negatively labeling ourselves invariably results in thoughts that support our self-image. “I gave the wrong answer in class; I am stupid.” Self-labeling like inadequate and incompetent supports our sense of hopelessness and undesirability, and we often find our subsequent behaviors support those labels. 

Labels are irrational and myopic because they emerge from a single characteristic, behavior, or event and ignore the whole person or situation. Arbitrarily evaluating someone based on one isolated incident or behavior is almost always inaccurate. One negative behavior or incident does not define someone’s entire character. Rather than focusing on the specific element that generated the label, it is important to value the positive contributions of the person or group. We can observe ourselves and others with compassionate insight, recognizing the diversity of human thought and experience.

OVERGENERALIZATION. When we engage In this cognitive distortion, we draw broad conclusions or make statements about something or someone that are unsupported by the available evidence. We make blanket claims that can’t be proven or disproven. Everyone knows Suzie is a liar. To imply that everyone thinks Suzie is a liar is an exaggeration without consensus. A few colleagues may share our opinion, but not the whole world. We overgeneralize if our conclusion is based on one or two pieces of evidence while we ignore anything we know about to the contrary. 

Overgeneralization supports our negative self-beliefs and image. Our self-doubt is so intense if someone rejects us, we assume everyone will reject us. Because we persuade ourselves it is unlikely anyone would be interested in getting to know us, we avoid situations where that might occur. That aggravates our SAD-induced fears of interacting or talking with strangers and avoidance of social situations.

Our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are usually overgeneralizations. “No one will like me.” “I’m a failure.” “She called me stupid.” “Everyone thinks I’m an idiot.” These self-defeating thoughts are based on our fears and anxieties rather than the available evidence. An example of overgeneralization would be the false assumption that, because you failed a test, you will never be able to pass the course.

We justify our prejudices by overgeneralizing. One bad apple in a group means everyone in the group is rotten. We make broad and inaccurate assumptions about that group based on this one person’s behavior. Overgeneralized thinking can cause us to wrongly judge entire groups of people, which is harmful to self and society.

This distortion inevitably leads to avoidance, limiting our willingness to experience things because we have self-prophesied what will happen based on it happening before. Similar to Filtering, where we ignore the positive and dwell on the negative, and Polarized Thinking, where we see things in black or white, overgeneralization is based on assuming the worst. Keywords that support this cognitive distortion include allevery, none, never, always, everybody, and nobodyOvergeneralization often tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy and is associated with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, depression, panic attacks, PTSD, and OCD.

The rational response to overgeneralization is to (1) consider the accuracy of the statement and consider the available evidence, and (2) identify the situation, fears, and ANTs that compel the need to cognitively distort in the first place.

PERSONALIZATION. If someone says to us, “don’t take it personally,“ we are likely engaging in Personalization. When we engage in this type of thinking, we assume that doings and events are directly related to us and that random remarks are personally relevant. For those of us living with social anxiety disorder, Personalization is symptomatic as in our fear of being criticized or ridiculed, or our perception we are the glaring center of attention in a room.

Personalization is the stepping-stone to internal blaming and internal control fallacies where we wrongly believe we are responsible for things we have little or nothing to do with. As I cautioned earlier, cognitive distortions are not cut-and-dried but ambiguous and overlapping 

Did you ever walk into a room, and everyone suddenly stops talking? If you assume they were talking about you, you are exhibiting an acute case of Personalization

Those of us living with SAD have difficulty understand things from the perspectives of others. Our self-centeredness drives us to assume unassociated incidents involve us. We imagine the world revolves around us which only aggravates our fears of saying or doing the wrong thing and embarrassing ourselves.

Another aspect of Personalization is when we compare ourselves to the achievements of others. If a coworker receives a commendation, we feel inadequate because we were not honored. Our need to personalize is underscored by our concerns about how others think about us. If we do not receive the acclaim to which we think we are entitled, we believe we are being judged unfairly. The rational response to someone receiving a commendation is to recognize their achievements, but our low self-esteem makes us envious. 

As children, we believe the world revolves around us, and fail to consider the viewpoints of others. We are cognitively incapable of considering the other probabilities. We assume our parents fight because we did something wrong. Most reasonable people grow out of this self-obsession, but SAD subsists on irrationality which makes us feel underappreciated and misunderstood.

Much of recovery focuses on the regeneration of our self-esteem through the renewed mindfulness of our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. 

