Robert F Mullen, PhD
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The distinction between social anxiety disorder and social anxiety is a matter of severity; reference to one includes the other. The recovery tools and techniques provided are applicable to most emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. These malfunctions originate homogeneously, their trajectories differentiated by environment, experience, and the diversity of human thought and behavior.
Positive Personal Affirmations
“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)
The positive thinker sees the invisible,
feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”
– Winston Churchill
Positive personal affirmations (PPAs) are self-empowering, motivating statements of purpose that we repeat to ourselves to challenge our negative self-beliefs. Executing them repeatedly is one of the more efficient means of neural restructuring. Additionally, the power of suggestion supports the replacement of our toxic thoughts and helps regenerate our self-esteem.
In defining his counteroffensive in war, Sun Tzu wrote, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” That is what we are doing with the deliberate, repetitive neural input (DRNI) of our PPAs. By barraging our brain with positive information, we are breaking down its resistance to healthy thoughts and behaviors due to our life-consistent negative self-beliefs.
Executing PPAs properly initiates the rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation that causes positive neural chain reactions. PPAs are the most effective way to accelerate and consolidate proactive neuroplasticity. Additionally, PNPs help us focus on goals, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and reprogram our subconscious minds.
Consequently, the three Rs of recovery – restructuring, replacing, and regenerating are satisfied.
Why We Dismiss PPAs
So, why do we resist executing this very elementary coping mechanism? Client interviews with persons recovering from emotional malfunction reveal a curious resistance to carrying out the simple task of implementing PPAs. Mindful of their value, we consistently fail to take advantage. Additionally, we rarely have a rational explanation.
So, let us discuss some reasons for our reticence.
Negativity Bias and Cognitive Bias
Humans are hard-wired with a negativity bias and inherently respond more favorably to adversity. Additionally, we have been inundated with SAD-provoked unhealthy thoughts and behaviors since adolescent onset. Our negative core and intermediate beliefs produce a cognitive bias that compels us to misinterpret information and make irrational decisions. PPAs, by definition, are positive manifestations that naturally conflict with our emotional trajectory.
Many of us disparage the new-age implications of PPAs. Even with recognition, comprehension, and acceptance of their benefits toward positive neural realignment, we find them silly and pretentious. Likewise, their 2000-year history in tantras and prayer compels us to dismiss them as archaic and impotent.
SAD is ostensibly the most underrated and misunderstood disorder. Its complexity disputes the effectiveness of simple and uncomplicated solutions. How can anything this straightforward contribute significantly to the restructuring of our neural network?
The calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information 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.
SAD drives us to disparage unfamiliar ideas and concepts. Our resistance to recovery and its tools and techniques is robust. Remember, humans are physiologically averse to change. We are hard-wired to resist anything that jeopardizes our status quo. Our brain’s inertia senses and repels change, and our basal ganglia resist any modification to behavior patterns.
Finally, since childhood, we have been badgered by parents and other influencers to think positively. However, they rarely considered the supporting scientific evidence. Cajoling someone to do something without explanation is like teaching a puppy to walk on its hind legs. It eventually learns, but only under duress, and probably resents its trainer. It is not self-motivated and does not perform without an audience.
In the wise words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Space is Limited
On the surface, creating PPAs sounds easy, but it is deceptively complex for SAD persons. It is challenging to grasp how years of negative self-beliefs are compensated by a few choice words. Our brains, however, do not think. They are neural reciprocators. Therefore, the intent and input of positive neural information compensate for our low implicit and explicit self-esteem.
That’s why mindfulness of the science behind proactive neuroplasticity is so important. If our PPAs meet the criteria for good information, our neural network will recognize them and restructure accordingly, whether we believe our information or not.
Power of Suggestion
Additionally, the power of suggestion instigates positive changes in our thoughts and behaviors. Psychology attributes it to our ‘response expectancies,’ or what I refer to as self-fulfilling prophecies. Response expectancies refer to our anticipation of a positive response. Similar to affirmative visualizations, PPAs are positive outcome scenarios that we mentally imagine or visualize.
All information passes through our thalamus – the small structure located just above the stem between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain. It has extensive nerve connections to both. By visualizing activity, we increase activity in the thalamus and our brain responds as though the activity is really happening. Our thalamus makes no distinction between inner and outer realities. Visualizing raising our left hand is, to our brain, the same thing as physically raising our left hand.
Any idea or suggestion, if contemplated solidly, will take on a semblance of reality. If we visualize a solution to a problem, the problem begins to resolve itself because visualizing activates the cognitive circuits involved with our working memory.
