All posts by Robert F. Mullen, Ph.D.

About Robert F. Mullen, Ph.D.

Dr. Robert F. Mullen is the director of ReChanneling Inc, dedicated to the alleviation of physiological dysfunction and discomfort and the pursuit of personal goals and objectives. Its paradigmatic approach to historically and clinically practical approaches targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI―deliberate, repetitive, neural information. A published worldwide academic author, Mullen's dissertation focused on advanced human potential―the capacity to harness the intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living and the potential to lift the human spirit. His academic disciplines include contemporary behavior, modified psychobiography, and method psychology.

Rechanneling Our Personal Disharmony

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

Everything is connected. It is the first and most foundational
law of the universe. The universal law of oneness.

Complementarity is a state or system of complementary components combined in such a way as to enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other. We are concerned here with the complementarity or simultaneous mutual interaction of our mind, body, spirit, and emotions. Every thought and behavior is supported by their collaboration. They work in concert.

Complementarity is further defined as the inherent cooperation of our human system components in maintaining physiological equilibrium. It is essential for sustainability-of-life, our condition, and our recovery and pursuit of goals and objectives. 

Our mind, body, spirit, and emotions collaborate in the holism of our personality. They are its gestalt – interconnected parts of the whole that cannot exist independently of the whole or each other. Each component overlaps, influences, and is interdependent on the others, albeit one dominates until or unless superseded by another. (Spirit is defined by our mood, attitude, and temperament.)

The importance of recognizing complementarity in our recovery and pursuit of goals and objectives cannot be undervalued. The simultaneous mutual interaction of our mind, body, spirit, and emotions allows us to isolate a component in disharmony and rechannel it to another. We already do this instinctively. We jog to calm troublesome thoughts. Physical pain is mitigated by mental distractions. Emotional distress diverges to a more analytical or spiritual state.

Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate, repetitive, neural information. WeVoice

ReChanneling

Rechanneling is simply taking a healthier and more productive route. In complementarity. The act of rechanneling is to subvert one component over another. Mind to emotion, body to mind, emotion to spirit, etc. When one becomes intolerable and self-destructive, we rechannel to alleviate its toxicity. Proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral self-modification, and positive psychology rechannel negative information to healthy neural input.

Situation is the set of circumstances ̶ the facts, conditions, and incidents affecting us at a particular time in a particular place. For social anxiety disorder, the Situation is often an occasion or event. In our pursuit of goals, the Situation might be the circumstances that impede our objectives. 

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are the conscious or subconscious anxiety-provoking thoughts that occur in anticipation of or reaction to Situations. ANTs are generated by our negative self-beliefs and expressed by our body, mind, spirit, and emotions They are unpleasant expressions of our fears and apprehensions. In social anxiety disorder, ANTs are irrational and self-destructive. In the pursuit of goals and objectives, they are self-defeating. 

Stressors are things that cause internal or external pressure. They are the negative self-beliefs that impact our social anxiety and pursuit of goals and objectives. Stressors generate our ANTsTriggers are situational stimuli (anticipated or actual things or occurrences that precipitate our ANTs). Situations generate our triggers. 

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

A comprehensive program of recovery or motivation addresses our stressors and ANTs through tools and techniques targeting the individual personality. But how can we alleviate them in the immediacy of a Situation, whether unexpected, anticipated, or recurring? We rechannel the negatively impacted component to another. When ‘A’ is overwhelming and self-destructive, we diverge it to ‘B’, ‘C’, or ‘D’ to mitigate “A.” (Mind to emotion, body to mind, emotion to spirit, etc.)

Here are some examples of Situations, associated fears, and their corresponding ANTs.

Networking at a crowded event, we recognize someone that could be beneficial to our career. Our ANT persuades us we will make a fool of ourselves and be subsequently rejected. I will say something stupid. They will reject me.

We are scheduled to make a brief presentation to our office managers, but our ANT is one of awkwardness and ineptitude. We are overwhelmed by a sense of imperfection and subordination.  I am stupid. They will criticize me.

While waiting for a job interview, we begin to sweat, and our heart palpitates; we become nauseous

Distractions and Diversions

How do we counter the emotions of the first example, the spiritual defeatism of the second, and the physical discomfort of the third? We rechannel them to another component utilizing prepared distractions and diversions. (Although ANTs are ostensibly negative thoughts, they are underscored by the emotion of the corresponding fears and apprehensions. Even physical manifestations are the result of our anxieties.)

Distractions are chosen objects that momentarily rechannel our attention from our automatic negative thoughts. Diversions are planned activities that do the same. A distraction could be an item in the room – a painting or vase – that we focus on (emotion to mind) or pricking a pushpin in our pocket (emotion to body). A diversion, on the other hand, could be creating caricatures of individuals in the room (emotion to mind) or clearing a table of empty glasses (emotion to body).  ReChanneling is the diverging waterway; distractions and diversions are the steering mechanisms, Rechanneling is the goal; distractions and diversions are the objectives – the methods utilized to achieve the goal.

This is complex and takes work. A comprehensive recovery or motivational program values the importance of preparing individualized tactics or coping skills to challenge our situational fears and corresponding ANTs. 

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.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the
pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate,
repetitive, neural information.
WeVoice

Access All Videos

Video #1: Introduction

Research has established that our neural network is a dynamic organism, constantly adapting and rebuilding to each new input of information. Scientists refer to the process of neuroplasticity as structural remodeling of the brain. By deliberately enhancing the process, we can proactively transform our thoughts, behaviors, and perspectives, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. All information notifies our neural pathways to restructure, generating a correlated change in behavior and perspective. LINK

Video #2: Three Forms of Neuroplasticity

Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaptation to sensory information. Active neuroplasticity is neural information acquired through conscious activity, which includes all forms of deliberate learning. Proactive neuroplasticity is the conscious, intentional repatterning of our neural network utilizing tools and techniques that facilitate the process. The deliberate, repetitive, input of neural information empowers us to proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. LINK

Video #3: Tools and Techniques

Proactive neuroplasticity is the process of deliberately and repetitively inputting positive information into our neural network to consolidate learning and unlearning. What is that information? How is it constructed? The objective is to ensure the information is of the highest quality to effect change. What are the best tools and techniques? What methodologies and psychological support systems are best suited to support proactive neuroplasticity – to help us unlearn the toxicity of negative self-beliefs, replacing them with healthy, positive ones. LINK

Video #4: The Power of Positive Personal Affirmations

We drastically underestimate the significance and effectiveness of PPAs because we do not understand the science behind them. PPAs are brief, individually focused statements that we repeat to ourselves to describe what and who we want to be. PPAs help us focus on goals, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and reprogram our subconscious minds. Practicing positive personal affirmations is an extremely effective form of DRNI or the deliberate, repetitive input of neural information that supports proactive neuroplasticity. LINK