POLARIZED THINKING. One of the symptoms of SAD is our compulsion to overanalyze our performance in a situation, tormented by our mistakes, our inept interaction, or our poor conversation skills. We preoccupy ourselves – often for days on end – with everything we think we did wrong, obsessing over what we should have done better. We tell ourselves unless a thing is done to perfection, it is not worth doing at all.

Perfectionism is not just the desire to do well; it is the need to be infallible. If we can’t be perfect, there is little point in bothering. Perfectionism exacerbates our social anxiety. We worry about appearing vacuous or inadequate, fearing exposure to our imperfections. 

In Polarized Thinking, we see things as absolute – black or white. There is no middle ground, no compromise. We are either brilliant or abject failures. Our friends are for us or against us. We do not allow room for balanced perspectives or outcomes. We refuse to give people the benefit of the doubt. Worse than our anxiety about criticism is our self-judgment. If we are not flawless and masterful, we must be broken and inept. There is no room for mistakes or mediocrity, “I failed my last exam; I fail at everything I try. I’m a loser.”

Like FilteringPolarized Thinking is selective. To remedy our dichotomous perspective, we identify the anxiety-provoking situation and examine our corresponding fears and automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). From there, we analyze their inaccuracy and initiate rational responses

It is important to consider the holism and multiple perspectives of life’s events and replace the myopia of Filtering and the rigidity of Polarized Thinking with the kaleidoscope of viewpoints, interpretations, and possibilities.

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WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT SO IMPORTANT?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to reinvigorate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

Chapter 16: Recovery Mechanisms

Robert F.Mullen, PhD

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid)

This is a draft of Chapter Sixteen – “Recovery Mechanisms” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

Recovery Mechanisms

“Success depends upon previous preparation,
and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure.”
– Confucius

We are at war and social anxiety disorder is the enemy. Successfully challenging our fears and anxieties requires a strategy. A military strategist is someone skilled in planning the best way to gain an advantage against the enemy to achieve success. As strategists, we identify the vulnerabilities of the enemy and our wherewithal to exploit them. We build the case and create the blueprint for successful engagement. We develop the weapons, propagandize our neural network, and define the territory. Our strategy, techniques, and abilities are our weapons. We lead the forces of recovery; no one else can do that for us. Strategist Sun Tzu wrote extensively about enemy terrain and accessibility – entangling ground. narrow passes, and precipitous heights. The hostile terrain is our life-consistent negative thoughts and behaviors. To successfully negotiate it we utilize our character strengths, attributes, and achievements.  

Before executing our Structured Plan for Feared-Situations, we have additional key definitions to assimilate. 

Once again, a Situation is a set of circumstances – the facts, conditions, and incidents affecting us at a particular time in a particular place. A Feared-Situation is one that provokes fears and anxieties that negatively impact our emotional well-being and quality of life. Examples range from restaurants and the classroom to job interviews and social events. 

There are two types of situations. Anticipated and recurring situations are those that we know, in advance, provoke our fears and anxieties. Unexpected situations are those we do not anticipate that catch us by surprise. 

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are anxiety-provoking thoughts, emotions, and images that occur in anticipation of or reaction to a situation. We touched upon them in Chapter Five. They are the unpleasant expressions of our negative self-beliefs that define who we think we are and who we think others think we are. (“No one will talk to me.” “I’ll do something stupid.” “I’m a loser.”) 

Identifying situations and unpacking associated fears and ANTs are crucial to recovery.

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As individuals living with social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities, we are challenged by a series of symptoms. Individually, we are not impacted by all of them or by the same ones as other SAD persons. Our issues are as distinctive as our experiences and personalities. The approaches to recovery are targeted to meet individual needs. Moderating our associated fears and corresponding ANTs demands an integrated and targeted approach. Through the following steps, we learn to: 

Identify our Feared Situation(s). Where are we when we feel anxious or fearful and what activities are involved (what are we thinking, what might we be doing)? Who and what do we avoid because of these insecure feelings? 

Identify our Associated Fear(s). One way to identify our anxiety is to ask ourselves the following: What is problematic for me in the situation? How do I feel (physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually)? What is my specific concern or worry? What is the worst thing that could happen to me? What do I imagine might happen to me?

Unmask our Corresponding ANT(s). We determine how we express our anxiety. What are our involuntary emotional expressions or images? How do we negatively self-label? What do we tell ourselves? “I am incompetent.” “I am stupid.”

