Dealing with the Loss Generated by Change

Robert F. Mullen, PhD

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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, Málaga)

It is important to recognize the sense of loss we experience when we moderate or replace our adverse thoughts and behaviors. Even though we compensate with healthy substitutions, we are impacted by the residual effects of subverted negativity as we process change. 

Recovery and self-empowerment involve regaining what has been stolen or lost. In social anxiety, it is our emotional well-being and quality of life. In self-empowerment, it is our self-esteem and motivation. By regaining or regenerating these things, we lose their negative attributions. In loss there is gain, as in gain there is loss. We are hard-wired to resist change. We are physiologically structured to attack anything that disrupts our equilibrium. Experiencing loss produces physiological changes in our heart rate, metabolism, and respiration. Inertia senses and resists these changes, while our basal ganglia opposes any modification in our patterns of behavior. A key part of our neural network, the basil ganglia controls our body’s voluntary movements. It is also involved in processes like emotions, motivation, and habits, so we are psychologically impacted by change as well.

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We also know that our brain does not distinguish healthy from toxic information. Our neural network provides the same benefits to negative or positive input. It reciprocates the energy of that information in abundance, It activates the same long-term potentiation, provides the same BDNF proteins associated with improved cognitive functioning, and the same fifty or so chemical hormones that make us feel good. Modifying our behavior is not only challenging but we are impacted by its residual effects. 

Loss impacts our sense of identity and compels us to reevaluate our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. It causes us to readjust our behaviors and make changes in our daily lives. It refocuses our cognitive efforts. These are all healthy modifications that consolidate neural restructuring and support recovery and self-empowerment. 

Loss can also provoke confusion and depression, generate feelings of guilt, and cause us to withdraw from friends and activities. These common symptoms are due to the physiological and psychological impact of change. Mindfulness and preparedness effectively moderate any adverse reactions.

The Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) is a numbered, self-evaluation scale (1-100) that measures the intensity of distress we feel about a situation. SUDS has two purposes in recovery and self-empowerment. The first is to help us identify and evaluate the severity of our fears and corresponding ANTs (automatic negative thoughts). It also helps us set reasonable expectations; By establishing a projected SUDSs Rating, we project how well we will moderate that distress utilizing our recovery tools and techniques. SUDS exercises are designed to generate a positive response to a potentially negative outcome.

The SAD-provoked negative self-beliefs and image that accompany our psychological trajectory leave an indelible imprint on our emotional development that cannot be fully eradicated. This contradicts any assertion that social anxiety disorder can be cured. By replacing or overwhelming these adverse thoughts and behaviors, we can dramatically moderate their impact. Reducing our SUDS from 85 to 25 is a formidable accomplishment. It is the difference between a tornado (which we equate to the devastating damage of social anxiety) and intermittent showers. Most days are sunny and the coping mechanisms we learn in recovery provide adequate protection when it rains. 

It is human nature to feel the loss, physically and psychologically, of a behavioral attachment that has been part-and-parcel of our being for years. However, as the godfather of positive psychology Abraham Maslow assures us, “…the loss of illusions and the discovery of identity, though painful at first, can be ultimately exhilarating and strengthening.” 

In effect, that which does not kill us makes us stronger. We experience loss when we replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones. Prudence dictates we anticipate and prepare for its impact. 

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