Video #5: Challenging Our Self-Destructive Thoughts

In this video, we focus on the trajectory of our self-destructive thoughts that impact our emotional wellbeing and quality of life. They originate with our negative core beliefs generated by our disorder which influence our intermediate beliefs from life experiences and form our ANTs or automatic negative thoughts that underscore our situational fears and anxieties. LINK

Video #6: Affirmative Visualization

By visualizing a positive outcome prior to a feared situation, we experience behaving a certain way in a realistic scenario and, through repetition, attain an authentic shift in our behavior and perspective. It is a form of proactive neuroplasticity, and all the neural benefits of that science are accrued. Just as our neural network cannot distinguish between toxic and healthy information, it also does not distinguish whether we are physically experiencing something or imagining it. LINK

Video #7: Coping Skills – 9/1/2022

This series of videos will illustrate how information is algorithmically coded into positive or negative electrical energy creating the activity that modifies our neural network. How the deliberate, repetitive neural input of information, or DRNI, strengthens and solidifies the connections between neurons, dramatically accelerating and consolidating learning through synaptic neurotransmission. We will learn how the context, intention, and content of our information correlate to its effectiveness and durability.

The videos will outline how the science of neuroplasticity evolved, differentiating reactive and active from proactive neural input. They will diagram the trajectory of neural information and how it impacts the various lobes of the human brain responsible for cognitive learning. How the neural input of information, coded into electrical energy, causes a receptive neuron to fire that energy onto a sensory neuron which forwards the information to millions upon millions of participating neurons. They will show how this cellular chain reaction reciprocates that initial electrical energy in abundance due to the amplified neural response. Positive information–in, positive energy multiplied millions of times, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Each neural input of information impacts millions of neurons as they restructure our neural network to a form conducive to a positive self-image. 

Subsequently, the natural hormonal neurotransmissions reward our activity with GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure, endorphins for euphoria, serotonin for a sense of well-being as well as hormones that support our motivation, enhance our memory, and improve concentration. However, since our brain doesn’t distinguish healthy from toxic information, the neurotransmission of pleasurable and motivational hormones happens whether we feed it self-destructive or constructive information. That’s one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or achieving a desired goal is challenging and why positive informational input is crucial for recovery and self-transformation.

Contemporary wisdom disputes the effectiveness of one-size-fits-all approaches to behavioral modification, so these videos will show how the integration of science and east-west psychologies is best suited to positive modification of our thoughts and behaviors. Science gives us proactive neuroplasticity; cognitive-behavioral modification and positive psychology’s optimal functioning are western approaches; and eastern practices give us Abhidharma psychology and the overarching truths of ethical behavior. 

Our neural system has been conditioned by our core and intermediate beliefs. Dysfunction and experience negatively impact these beliefs, generating automatic negative thoughts called ANTs – that impact our emotional wellbeing and quality of life. These individuated perspectives illustrate the need for personality-targeting to support the diversity of human thought and experience. 

The mechanics of Hebbian Learning will be defined—how the repeated and persistent proactive input of information correlates to more robust and more effective learning. Hebb’s rule states the more repetitions, the quicker and more robust the connections. Harmful behaviors are unlearned, and new ones are adopted through deliberate and calculated activity. Negative core and intermediate beliefs are challenged and replaced by healthy and life-affirming ones. Videos will demonstrate how deliberate, repetitive, neural information not only alleviates the symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort but empowers us, generating the motivation, persistence, and perseverance to achieve our goals and objectives.

The process of proactive neuroplasticity is theoretically simple but challenging, due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term, repetitive process. We don’t put advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with racket and balls; philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard. 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. 

Fortunately, the universal law of compensation anticipates this. The positive impact of proactive neuroplasticity is exponential due to the abundant reciprocation of positive energy and the neurotransmission of hormones that generate motivation, persistence, and perseverance. Proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI dramatically mitigates symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort and advances the pursuit of goals and objectives.  

The next video in this series will explain the crucial difference between active, reactive, and proactive neuroplasticity. It will discuss the origins of neuroplasticity and how scientists are now able to glance into the inner workings of our brain as it processes information – illustrating the dynamic and constant adaptability of our neural network. So, please subscribe to this series below, and join us as we explore this paradigmatic approach to behavioral self-modification.

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.  

Thirteen Definitive Cognitive Distortions

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of depression, anxiety, and especially social anxiety disorder. Cognitive distortions cause us to perceive reality inaccurately and reinforce negative thoughts and emotions. We distort reality to avoid or validate certain behaviors or justify our inability to effectively pursue our goals and objectives. Cognitive distortions twist our thinking. They paint a false or inaccurate picture of ourselves and the world around us. We convince ourselves that these thoughts are rational when they are often very far from the objective truth.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

The number of cognitive distortions listed by various experts ranges substantially. The following thirteen are comprehensive and sufficient. You will note similarities and overlaps among these distortions, even in this abbreviated list. 

Filtering. When we engage in negative filtering, we selectively choose our facts. We filter out all the positive information about a specific situation, only allowing in the negative information. In other words, negative filtering is focusing on the negative and discounting the positive, which only aggravates our negative self-image and ability to think reasonably. We view ourselves, our life, and our future through a dark lens. Filtering increases feelings of hopelessness and helplessness because it induces a pessimistic outlook. A dozen people in your office celebrate your promotion; one ignores you. You obsess over the one and feel inadequate.

Polarized Thinking. In polarized thinking, we see things in black-or-white, all or nothing. We register emotionally only in extremes. We are either brilliant or abject failures. Our friends are either for us or against us; there is no middle ground. We do not allow room for balanced perspectives or outcomes. People with this unrealistic expectation do not see gray areas in most situations; hence, we feel frustrated, bitter, and disappointed. Polarized thinking is very detrimental to relationships; we refuse to give people the benefit of the doubt. I failed my last exam; I fail at everything I try. I’m a loser.

Overgeneralization. In this cognitive distortion, we draw a broad conclusion or make a statement about something or someone unjustified by the available evidence. We make blanket claims that cannot be proved or disproved. The whole world knows Suzie is a liar. To imply that the entire world thinks Suzie is a liar is a profound exaggeration absent consensus. A few colleagues may share our opinion, but not the whole world. It is a false and irrational conclusion. Overgeneralization supports our negative self-beliefs and image without foundation. I just said something stupid. Everyone thinks I’m an idiot.

Shouldas. Statements like I ought to do this, and I should’ve done that evade a full commitment. They allow us to change our minds, procrastinate, and fail. Should, would, ought, and must are pressure words because they incur guilt and shame if we do not fulfill what we said we might do. I should start my diet means, maybe I will and maybe I won’t. (We are either on a diet or will be on a diet.) In this distortion, we operate occasionally from a list of inflexible rules about how we and other people “should” act. Rules are established by our negative intermediate beliefs. “Shoulds” and “aughts” are major contributors to anxiety. I should be happy!