Examine and Analyze Our Fear(s) and ANTs. What are the origins of our fears and anxieties? Discovery approaches include cognitive comprehension, introspection, psychoeducation, and the vertical arrow technique.

Generate Rational Responses. We become mindful of the irrationality and self-destructive nature of our fears and ANTs. We discover and analyze the cognitive distortions that we use to validate or reinforce our fears. Then we devise rational responses to counter our false assumptions. The character motivations of psychobiography and positive psychology are useful here.

Reconstruct Our Thought Patterns. Through proactive neuroplasticity and cognitive approaches, we convert our thought patterns by replacing or overwhelming our toxic thoughts and behaviors with healthy productive ones. The process is facilitated by the rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation of DRNI (the deliberate, repetitive neural input of information). 

Devise a Structured Plan for Our Feared Situations(s). Utilizing our learned tools and techniques, we develop a plan to challenge our situational fears and anxieties by devising a strategy and incorporating targeted coping mechanisms.

Practice the Plan in Non-Threatening Simulated Situations. We strengthen our rational responses by repeatedly implementing the Plan in practiced exercises including role play and other workshop interactivities. Affirmative Visualization is a valuable scientific tool.

Expose Ourselves to the Feared Situation. We challenge our anxieties and corresponding ANTs on-site in real life. This transpires after a suitable period of graded exposure to facilitate the reconstruction of our neural network and a familiarity with the prescribed tools and techniques. 

Workshop participants are asked to list their top five anxiety-provoking situations. First on George’s list was speaking in front of a group or audience. His corresponding fears were that he would not be taken seriously and be overwhelmed as the center of attention. His automatic negative thoughts were “I will be criticized” and “They will ridicule my anxiety.” Rational responses to these fears and ANTs are multiple. Among others, George chose “I deserve to be here” and “I am as worthy as everyone else.” Using this information, he created his Structured Plan for Feared-Situations.

Coping Strategies and Mechanisms

A coping strategy is our plan of action, and coping mechanisms are the tools or weapons we utilize to implement our strategy. To paraphrase the strategic offensive principle of war, “The best defense against social anxiety is a good offense” There are many moving parts to a counteroffensive requiring different levels of responsibility and expertise. At the top, we have our military strategists like Napoleon, Hannibal, and Eisenhower whose roles were to develop structured plans of action to outmaneuver the opponent. In recovery, this is our coping strategy designed to outmaneuver our social anxiety disorder – to moderate our fears and anxieties.

We then identify the actions or measurable steps needed to execute our strategy. In military jargon, those are the tactics implemented by field officers on the ground. In recovery, these are our coping mechanisms. A definitive strategy also identifies what resources are needed to implement the tactics. On the battlefield, the resources are the infantry, the training, and the equipment. In recovery, we are all these.

This process of strategizing is not linear or trickle-down, but complementary to its accessible assets. A smart military strategist plots the counteroffensive around the available weaponry, the expertise of the field officers, and the numbers and capabilities of the ground troops. In recovery, our coping strategy is fashioned around our ability to execute it. In Chapters Nineteen and Twenty-One, we explore some of the coping mechanisms that support our efforts.

In recovery, we do not have strategists to plan our counteroffensive nor officers on the ground to tactically implement it. We are the generals, the field officers, and the foot soldiers. The onus of recovery is on us. We are in an enviable position; recovery through proactive neuroplasticity empowers us to take control of our emotional well-being and quality of life. Master orator, William Jennings Bryan never became president but was the youngest person in U.S. History to be nominated – three times. He wrote, “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

Coping Strategies

There are maladaptive and adaptive coping strategies. Since maladaptive is particular to social anxiety disorder, we focus on adaptive coping strategies to counter our negative thoughts and behaviors. Experts tout problem-focused strategies, emotional-focused strategies, and a plethora of others. Multiple strategies are used in recovery including response-focused and cognitive-focused.

We use our coping mechanisms and skills in anticipated and recurring situations as well as unexpected ones. For the latter, we cultivate generic skills useful in any stressful occasion. For predetermined situations, we devise a structured plan incorporating predetermined coping mechanisms.

Strategizing how to combat our feared-situations is a crucial element of recovery. When we are facing anticipated and recurring situations, we know what to expect. We have advanced knowledge of the logistics of the event or occasion and have identified our associated fears and corresponding automatic negative thoughts.