Neurons don’t act by themselves but through neural circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on electrical activity. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information from PPAs compels neurons to fire repeatedly, causing them to wire together. The more repetitions, the more robust the new connections.
Neuroscientist Donald Hebb pioneered the correlation between psychology and neuroscience as it relates to behavior. Hebbian Learning is a complex algorithm that is best summarized as “neurons that fire together wire together.” That means the simultaneous activation of nearby neurons leads to an increase in the strength of synaptic connections between them. While our input of information is not simultaneous, the corresponding reactivity of participating neurons produces the same response. PPAs accelerate and consolidate learning by causing neural circuits to strengthen and forward information.
Multiple repetitions of positive information activate millions of neurons that reciprocate that energy in abundance. Like any neural input of information, PPAs spark receptor neurons that forward positive energy to millions of participating neurons, causing a cellular chain reaction in multiple interconnected areas. Remember, our brain doesn’t distinguish healthy from toxic information. Positive information in, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Conversely, negative information in, negative energy reciprocated in abundance. Thus, the value of positive information.
Three PPAs repeated five times, three times daily generates forty-five cellular chain reactions, dramatically accelerating and consolidating the restructuring of our neural network. The process takes approximately five minutes out of our day.
Cortisol and Adrenaline
PPAs decrease the flow of the fear and anxiety-provoking hormones, cortisol and adrenaline while simultaneously producing hormones for memory, learning, and concentration. Scientists have identified over fifty chemical hormones in the human body. They are the messengers that control our physiological functions – our metabolism, homeostasis, and reproduction. Their distribution is precise. Even slight changes in levels can cause significant disruption to our health as in the cases of cortisol, adrenaline, and other fight or flight-inducing hormones.
Cortisol and adrenaline are called fear and anxiety-provoking hormones. Under stress, our amygdala signals our hypothalamus and sympathetic nervous control systems in the brain stem. The hypothalamus, in turn, alerts our cortisol and adrenaline hormones. This stress-related trajectory is stored in our physiological memory bank and the more the process is repeated, the more we are negatively impacted by these hormones.
Chronic stress induced by our SAD symptomatology causes a higher, more constant influx of cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine and other stress hormones into our system. Not only does this increase the risk of health problems like heart disease and stroke, but it contributes significantly to our anxiety and depression, causing problems with memory, cognition, and sleep patterns. PPAs help reduce the influx of these neural transmissions.
The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information also activates long-term potentiation, which increases the strength of the nerve impulses along the connecting pathways, generating more energy. Additionally, PPAs amplify the activity of our axon pathways, creating higher levels of BDNF (brain-derived neural factor) proteins. We accelerate learning and unlearning through deliberate repetition.
Criteria for Robust PPAs
The most effective PPAs are constructed using the following seven criteria.
- Rational: Our objective is to subvert the irrationality of our negative self-beliefs. It is illogical to cause ourselves harm. Irrationality is self-destructive because it subverts the truth.
- Reasonable: Of sound judgment; sensible. I will publish my first novel is an unreasonable expectation if we choose to remain illiterate.
- Possible: If our goals are impossible, our efforts are counter-productive and futile. I will win a Grammy is not a viable option to the tone-deaf.
- Unconditional: Placing limitations on our commitment by using words like maybe, might, and perhaps is our unconscious avoidance of accountability. Saying I might do something essentially means we may or may not do something depending upon our mood or disposition. How comfortable are we when someone says, I might consider paying you for your work?
- Goal-Focused: If we do not know our destination, our path will be unfocused and meandering.
- First-Person, Present Time: The past is immutable, and the future is indeterminate.
- Succinct: Brief, clearly expressed, and easily memorized.
The most effective PPAs are calculated and specific to our intention. Are we challenging the negative thoughts and behaviors of our social anxiety? Are we reaffirming the character strengths and virtues that support recovery and transformation? Are we focused on a specific challenge? What is our end goal – the personal milestone we want to achieve?
The process of proactive neuroplasticity is theoretically simple but challenging, due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term, repetitive process. We do not don tennis shorts and advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with rackets and balls; philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard.
As described earlier, neural restructuring requires a calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information that is not only tedious but also fails to deliver immediate tangible results. Fortunately, the universal law of compensation anticipates this. The positive impact of PPAs is exponential due to the abundant reciprocation of positive energy, the neural benefits, and the transmissions of hormones that accelerate and consolidate learning.
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