Blaming. Like Control Fallacies, we see ourselves as either helpless or all-powerful. One of the most common cognitive distortions, external blaming involves holding others accountable for our actions, rather than accepting responsibility for the consequences. Internal blaming is taking responsibility for things over which we either have no control or for which we have no accountability. We perceive everything as our fault and feel shame and guilt when things go wrong.

Blaming. External blaming is when we hold other people responsible for our actions, rather than accepting responsibility for the shame, guilt, and consequences. Internal blaming is taking responsibility for things over which we either have no control or for which we have no accountability. We perceive everything as our fault and feel shame and guilt when things go wrong.

Control Fallacies. There are two ways we can distort our sense of power and control. We can see ourselves as helpless and externally controlled, or as omnipotent and responsible for everyone around us (internal control).

External control persuades us we cannot manage our own life. The world has it in for us; we are victims. We cease searching for solutions because we have given up. We blame our unsatisfactory lives on society, gender, race, sexuality, weight, age, etc., using them to avoid taking personal responsibility. There’s no point in trying, the world is against me.

Internal control tells us we are responsible for everything, even things over which we have no control. We feel responsible for everything and everybody. We carry the world on our shoulders. We must right all wrongs, fill every need, and balm each hurt. And when we invariably fail, we blame we feel guilty and self-blame.

Fallacy of Fairness is the unrealistic assumption that life should be fair. We become angry and resentful when things do not go our way, especially when they logically shouldIt’s not fair I have social anxiety disorder. The word fair is a disguise for personal preferences and wants. We all have our own ideas of how we like to be treated and feel deeply hurt when we believe we are mistreated. What we want is fair, what the other person wants is bogus. Fairness is so often subjective. In personal interactions, fairness is a subjective assessment of how much of what we expect,  need, or want is provided by the other person. The trouble is that two people seldom agree on what is fair. The fallacy of fairness is often expressed in conditional assumptions: ‘If he loved me, he’d come home right after work.”

Always Being RightWhen we engage in this distortion, we convince ourselves our opinions supersede those of others. I’m right and you’re wrong. Being right is more important than the truth or the feelings of others. I don’t care what you say, I know I’m right. I read it on the internet. In social situations, this is an irrational and nonproductive way to compensate for our perceptual lack of positive personal qualities, e.g., competence, intelligence, desirability… We aren’t interested in the possible veracity of a differing opinion, only in defending our own. Our opinions rarely change because we, symptomatically, have difficulty embracing new ideas and concepts that challenge our core and intermediate beliefs.

Jumping to Conclusions. These are opinions/conclusions unsubstantiated by fact. We jump to conclusions when we assume to know what another person is feeling and why they act the way they do. It’s an excellent example of how we express our ANTs. No one will like me, I’ll say something stupid, no one will talk to me. It’s irrational and self-destructible, often leading to poor or rash decisions that can be harmful. There are multiple forms of Jumping to Conclusions including: 

  • Fortune telling assumes we know exactly what will happen in the future. 
  • Mind reading assumes we accurately know what other people are thinking (especially prevalent in SAD)
  • Labeling is making assumptions about people, based on stereotypical behaviors.

Emotional Reasoning. My gut tells me…  Emotional reasoning is feeling without thinking – relying on our emotions over objective evidence. We use our mood or attitude to define what is going on around us. 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 our self, others, and the world must be true because they feel true. It’s a form of Filtering because we filter out the intellectual appraisal of our emotional feeling, which leads to a polarized evaluation.

Personalization is the tendency to relate everything that happens back to ourselves. Like children, persons with SAD, lack the ability to appraise things accurately from the perspectives of others. Our fears and anxieties are so formidable, that we assume everything that happens is our fault, and everything derogatory someone says is a reference to us. We constantly compare ourselves to others’ achievements rather than taking pride in our own. When we come up short, our sense of inferiority triggers self-criticism, negativity, and anxiety. I have social anxiety disorder because I am I was unattractive as a child or because I couldn’t play sports. It’s very self-indulgent, bordering on narcissism because, by personalizing, we are also taking credit for another person’s accomplishment. 

Labeling is a cognitive distortion in which we reduce ourselves or other people to a single — usually negative — characteristic or descriptor, like “stupid” or “failure.” we generalize by taking one characteristic of an individual and applying it to the whole person. Because I failed a test, I am a failure. Because she exaggerated or embellished a story, she is a liar. As a result, we view the entire person (or ourselves) through the label and filter out information that does not fit the stereotype, which is deceptive, demeaning, and prejudicial. It is an emotional reaction rather than an intellectual evaluation. If someone is curt with you, they are a jerk. Once we have labeled someone or ourselves, we Filter out anything that does not fit the label. The person who is curt may have a serious matter to attend but we have personalized it, making a broad assumption based on one isolated piece of business, that is almost always inaccurate.

Personal labeling is creating a negative self-image or descriptor out of a sense of our own inadequacies.

Catastrophizing is an irrational belief something is far worse than it is. When we engage in catastrophizing, we anticipate (welcome) disaster. We imagine the worst and select or exaggerate the truth to support our theory. We create self-fulfilling prophecies. Catastrophizing is a good definition of our ANTs. We anticipate, sometimes days or weeks prior, that something will go wrong in a Situation, carry this anxiety into the Situation, then blow the consequences out of proportion and obsess about them after. Catastrophizing is similar to Overgeneralization as well as Polarized Thinking, generated by our self-oriented negative self-beliefs, which fall under one of the following categories. We feel:

  • Helpless (I am weak, I am incompetent)
  • Hopeless (nothing can be done about it)
  • Unlovable (no one will Ike me)
  • Worthless (I don’t deserve to be happy).

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.

Resolving Our Negative Moral Emotions

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChannleing

Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the
pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate,
repetitive, neural information.  WeVoice

We retain an abundance of destructive information, formed by our core and intermediate beliefs ― information seemingly impervious to uprooting due to its resistant or repressive nature. A lot of this negative information is from the unresolved moral emotions of shame and guilt. These often lead to internal or external blaming, determined by who we choose to be accountable. While each is a natural response to things that negatively impact us, when left untreated, they encumber our neural network with negative energy and obstruct the process of recovery. 

Whether or not we chose to be accountable for our actions determines how we attribute blame. If we are unwilling or unable to accept responsibility, we resort to external blaming. Internal blaming is taking responsibility for things over which we either have no control or for which we have no accountability. Both are irrational and cognitively distorted attributions.