Knowing how to effectively respond to anticipated situations is challenging enough. Devising fluid strategies to help us moderate unexpected situations is comparable to planning for the tactics used in guerilla warfare. Our social anxiety will use any means to control our emotional well-being including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, and hit-and-run tactics. These are the elements of unexpected situations. Guerilla warfare is conducted by a lesser force to subdue a stronger, more formidable force. Your social anxiety disorder is small and inferior to our inherent and developed character strengths, virtues, and attributes. That is why SAD has to resort to devious, underhanded, and manipulative tactics. Chapter Eighteen will examine the most effective coping strategies and mechanisms for unexpected situations, and those that support anticipated and recurring situations will be outlined in Chapter Twenty.

Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are tools and techniques that we consciously or unconsciously use to moderate stress and reduce the neurotransmissions of our fear and anxiety-provoking hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. They range from practiced skills we learn in recovery (e.g., slow talk and progressive muscle relaxation), to instinctual reactions to stress like going for a walk or listening to music. Healthy coping mechanisms are adaptive – positive contributions to our emotional well-being. Cognitive coping mechanisms include introspection and affirmative visualization – ways to mentally improve our response to situations. Behavioral coping mechanisms are interactive distractions – activities to moderate our fears and anxieties.

Defense Mechanisms

Unhealthy or negative coping mechanisms are called defense mechanisms – unhealthy safeguards against the thoughts and emotions that are difficult for our conscious minds to manage. Defense mechanisms are mostly unconscious psychological responses that protect us from our fears and anxieties. They are methods of avoidance – unhealthy responses to SAD-induced conflicts – that offer temporary respite but do little to moderate our anxieties in the long term. Substance abuse, denial, projection, regression, sublimation, and cognitive distortions are common defense mechanisms.

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Without coping mechanisms, healthy or otherwise, we can experience decompensation – the inability or unwillingness to generate effective psychological coping mechanisms in response to stress – resulting in personality disturbance or disintegration.

Those of us living with SAD are preoccupied with the future, predicting how things will go wrong. We avoid situations because we anticipate making a fool of ourselves. We dread exposing ourselves to criticism and ridicule. Not only are we consumed with anxiety during situations, but we confront it days in advance. We create self-fulfilling prophecies of miserable and lonely solutions. Before recovery, I recall repeatedly circling the block before a social situation to bolster my courage. More often than not, I ended up in the bar rather than the event. Not only did I fear letting myself down, but I guaranteed it through my avoidance. I had no strategy.

There are literally hundreds of coping mechanisms that can make those stressful moments in life easier to handle, including yoga, dancing, meditation, eating, painting, writing, and streaming a movie. Anything that takes us out of the stress of the moment and reduces the flow of those pesky chemical hormones. The mechanisms detailed in these chapters are designed specifically to moderate the symptoms of our social anxiety in feared-situations.

Going into a problematic situation without a strategy and functional coping mechanisms is jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. In the words of the pioneer of moderation, Benjamin Franklin: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” 

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Comments. Suggestions. Constructive Criticism

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WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT SO IMPORTANT?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to reinvigorate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.  

Coping Mechanisms for Anticipated and Recurring Situations

Robert F. Mullen, PhD

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” WeVoice (Madrid)

This is a draft of Chapter Twenty-One – “Coping Mechanisms for Anticipated and Recurring Situations” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. We present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

Coping Mechanisms for Anticipated and Recurring Situations

“You were born to win, but to be a winner,
you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”
―  Zig Ziglar

Chapter Nineteen presented coping mechanisms for unexpected situationsThis chapter focuses on those mechanisms that help us cope with anticipated and recurring ones. The distinction is clear. When we are thrust, without warning, into a feared-situation, we do not have the wherewithal to create a focused strategy. That’s why we have our emergency preparedness kit. When dealing with a scheduled event or one that meets regularly, we have the opportunity to plan accordingly. We have a clear picture of the logistics or what Sun Tzu identifies as terrain and personal. We know when and where it takes place, the agenda, the genre of the audience – even the suggested attire. That provides opportunities for new coping mechanisms that we can use in conjunction with the ones we have already in our arsenal. 

The keystone of British military operations is clearly identifying the single, unambiguous aim or goal in combat. Why these continued combat analogies? To reinforce the fact that social anxiety disorder is a formidable adversary that cannot be taken lightly. It has relentlessly attacked our emotional well-being since adolescence. Recovery is not a sport or casual diversion, it is serious business. SAD is our enemy and treating it otherwise will not get the necessary results. 