Recovery from disorders like social anxiety and depression requires restructuring our neural network – feeding it positive stimuli to counter the years of toxicity. Unresolved shame and guilt impede the flow of positive neural input unless and until we evict the bad tenants.

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There are three basic types of transgressions: Those inflicted on us by another, those we inflict on another, and those we inflict on ourselves. By not resolving these conflicts, we remain both victim and abuser. We are victimized by holding onto the transgression against us. We are abusers when we transgress. Our shame for either act victimizes us. Self-transgression and blaming are both abuse and victimization, neither conducive to recovery. 

There are volumes of psychological treatises on guiltshame, and blame. The following brief overviews focus on their impact on social anxiety, depression, and comorbidities. 

Shame

Shame is the stomach-churning feeling of humiliation and distress that comes from the sense of being or doing a dishonorable, ridiculous, or immodest thing; the feeling that we are unbefitting and undesirable. A pioneer in shame study, psychologist Gershen Kaufman described the emotion as “sudden unexpected exposure coupled with blinding inner scrutiny.” Shame is painful, incapacitating, and inescapable, embracing every aspect of the human experience. It negatively impacts our psychological and physiological health, eroding our self-image and our relationships with others. We feel powerless, acutely diminished, and worthless. We want to become invisible. Failing that, we often become hostile and aggressive. 

Guilt

Shame says I am a mistake; Guilt says I made a mistake

Guilt is a psychological term for a self-conscious emotion that condemns the self while conscious of being evaluated by another person(s). Guilt is the painful awareness of having done something wrong, coupled with the innate need to correct or amend. The moral emotion of guilt causes us to self-deprecate and invites condemnation from those who witness our actions.

We feel guilt for harming another, and for being the type of person who would cause harm. We feel guilt for harming ourselves. We guilt ourselves for things over which we have no control.

Unless resolved, we carry the emotional baggage of guilt and shame throughout our lives, adding to the negative self-beliefs generated by our disorder(s). It is unhealthy and non-conducive to recovery and self-transformation. Retaining this toxicity of adds to our anxiety and depression, and can compel behavioral obsessiveness, avoidance, and other personality shortfalls that impact our self-esteem. When we hold onto these feelings, we construct our neural network with anger, hurt, and resentment. 

PROACTIVE NEUROPLASTICITY YOUTUBE SERIES

Symptomatically, we feel shame and guilt for our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. These negative moral emotions are irrational. Social anxiety, like most disorders, is the result of childhood disturbance that interferes with our optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. The disturbance can be real or imagined, intentional or accidental. Social anxiety sense this vulnerability and onsets in adolescence. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established.

Both shame and guilt have their usefulness. They can be revealing, cathartic, and motivational, encouraging emotional and spiritual growth, and broadening self-awareness. That may mitigate their emotional impact, but it does not address their toxic impact on our neural network if left unresolved. They are both self-focused but highly socially relevant, supporting important interpersonal functions by, for example, encouraging adjusting or repairing valuable relationships and discouraging acts that could damage them. 

Forgiving is the only rational response. The irrational response is blaming. When we want to escape from the toxicity of our negative moral emotions, rather than rationally challenging them, we resort to blaming. 

Blaming

Blaming is the act of censuring, holding responsible, or making negative statements about ourselves, another, or a group. We condemn their action(s) as wrong, and socially or morally irresponsible. Holding ourselves or others accountable for harmful behavior is a justifiable response. Holding onto that anger is self-destructive. Cognitively distorted blaming falls under one of two categories. External blaming involves holding others accountable for our actions, rather than accepting responsibility for their consequences.  Internal blaming is taking responsibility for things over which we either have no control or for which we have no accountability. We perceive everything as our fault and feel shame and guilt when things go wrong. 

Self-blaming is a toxic form of emotional self-abuse prevalent in social anxiety disorder. We irrationally blame ourselves for our behaviors and our perceived character deficits caused by our disorder. SAD thrives on our self-denigration, self-contempt, and other hyphenated forms of self-abuse. We blame ourselves when we avoid interacting with someone out of our fear of rejection. We have something noteworthy to share in class but are afraid to raise our hands. We want to join a conversation but are afraid our nerves will expose us. Then, adding insult to injury, we beat ourselves up because our symptoms get the better of us causing us to self-characterize as stupid, incompetent, or unattractive. SAD negatively impacts our core sense of self and our ability to behave in socially constructive ways. 

Blaming becomes irrational when left unresolved; it is irrational to self-harm. The resolution is forgiveness. We cannot hope to function optimally without absolving both ourselves and others whose behaviors contributed to our negative thoughts and behavior. This willingness and ability to forgive is a necessary component of the transformative act and indispensable to recovery. By withholding forgiveness, we deny ourselves the ability to function optimally.

Our resentment and hatred are divisive to our emotional wellbeing and disharmonious to our true nature. Inner harmony is impossible unless we heal the anger within ourselves. The inability or unwillingness to forgive impedes the flow of positive thought and action necessary for recovery. Forgiving is the only way we expel the hostility. Of unresolved and irrational guilt, shame, and blame., Forgiveness is the rational response; social anxiety disorder is the epitome of irrationality. 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the goal, forgiving the process. This forgiving, which underscores the attributes of courage, compassion, and self-reliance, is indispensable to the revival of our self-worth. 

Forgiving those who have harmed us. It is important to recognize that forgiving is not forgetting or condoning. Our noble self forgives; our pragmatic self remembers. The actions of another may seem indefensible, but forgiving them is for our wellbeing, not theirs. We forgive to promote change within ourselves and, as forgivers, we reap the rewards. 

Forgiving ourselves for harming another is accepting and releasing the guilt and shame for our actions. It’s important to recognize that transgression against another is a transgression against ourselves. Our shame and guilt can only be resolved by accepting responsibility, making direct or substitutional amends, and forgiving ourselves. The act of self-forgiveness accepts and embraces our imperfections and evidences our humanness. 

Forgiving ourselves for self-harm. Transgression against the self is self-sabotage. It belittles, undervalues, and condemns us. Self-pity, self-contempt, and other hyphenated forms of self-abuse devalue our inherent character strengths and virtues. Forgiving ourselves is challenging because our self-harm is generated by our deficit of self-esteem.

Why is it difficult to forgive?

Our anger and resentment physiologically sustain us. We have acclimated to the neurotransmissions of the hormones that reward the negativity of our unresolved moral emotions. We label our anger, righteous indignation. We persuade ourselves those who have harmed us are devastated by our hostility notwithstanding they are (1) unaware they injured us, (2) have forgotten, or (3) take no responsibility. The only person affected is us, the injured party. 

The benefits of forgiveness

Forgiving begins when we conclude that the disconnectedness, brought on by our unwillingness to confront our hostility, becomes so fundamentally discomforting that resolution is essential for emotional survival.

The act of forgiving relieves us of all that has happened before and offers a future that is unencumbered by the past, giving us room for new possibilities. The act of forgiving resolves animus and restores us to equal footing by eliminating the other’s influence. Forgiving ourselves for allowing our perception of victimization stops us from paying that victimization forward. 

In a group session, Jimmy L. claimed he couldn’t forgive his parents, their injustice was so severe. “If you knew what they’d done to me you wouldn’t ask me to forgive them.” He was unwilling to relinquish his parents’ negative hold on his psyche, much like a cancer victim refusing chemotherapy. Nonetheless, his awareness of the physiological ramifications of holding onto anger and resentment bodes well for the future.

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Broadening the Parameters of the Psychobiography

“Broadening the Parameters of the Psychobiography. The Character Motivations of the ‘Ordinary’ Extraordinary” in C.-E. Mayer, P. Fouche, R. van Niekerk, Psychobiographical Illustrations on Meaning and Identity in Sociocultural Contexts, Palgrave-MacMillan, 2022.

Abstract  

For over a century, psychobiography has focused on the eminent individual who has achieved historical or social recognition. Ignoring the character strengths of the ‘ordinary’ individual who has reached a significant and noteworthy personal milestone is a disservice to psychology and those who might benefit from this research. Some experts claim that embracing a psychobiographic focus on the ordinary individual would pervert the process, some open the door to innovation, and others have, unwittingly, provided templates. The psychological benefits seem apparent if consideration of the character strengths and virtues of the ordinary extraordinary supplement psychobiographic research. Their motivations are no less extraordinary or worthy of consideration than those of the accomplished individual who has achieved historical or social recognition; each complements psychological research both generally and topically.

Keywords Psychobiography · Motivation · Maslow · Positive psychology · Human potential

13.1 Introduction. 

The purpose of this paper is fourfold. It suggests that the psychobiography limits its potential to study the character strengths underlying motivation, persistence, and perseverance by restricting its concentration to the significant individual who has achieved historical or social recognition (the ’eminent extraordinary’). It recommends expanding that concentration by adopting a partnering focus on the ‘ordinary extraordinary’ who has achieved a significant and noteworthy personal milestone. It supports the implicit theory of positive psychology, humanism, and mentor Abraham Maslow (1943) that all individuals are extraordinary by their humanness, each possessing the potential for significant personal achievement. It disputes the notion put forward by Alexander (1988), Knight (2019), McAdams (1988), Schultz (2005), and Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) that the examined life-narrative [of a psychobiography] should be on a ‘finished’ life, arguing the character strengths of the evolving ‘ordinary extraordinary’ could greatly assist in the psychological study of human motivation and development. It is a fundamental principle that actions are motivated to achieve individual needs; it is the role of psychology and the psychobiography to research what character strengths generate that motivation, whatever their source. 

    The psychobiography is “usually” (du Plessis 2017: 218; McAdams 1988: 2) concerned with the extraordinariness (Cilliars and Mayer 2019; Mayer and May 2019) of accomplished individuals who have achieved historical or social recognition (Alexander 1988; Burnell et al. 2019; Carlson 1988; du Plessis 2017; Kőváry 2019; McAdams 2001; Ponterotto 2014; Runyan 1984). This can be interpreted as contradicting Schultz’s (2005: 3) description of the goal of psychobiography “as simply as ‘the understanding of persons” (du Plessis 2017: 217). 

    Filling the eminent extraordinary ranks is the accomplished artist, scientist, philosopher, activist, and politician (Burnell et al. 2019; Carlson 1988; du Plessis 2017; Runyon 1988). Emerging with Freud’s (1910) pathographic study of Leonardo DaVinci’s childhood, subjects include Hitler (Murray 1943), Robespierre (Gallo 1971), Stalin (Tucker 1973), Turkey President, Ataturk (Volkan and Itzkowitz 1986), Bertrand Russell (Brink 1989), Margaret Thatcher (Abse 1989), Gandhi (Erikson 1993), Virginia Woolf (Bond 2000), King Herod (Kasher 2007), Napoleon (Falk 2007) and, more recently, Paulo Coehlo (Mayer 2017), Goethe (Holm-Hadulla 2018), Frederick Douglas (Gibson 2018), Charlize Theron (Prenter et al. 2019), cult leader, Jim Jones (Kelley 2019), and Thomas Jefferson (Holowchak 2020). 

    Howe (1997: 236) believes the purpose of a psychobiography is to generate “ideas about possible motives and conflicts that may drive a person towards undertaking various activities.” Analyzing the character strengths of the ordinary extraordinary who has achieved a noteworthy personal milestone would significantly enhance psychological understanding of motivational character development. Broadening the psychobiographic perspective would open new avenues of study that would benefit research into the character strengths, virtues, and attributes that facilitate motivation, persistence, and perseverance. Examples of the ordinary extraordinary who has reached a significant and noteworthy personal milestone might include the nurse who has committed his life to children with cancer, the high school teacher who has ‘reached’ her students, the writer who has finally published. Have they not, through trial and error, attained a recognizable personal plateau of achievement? Are their character strengths, objectives, and motivations any less significant than those of the acclaimed actor or heart transplant surgeon? 

    ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger’s goal was to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Undersized and undervalued, he was relegated to the scout squad. On November 8, 1975, Rudy was put into a game against Georgia Tech and, memorably, sacked their quarterback on the game’s last play. He was the first man in Notre Dame history to be carried off the field by his teammates. Not only would a psychobiography of Rudy’s days at Notre Dame be a respectable character study of motivation, but psychology could benefit from the determination of many unheralded persons who have achieved significant and noteworthy personal milestones. Expanding current study could generate a more in-depth understanding of the qualities and characteristics that motivate any individual to achieve, or overcome adversity of any nature. 

    Embracing the ordinary extraordinary does not impinge on the psychobiography that has been the mainstay for over a century. It merely adds a species to the psychobiographic genus within the psychological family. A bus and a bicycle may be distinct modes of transportation, but they can both transport to a conclusion. 

13.2 Supporting Arguments

The psychological knowledge gathered by the psychobiography provides general and specific applications. Universal themes of the character strengths that generate motivation, persistence, and perseverance are particularized by topical relevance. The psychobiographies of Coleridge (Weissman 1990), Poe (Krutch 1926), and Emily Dickinson (Cody 1971) have their inter-relevance; those of Lincoln (Clark 1933), Nixon (Volkan et al. 1999), and Obama (Falk 2010) have theirs; as have those of Jesus (Caldwell 1976), Joseph Smith (Anderson 1999), and Muhammed (Sina 2008) theirs. Kelley’s (2019: 363) interest in the “motivational dynamics that undergird religious leaders’ often Januslike relations to their followers,” for example, supplements the latter group.   