Our strategy must be clear and concise because SAD is clever and manipulative. If we stray off course, SAD will sense the weakness in our flank and ambush us with mechanisms that will send us to the trenches. Our resolution must be firm and unwavering. Here is our predicament. Emotional dysfunction adversely impacts our short-term memory and concentration, making it difficult to formulate a succinct and focused strategy. We are already worried about saying or doing something embarrassing that will lead to criticism and ridicule. Our fear and anxiety-provoking hormones rage throughout our nervous system, and we anticipate the worst possible situational outcome. Small wonder we have difficulty paying attention to anything. We must remain mindful of this single overarching goal of our recovery: the moderation of our fears and anxieties. By familiarizing ourselves with the coping strategies and mechanisms designed to make that happen, we weed out extraneous ambitions, allowing us to focus on the goal. The British call these mechanisms the Concentration of Force.

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We are now ready to create our battle blueprint using our Plan for Feared Situations, which is our template for moderating our anxiety and stress. The first six criteria are established for both unexpected and anticipated and recurring situations. To recap, we:

1. Identify Our Feared-Situation
2. Identify Our Associated Fears
3. Unmask Our Corresponding ANT(s)
4. Examine and Analyze Our Fears and Corresponding ANT(s)
5. Generate Rational Responses
6. Reconstruct our Thought Patterns
7. Devise a Structured Plan for Our Feared-Situation
8. Practice the Plan in Non-Threatening Simulated Situations
9. Expose Ourselves to the Feard-Situation

Line item #7 is where we outline our Concentration of Force. Earlier, we compared unexpected situations to guerilla warfare. We assembled an emergency preparedness kit to compensate for the circumstantial lack of Concentration of Force because we are dealing with surprise. Remember, in guerilla warfare, SAD resorts to devious, underhanded, and manipulative tactics to keep us in check including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, and hit-and-run tactics. In Chapter Nineteen we presented the following coping mechanisms to respond to unexpected feared situations

  • Controlled Breathing
  • Distractions and Diversions
  • Positive Personal Affirmations
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Rational Response
  • Slow Talk
  • Small Talk

The availability of Distractions and Diversions is increased, and Rational Response is more concrete in anticipated and recurring situations because we can correlate them to known information. These coping mechanisms, incorporated in Our Concentration of Force for anticipated and recurring situations, are augmented by the following: 

  • Affirmative Visualization 
  • Character Focus 
  • Persona 
  • Projected Positive Outcomes 
  • Purpose 
  • Strategy
  • SUDS Rating and Projected SUDS Rating

Affirmative Visualizations are positive outcome scenarios that we mentally recreate by imagining or visualizing them. We label the process Affirmative to emphasize the positivity of the visualizations to counteract our natural negative bias and our predisposition to set negative outcome scenarios due to our unyielding negative self-beliefs and images. Chapter Twenty-Five breaks down the scientific confirmation of the effectiveness of affirmation visualization.

Character Focus. While other branches of psychology prioritize dysfunction and abnormal behavior, positive psychology emphasizes our character strengths and positive behaviors that underscore our value and significance. A primary objective of the recovery process is becoming mindful of the healthy aspects of our person that have been subverted by the negative self-beliefs that sustain our social anxiety disorder. The adverse impact on our self-esteem is due to our negative core and immediate beliefs generated by childhood disturbance and the onset of SAD. Rediscovering our character strengths, virtues, and attributes and recognizing our achievements helps us moderate our fears and anxieties and regenerate our self-esteem. The self-appreciation of our value and significance subverts our negative self-beliefs and image.

Strategy is our structured plan of action to achieve our goal – that of moderating our fears and anxieties. Objectives are the measurable steps or actions we take to achieve our goal. Strategies and alterable to fit the situation; our primary goal is inflexible. Our strategy is the blueprint of what we anticipate and have determined will happen during our feared-situation. It is a compilation of our coping mechanisms and other skills we have acquired in recovery. It is our script and we are the producers, actors, and technicians. In Chapter Twenty-Three we will chart each of the coping mechanisms we utilize, and create a narrative strategy as our master blueprint.

Persona. Sixty percent of communication is represented by our body language. Our Persona helps establish our body language. Persona is the social face we present to our situation, designed to make a positive impression while concealing our social anxiety. It determines how we carry ourselves, the timbre of our voice, the shoes we wear (boots, sneakers, high heels), and the attitude we present. Personas are not other-selves but various aspects of our personality. We have multiple Personas subject to our mood, temperament, and circumstance. We present ourselves differently depending upon the context of the situation, e.g., a sports event versus an interview for a job or a family dinner versus a sorority bash. Deliberately choosing a Persona dramatically alters our perspective, attitude, and presentation.