13.2.1 Implicit Superiority 

The assumption that the motivational character strengths of the eminent extraordinary are more desirable to psychological study suggests an implicit arrogance towards those of the ordinary extraordinary. Society often justifies arrogance in academics, politics, the arts, and other ventures when it leads to and supports achievements (Whitbourne 2017). The academic swayed by the intimate relationship of knowledge and power is not an oddity. So, a relevant question might be: does the eminent extraordinary provide a better source of psychological motivations than the ordinary extraordinary, or are the historically accomplished more biographically interesting? Analyzing the motivational characteristics of the eminent extraordinary is valuable to psychological research and study, but academic idolization warrants consideration.  

13.2.2 Eminent as Exemplary?

It is safe to claim that not every eminent extraordinary who meets psychobiographic criteria is an exemplary role model. Many are psychologically dysfunctional, prone to clinical narcissism, megalomania, perfectionism, suicidal ideation, disconnectedness, substance abuse, hostility, and aggression. Artists Van Gogh and Pollack, philosophers Nietzsche and Rosseau, politicians Trump and Napoleon, and writers Plathe, Hemingway, and Poe are sustained by moral and physiological dysfunctions that do not comfortably fall within Seligman’s classification of character strengths and virtues (al Taher 2020; Peterson and Seligman 2004).

   Successful persons are generally perceived to be passionate, continually trying to improve themselves, perpetually striving to be better. As Koulopoulos (2020: 2) noted “being successful is fundamentally about needing to win; the reasons vary, but the determination doesn’t. [Successful people] hate losing with an abiding passion.” The obsessive attention to detail and control of many successful persons are characteristics of perfectionism, and the unbridled compulsion to succeed is often diagnosable. Psychologists (Benson 2003; Flett and Hewitt 2002) have discovered that perfectionism and compulsion correlate with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, anorexia, suicide, and other mental health dysfunctions. Hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorders are perfectionism, the need for mental and interpersonal control, addiction to work and productivity, and a preoccupation with details (APA 2013). Peterson and Seligman (2004) define character strengths as the good qualities that people possess rather than a compilation of their faults and issues, while Ponterotto (2014: 379) affirms that a psychobiography “may represent the worst of human nature.” This paper recognizes that knowledge is acquired as much from the failure of a system or subject as from success and disputes the authenticity of generalizing the psychobiographic focus on the exemplary. The same argument could be made for ‘eminent,’ which is usually accepted as an adjective used to emphasize the presence of a positive quality. This argument does warrant precluding psychological research of the eminent extraordinary, but the acceptance of such interpretational awareness should bolster the argument for additional inclusiveness. 

13.2.3 Expanding Diversity

Fordham psychologist, Ponterotto’s (2014: 379) definition of psychobiography leaves little room for variation: “Psychobiography represents a specialty area that applies psychological theories and research tools to the intensive study of an individual of historic significance.” Cilliers and Mayer (2019 115) maintain that the  psychobiography is “based on the analysis of extraordinary individuals by using psychological theories . . . to gain a holistic view of the individual’s life.” Burnell et al. (2019: 180) look for “the characteristics and traits that indicate generative and exemplary lives.”

    To limit psychobiographic diversification by its solitary emphasis on a certain segment of society is counterproductive and discriminating, as is the assumption that motivational character strengths and attributes of the eminent extraordinary are any more formidable or psychologically relevant than those of the ordinary extraordinary. This recognition does not warrant precluding psychological research of the eminent extraordinary, but the awareness of counterproductivity and discrimination should bolster the argument for additional inclusiveness. 

13.2.4 Peer Relationships. 

Finally, evidence supports that the primary facilitator to character development is the peer relationships of the child/adolescent (Bandura 1985). “Peers are defined as belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status” (Reitz et al. 2014: 6). Psychobiographical studies of the motivational character strengths and virtues of the eminent of a different stratosphere cannot hold the same comparative validity or relevance to those of the ordinary extraordinary. 

13.3 Psychobiography

In recent years, researchers have recognized the importance of a more unified and cross-disciplinary approach to study character motivation (Braver et al. 2014). There is broad support for expanding the psychobiographic focus. Atwood and Stolorow (1993: 9) campaigned for the use of multiple perspectives, promoting “a psychobiographic method capable of flexibly drawing upon the knowledge of all the different schools of thought, and also of devising new concepts as it goes along.” Runyan (1988: 320) concedes, “in further research, a number of other aspects of progress in psychobiography might be examined, such as progress in the range of persons studied.” Anderson and Dunlop (2019: 11) argue “Theory should open up, not close down; provide new questions, not easy answers; complicate, not simplify; produce possibilities, not reductions,” while the author (Mullen 2019: 4) adds “The [psychobiography] maintains its flexibility by drawing upon the knowledge of many schools of thought while devising new concepts as they become necessary for evaluation.” Kőváry (2019: 739) acknowledges that “contemporary psychobiography is constantly widening its focus.” Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000: 8) call for “massive research on strengths and virtues.” British psychologist Howe’s (1997: 241) article on the synthesis of psychology and biography in psychobiography entertains the following:

The benefits recede and the limitations become pressing when the aim is to understand individuals, especially if they are at all extraordinary, and even more so when their very uniqueness is a primary reason for taking an interest in them. 

Descriptors of personality studied in the normative sense, such as “traits, styles, types, motives, ideologies, attitudes, affective dispositions, and psychopathological categories” (Alexander 1988: 266), are relevant to the ordinary extraordinary as well as the eminent extraordinary. There are “a multitude of ways of measuring traits and attributes, and techniques for recording individual’s experiences, as well as various methods for analyzing qualitative data objectively” (Howe 1997: 240).  Perkins and Repper (2003) point to Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) six core virtues of character strengths to which every individual, ordinary or historically eminent, has access: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

13.3.1 Purposes of the Psychobiography.

For psychologist McCarron (2017), the psychobiography pursues “the salient themes of a life and the psycho-dynamics behind them in hopes of capturing the psychological ‘fingerprint’ of a person” (p. 1). Du Plessis and Stones (2019: 210) offer the rote psychobiographic motivation, “to understand the lives and personalities of exemplary individuals.” Howe (1997) sources eighteen distinguished psychobiographers who state psychobiography’s general purpose is to examine the growth of original thinking and creativity in individuals. Many psychobiographers define its purpose as learning why a person thinks and behaves as she or he does (Anderson and Dunlop 2019; Howe 1997), or “to generate theoretical insight into, and understanding of, the individual” (Knight 2019: 134). A coalescent vision might define the purpose of the psychobiography as (1) the study of the character strengths, virtues, and attributes that generate motivation, persistence, and perseverance towards achievement; and (2) to apply these understandings towards optimal functioning, and improving life satisfaction and the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and society as a whole.