The development of a viable social Persona is a vital part of preparing for and adapting to our multiple situations. A static or single Persona (i.e., our SAD persona) inhibits psychological development. A strong sense of self-esteem relates to the outside world through flexible personas adaptable to different situations.

For example, our physical cadence is a combination of our walk, posture, and attitude. It reflects our mood and circumstance. Deliberately creating a cadence for a situation can dramatically alter our perspective and emotional state. A walk of rejection is different from one of exuberance. Our cadence at a funeral is different from that at a rock concert. One method to change our walk and posture to correspond to a deliberate attitude is to attach an imaginary string to different parts of our body. The physical and emotional contrast between propelling ourselves with our chest versus our knees or chin is significant. As part of our strategy, we can predefine our attitude, establish a cadence, and incorporate them into our Persona. It is a fun and powerful alternative mindset.

Projected Positive Outcome. Because our negative thoughts and behaviors are irrational expressions of our self-beliefs, we tend to set unreasonable expectations. The key to recovery is progress, not perfection. We already know the projected negative outcome if we capitulate to our fears. What is the positive outcome we choose to design for ourselves? What would we like to achieve, and what would satisfy our objectives? What would leave us with a sense of pride and accomplishment? Setting moderate expectations can better guarantee a positive outcome. Our Projected Positive Outcome should be rational, possible, and unconditional. We set reasonable expectations to ensure the probability of success. 

Purpose. The motivation(s) behind our exposure to a situation. Our overarching purpose in recovery is to moderate our fears and anxieties. We rarely expose ourselves to situations, however, for the sole purpose of challenging our social anxiety. We have alternative or secondary motivations. Why are we in this situation? What do we seek or hope to accomplish? If our situation is the barbershop or beauty salon (not uncommon sources of anxiety) then it is reasonable to conclude that our purpose or secondary goal is to get our hair cut or styled. If it is a social event, we might consider multiple secondary goals, e.g., to network, make friends, or seek an intimate relationship. It is important to predefine our purpose(s). We have enough things to consider without riddling our angst with imprudence. It is advisable, however, to limit ourselves to a single secondary purpose because it strengthens and reinforces our focus and resolve. Additionally, our Purpose ostensibly becomes a part of our Projected Positive Outcome – achieving it becomes a benchmark for a successful experience. For example, if our Purpose is to network, handing out a business card could lend itself to a successful conclusion. (Remember, our Projected Positive Outcome is subjective.) Conversely, maintaining two Purposes such as networking and seeking a sexual liaison, significantly reduces the probability of a successful venture, leading to disappointment and self-recrimination. There’s an old Russian proverb, If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.

SUDS Rating and Projected SUDS Rating.  The Subjective Units of Distress Scale is a scale ranging from 0 to 100 that measures the severity of our fears and anxieties in a situation. It allows us to set reasonable expectations of success when challenging them. It is a subjective exercise designed to generate a positive response to a perceptually negative situation. The key word is subjective; it is our evaluation of what level we anticipate our stress will be (SUDS Rating) during a situation, and what we project it will be upon its successful completion (Projected SUDS Rating). Like most things in recovery, moderation is essential. Over-evaluating our anxiety before exposing ourselves to the situation may be self-fulfilling prophecy. The universal law of attraction often mirrors our beliefs – thus the adage, be careful what you wish for. Notwithstanding our SUDS evaluation before the situation happens, it is even more important to moderate our expectations. We tend to set unreasonable ones to compensate for our years of self-disappointment and, if our expectations are not met, we justify our irrational negative self-beliefs and image. A moderate Projected SUDS Rating will present the probability of a successful venture. Remember, all of this is subjective, which means we control the process from anticipation to result. If we evaluate our initial SUDs Rating at 70, a reasonable and attainable Projected SUDS Rating might be 65 or 60. Ostensibly, we can achieve that just by showing up. No matter what occurs, we come out ahead. 

Here is more good news. Unlike other interminable conflicts beset by losses and retreats and having to retake the same hill over and over again, once something is gained in recovery, it cannot be lost or repossessed by the enemy. Our DRNI has reconfigured our neural network, so there is no going back. We have begun to understand and accept the irrationality of our SAD-induced negative thoughts and behaviors and responded accordingly. That awareness cannot be rescinded. By rediscovering our character strengths and attributes, and reaffirming our achievements, we have begun the process of self-esteem regeneration. Recovery and transformation are processes of evolution that cannot be turned back upon themselves.