13.4 Psychobiography, Positive Psychology, and Maslow

Mayer and May (2019: 165) inform “Over the past decade, the importance of positive psychology concepts has been emphasized in psychological research in general . . . but also recently in psychobiographical research.” The psychobiographic affiliation with positive psychology reinforces the justification to broaden the parameters of psychobiography to embrace the ordinary extraordinary. Positive psychology, according to Gable and Haidt (2005: 103), is the “study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions.” Mayer and May (2019) cite Schultz (2005: 165) in calling for more “positive aspects in the psychobiographical perspectives on the life of individuals.” Sheldon and King (2001: 216) define positive psychology as “nothing more than the scientific study of ordinary human strengths and virtues,” one that “revisits the average person.”

13.4.1 Positive Psychology

In their study of positive psychology, Mukund and Singh (2015: 201) write, “Positive psychology theory and research has been applied across many domains, from education to health to neuroscience.” Positive psychology is a relatively new field (since 1998) that ostensibly complements rather than replaces traditional psychology. Common elements of positive psychology include savoring, mindfulness, “gratitude, kindness, and pursuing hope and meaning” (Chakhssi et al. 2018: 2). Schrank et al. (2014: 103) write: “positive psychology serves as an umbrella term to accommodate research investigating positive emotions and other positive aspects such as creativity, optimism, resilience, empathy, compassion, humour, and life satisfaction.”

    Positive psychology’s ambition “to study, identify and amplify the strengths and capacities that individuals, families, and society need to thrive” (Carruthers and Hood 2004: 30) indeed welcomes any individual who has achieved. Psychology would benefit by including the “the positive, adaptive, creative and emotionally fulfilling aspects” (Mukund and Singh 2015: 197) of the ordinary extraordinary.

    Positive psychology is the science of optimal functioning. Cultural psychologist Levesque (2011) describes optimal functioning as the study of how ordinary individuals attempt to achieve their potentials and become the best that they can be. Like psychobiography, positive psychology researches the “experiences and positive character or virtues” (Mayer and May 2019: 160) that generate the motivation, persistence, and perseverance needed to cultivate the “potential for psychological well-being that lends itself to optimal functioning” (Carruthers and Hood 2004: 31). Optimal functioning is vital to sports, work, education, wellness, and everyday living. Like positive psychology’s attempts to understand human potential and Maslow’s hierarchy of natural human development, optimal functioning is a universal application.

13.4.2 Maslow

Extending the genealogy of positive psychology reaches the character developmental philosophy of Abraham Maslow. According to psychologist Nelson Goud (2008: 449), “the recent Positive Psychology movement focuses on themes addressed by Maslow over 50 years ago.” Cited as the tenth most influential psychologist of the 20th century (Haggbloom et al. 2002), Maslow introduced positive psychology in Motivations and Personality (1954). Described as the ‘third force’ in psychology after behaviorism and psychoanalysis, his humanistic approach stressed the importance of focusing on ordinary individuals’ positive qualities (Mukund and Singh 2015; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000).

Fig. 1.1 Genesis of the psychobiography.

Maslow used the term metamotivation to describe self-actualized people who explore the parameters of their human potential. Self-actualization, “the full realization of one’s creative, intellectual, and social potential” (Selva, 2020b: 1), is the foundation of advanced human potential and a principal tenet of positive psychology (Mayer and May 2019). Self-actualization is achievable pending satisfaction of a hierarchy of physiological, cognitive, and other requisites of natural human development. Maslow (1943: 92) describes this penultimate level as “the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be,” the satisfaction of the need to know our role in the meaning of life. Selva, 2020a: 3) adds “Themes addressed by Maslow over 50 years ago . . . such as happiness, flow, courage, hope and optimism, responsibility, and civility” became central to the positive psychology movement.

    The implicit foundation of humanism and positive psychology is balance, inclusion, and human ability, development, and potential. Any aspect of discrimination, prejudice, exclusionism, or preferential treatment assaults their integrity.

13.5 Adapting the Psychobiography to the ‘Ordinary’ Extraordinary

Adopting psychobiography’s multiple strategy approaches could provide better access to the complexities of the individual personality. These strategies have been developed for the eminent extraordinary; it is, therefore, important to evaluate how they can be utilized in the study of the ordinary extraordinary. We are concerned, here, with the case study, history, hermeneutics, data collection, and narrative of the subject. 

Hermeneutic evidence of the ordinary extraordinary would, ostensibly, be easier to interpret from interviews than unavailable historical records as it requires”a degree of inter-subjective agreement and certainty that one has understood an expression accurately” (Polkinghorne 1983: 221). The narrative aspect of the psychobiography favors the ordinary extraordinary. According to Alexander (1988: 265), “the richest sources of data are those which deal with the spontaneous recollection from memory of various aspects of life already lived,” and no one is closer to a life already lived than the person living that life. The narrative of an ordinary extraordinary might lack in spectacularism but not creativity. Every individual’s life is distinctive, consisting of unique experiences, beliefs, and sensibilities that help convey “the coherence and the meaning of lives” (McAdams 2001: 102). Finally, a case-study is created through an in-depth psychological investigation to generate a reconstructive, clinical, and interpretive analysis of the subject “based upon the synthesis of all available evidence culled from all available sciences providing systematic analyses of information” (Erickson 2003: 40). The key is availability, be it historical, anecdotal, or in the next room. 

    The investigation methods utilized in psychobiography require modest adaptation to the ordinary extraordinary. More in-depth interpretation, inference, and speculation would compensate for any lacuna of known history and philosophical, ethical, and religious evolution found in studies of the full life of the eminent extraordinary. Evaluation of the character strengths and virtues of the ordinary extraordinary would come from autobiography, academic and clinical records, and the subject’s personal associations. None of these falls outside the purview of the psychobiographic process. Data and evidence of ordinary individuals are already available in analysis and research. Statistical research is abundant; comparative or correlational evidence supports conclusions. 

13.6 Conclusions

This paper addresses four issues with the psychobiographic approach which, for over a century, has focused on the character motivations of the extraordinary eminent who has achieved historical or social recognition. It argues that psychobiography limits its potential to study the character strengths that generate the character strengths, virtues, and attributes that generate motivation, persistence, and perseverance to achieve by restricting its concentration. It contends that consideration of the character motivations of the ordinary extraordinary would significantly enhance psychological study. It affiliates positive psychology and Maslowian humanism with contemporary psychobiography. It provides evidence that researchers have an interest in broadening psychobiography’s vision. Finally, this paper demonstrates that the psychobiographic approach is as relevant to the ordinary extraordinary as the eminent extraordinary. It is a fundamental principle that actions are motivated to achieve individual needs; it is psychology’s obligation to understand better the character strengths that generate and support that motivation by broadening the psychobiographic perspective.