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WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT SO IMPORTANT?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.  

Social Anxiety Workshop

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ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral self-modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to regenerate self-esteem disrupted by the adolescent onset of our social anxiety.  

“I would like to say thank you for a well-organized learning experience. I can’t tell you how much I really appreciate this program. I feel so confident and ready to utilize these resources/tools you’ve provided.” – Trish D.

  • Recovery: regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
  • Empowerment: becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.
  • Neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning or experience.
  • Proactive: controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
  • Proactive Neuroplasticity: defining our emotional well-being through DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information.

Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood leads to psychological complications has been well-established, as has the recognition of early exploitation as a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability. SAD onsets during adolescence due to childhood physical, emotional, or sexual disturbance. This disturbance – real or imagined, intentional or accidental – generates negative core and intermediate self-beliefs and disrupts the natural psychological development of self-esteem.

Our Recovery and Self-Empowerment Groups

A group provides support and information. It is a safe and confidential space where participants can share experiences in a collegial and supportive environment. ReChanneling currently facilitates three Meetup Groups with over 1,000 members.

  • Social Anxiety and Proactive Neuroplasticity
  • LGBTQ+ Social Anxiety Group
  • ReChanneling: Recovery and Empowerment

Our Online Recovery Workshop

The ultimate objectives of our online Recovery Workshops are to:

  • Provide the tools to replace years of toxic thoughts and behaviors with rational, healthy ones, dramatically moderating the self-destructive symptoms of anxiety, depression, and comorbidities.
  • Compel the rediscovery and reinvigoration of our character strengths, attributes, and achievements.
  • Design a targeted self-behavioral modification process to help us re-engage our social comfort and status.
  • Provide the means to control our symptoms rather than allowing them to control us.

Logistics. Individually targeted workshops are most effective with a maximum of ten on-site participants, and eight participants for the current online workshops. 

“Rechanneling’s Social Anxiety Workshop produced results within a few sessions, with continuing improvement throughout the workshop and behind.” – Liz D.

Proactive neuroplasticity is supported by DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information. What is that information? How do we construct it? The objective is to ensure the information effectively enables positive behavioral modification. How do we expedite this? What are the best tools and techniques? There is no one right way to recover or achieve a personal goal or objective. So also, what helps us at one time in life may not help us at another.

It is myopic of recovery programs to lump us into a single niche. Individually, we are a conglomerate of personalities―distinct phenomena generated by everything and anything experienced in our lifetime. Every teaching, opinion, belief, and influence develops our personality. It is our current and immediate being and the expression of that being, formed by core beliefs and developed by social, cultural, and environmental experiences. It is our inimitable way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It is who we are, who we think we are, and who we believe we are destined to become. 

The insularity of cognitive-behavioral therapy, positive psychologies, and other approaches cannot comprehensively address the complexity of the personality. That requires an integration of multiple traditional and non-traditional approaches, developed through client trust, cultural assimilation, and therapeutic innovation. Environment, experiences, and connectedness reflect our choices and aspirations. 

An integration of science and east-west psychologies captures the diversity of human thought and experience. Science gives us proactive neuroplasticity; cognitive-behavioral self-modification and positive psychology’s optimal functioning are western-oriented; eastern practices provide the therapeutic benefits of Abhidharma psychology and the overarching truths of ethical behavior. Included are targeted approaches utilized to regenerate self-esteem and motivation.

“I am simply in awe at the writing, your insights, your deep knowing of transcendence, your intuitive understanding of psychic-physical pain, your connection of the pain to healing … and above all, your innate compassion.”Jan Parker, PhD.

Neuroplasticity is evidence of our brain’s constant adaptation to learning. Scientists refer to the process as structural remodeling of the brain. It is what makes learning and registering new experiences possible. All information notifies our neural network to realign, generating a correlated change in thought and behavior. 

Proactive neuroplasticity is our capacity to dramatically expedite learning by consciously compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information (DRNI) empowers us to proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new perspectives, mindsets, and abilities. Proactive neuroplasticity is the most effective means of learning and unlearning because the process accelerates and consolidates neural restructuring. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Self-Modification (CBSM) focuses on replacing our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) with rational ones (ARTs). It is most productive when used in concert with other approaches. CBSM is structured, goal-oriented, and solution rather than etiology-driven because the objective is modifying our current condition to improve our emotional well-being and quality of life. The ‘self-modification’ module emphasizes the self-reliance and personal accountability demanded by proactive neuroplasticity.

Positive psychology emphasizes our inherent and acquired character strengths, attributes, and achievements that lead toward optimum functioning. Its psychological objective is to encourage us to shift our negative outlook towards a more optimistic perspective to support the motivation, persistence, and perseverance important to recovery and the pursuit of our goals and objectives. Positive psychology’s mental health interventions have proved successful in mitigating the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other self-destructive patterns, producing significant improvements in emotional well-being.

“I like Robert’s SAD recovery program, especially how it’s taking many of my negative thoughts away and replacing them with positive ones. I also appreciate the others that are in our recovery group, as we all mingle quite well. And, of course, Robert is always there as nurturing and positive friend.” – Michael Z. 

Eastern psychology presents a system for understanding our psychological dispositions, processes, and challenges. It encourages us to foster good intentions, tolerance, wholesome and kind living, productive livelihood, positive attitude, self-awareness, and integrity – qualities that underscore the neural input of healthy and productive information.

Due to our negative core and intermediate self-beliefs generated by childhood disturbance and SAD onset, we are subject to latent self-esteem. Addressing this is an essential part of recovery and transformation. A fusion of clinically proven exercises helps us to redeem and develop our self-esteem and motivation – to appreciate our value and significance.

To comprehensively address the complexity of the personality, we devise individual-based solutions. Training in prosocial behavior and emotional literacy are useful supplements to typical approaches. Behavioral exercises and exposure cultivate our social skills. Positive affirmations have enormous subjective value. Data provide evidence for mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions. Motivational enhancement strategies help overcome our resistance to new ideas and concepts.

Workshop Components

Methods utilized in our Recovery Workshops include psychoeducation, cognitive comprehension, roleplay, and exposure.

Psychoeducation teaches us about the relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and physiological reactions. Complementarity is the inherent cooperation of mind, body, spirit, and emotions working in concert. Recovery is facilitated by their simultaneous mutual interaction.

Cognitive Comprehension involves correcting the exaggerated and irrational thought patterns that perpetuate our anxiety and depression. SAD twists reality to reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors and validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Becoming mindful of how we use these distortions and rationally responding invalidates them. 

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Roleplay. Participants act out various social roles in dramatic situations that, through comprehension and repetition help us learn how to cope with stress and conflicts.

Exposure. By utilizing graded exposure, we start with Situations that are easier for us to manage, then work our way up to more challenging tasks. This allows us to build our confidence slowly as we practice learned skills to ease our situational anxiety. By doing this in a structured and repeated way, we reduce our fears and apprehensions. In vivo exposure allows us to confront feared stimuli in real-world conditions.

Workshop Strategies May Include:

Positive Personal Affirmations
Character Resume
Vertical Arrow Technique
Invalidating Shame and Guilt
Purpose and Persona
Positive Autobiography

Coping Mechanisms
Affirmative Visualization
Slow-talk, Small-talk
Cognitive Distortions
ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts)
Feared Exposure Situations

“I have never encountered such an efficient professional … His work transpires dedication, care, and love for what he does.” –  Jose Garcia Silva, PhD, Composer Cosmos          

These are active, structured Workshops for people who are willing and motivated to challenge the symptoms of their emotional dysfunction and regenerate their self-esteem and motivation. This means we only work with committed individuals who are willing to fully participate in the discussions and exercises. 

The current workshops consist of ten online weekly sessions, meeting in the evening and lasting roughly 1-1/2 hours. There is minimal homework (approximately 1 hour weekly) limited to self-evaluation. After completion of the Recovery Workshop, we conference monthly for the following year, at no cost, to support the recovery process. 

For low-income students, weekly tuition is less than the cost of a movie and popcorn.

The cost of the workshop is on a sliding scale:

  • $40 per session if income is $100,000+
  • $35 per session if income is $75,000 – $99,999
  • $30 per session if income is $50,000 – $74,999
  • $25 per session if income is less than $25,000 – $49,999
  • $20 per session if income is under $25,000.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

Individual support is available to a select few. 

For further information, to register, or to request an interview, please complete the following form.

Workshop applicants will be contacted to schedule an interview.

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these,
“It might have been.”
 –  John Greenleaf Whittier

WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT SO IMPORTANT?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to reinvigorate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.