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Mukund, B., & Singh, T. B. (2015).  Positive psychology and mental health. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology 6(2), 197-202. http://www.iahrw.com/index.php/home/journal_detail/19#list

Mullen, R. F. (2019). Abstractions of Intent: How a Psychobiography Grapples with the Fluidity of Truth. In C-H Mayer and Z. Kőváry (Eds.), New Trends in Psychobiography (pp. 79-88). Springer Nature Switzerland. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-916953-4_9

Murray, H. (1943). Analysis of The Personality of Adolph Hitler / With Predictions of His Future Behavior and Suggestions for Dealing with Him Now and After Germany’s Surrender. Harvard Psychology Department. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2017).

Perkins R., & Repper, J. (2003). Social Inclusion and Recovery. London: Baillière Tindall.

Peterson C., & Seligman M. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. American Psychological Association: Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Polkinghorne, D. (1983). Methodology for the Human Sciences: Systems of Inquiry. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Ponterotto, J. G. (2014). The art and craft of psychobiography. Counseling Today: Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Prenter, T., van Niekerk, R., & Fouché,  J. P. (2019). The Amazing Life of Charlize Theron. In C-H Mayer and Z. Kőváry (Eds.), New Trends in Psychobiography (pp. 463-480). Springer Nature Switzerland. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-916953-4_9

Reitz, A. K., Zimmermann, J., Hutteman, R., Specht, J., & Neyer, F. J. (2014) How Peers Make a Difference: The Role of Peer Groups and Peer Relationships in Personality Development.  European Journal of Personality. www.aging.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/Reitz,%20Zimmerman,%20Huttema…

Runyan, W. M. (1984). Life Histories and Psychobiography. Explorations in Theory and Method. New York: Oxford University Press.

Runyan, W. M. (1988). Progress in Psychobiography. Journal of Personality 56(1), 295-326.

Schrank, B., Brownell, T., Tylee, A., & Slade, M. (2014). Psychology: An Approach to Supporting Recovery in Mental Illness. East Asian Arch Psychiatry, 24[WC14] (3), 95-103 (2014).

Schultz, W. T. (2005). Psychobiography. Retrieved from[WC15]  http://www. psychobiography.com. Accessed 4 June 2020.

Seligman M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55[WC16] (1), 5-14. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.5\

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Sina, A. (2008). Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography of Allah’s prophet. Waterville ME: Felibri.com.

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Weissman, S. M. (1990).  His Brother’s Keeper: Psychobiography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc.

Whitbourne, S. K. (2017). What Makes the Arrogant Person So Arrogant? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201705/what-makes-the-arrogant-person-so-arrogant

Constructing Our Neural Information

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate, repetitive, neural information. WeVoice

DRNI—the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information expedites proactive neuroplasticityThe most constructive information is calculated and specific to our intention. Are we challenging the core and intermediate negative beliefs that condition our behavior and motivation? Are we focused on a specific challenge? Are we embracing our character strengths and virtues that support recovery and transformation? What is our end goal – the personal milestone we seek to achieve? Intention and content determine the integrity of information and its correlation to the durability and learning efficacy of the neural response.

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Intention: How are we expediting our objective? What is our constructive plan of attack? If our goal is to become better educated, what are we going to study, and what sources of information do we utilize? How are we going to challenge misinformation? If we are challenging our ANTs, which character strength do we emphasize, and which deficits do we challenge?

Content: What are the actual words that construct our neural information—the statement that addresses the intention of our goal? What is the best mode of delivery that will cause the receptor neuron to spark and engage the full range of positive neural responses? 

  • Intention: Emphasize our assets; challenge our deficits. ContentI am trustworthyI am regaining my confidence.
  • Intention. To stop smoking. Content: I have the disciplineI will stop smoking

Let us focus on one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated techniques utilized for the intention-driven content of the information at the core of DRNI. 

Positive Personal Affirmations

We underestimate the significance and effectiveness of positive personal affirmations because we do not comprehend or value the science behind them. PPAs are an astoundingly effective means of positive self-modification. PPAs are sensible reflections of our aspirations—brief, subjective statements that challenge our defeatist self-beliefs by emphasizing our character strengths, abilities, and accomplishments. Productive PPAs are rational, reasonable, possible, unconditional, goal-focused, brief, and first-person present time. 

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.

Possible: If our goals are impossible, our efforts are counter-productive and futile. I will win a Grammy is not a viable option for the tone-deaf.

Reasonable: Of sound judgment; sensible. I will publish my first novel is an unreasonable expectation if we choose to remain illiterate.

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, the future indeterminate. Our actions can only happen in the present. 

Brevity: Direct and easily memorized.

Diligently repeating positive personal affirmations accelerates and consolidates learning and unlearning. It increases activity in the self-processing systems of the cortex, which counteracts years of negative neural input. It decreases the fear and anxiety hormones of cortisol and adrenaline while transmitting pleasurable chemicals and hormones that generate the incentive to endure the tedious, repetitive input of information.  

The reciprocating energy from repetitive PPAs is abundant due to the amplified neural response. Positive energy in, positive energy multiplied millions of times, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Each neural input of information can impact millions of neurons as they restructure our neural network to a form conducive to a positive self-image. 

Many psychologists recommend delivering PPAs in front of a mirror. Our reflection is a distraction, however, which devalues the integrity of the process. We can deliver our PPAs while showering, cooking, or walking. Inputting our PPAs before sleep is an excellent option.

Examples of Positive Personal Affirmations:

  • I am successful
  • I am confident
  • I deserve to be loved
  • I am powerful
  • I am a good person
  • I am motivated
  • I am unique
  • All I need is within me
  • I am strong
  • I am focused and determined
  • I am not defined by my past
  • I am in charge of my life
  • I have the power to change
  • I determine my future

Affirmative Visualization

There are multiple psychological approaches to Visualization. Covert Conditioning focuses on eliminating a bad habit by imaginary repetition of the behavior, e.g., smoking or shoplifting. Covert Sensitization and Covert Extinction encourage repeated confrontation of our fears and apprehensions. In Covert Modeling, we choose a positive role model to visually emulate (like what we might incorporate into our Persona).

Both PPAs and Affirmative Visualizations meet the Laws of Learning criteria that describe what conditions must be present for learning (or unlearning) to occur.

The brain is in a constant mode of learning; it never stops realigning to information. It forms a million new connections for each input. Information includes experience, muscle movement, a decision, a memory, emotion, reaction, noise, tactile impressions, a twitch. With each input, connections strengthen and weaken, neurons atrophy/others are born, learning replaces unlearning, energy dissipates and expands, and functions shift from one region to another. Proactively stimulating our brain with deliberate, repetitive neural information via PPAs and Affirmative Visualization accelerates and consolidates learning (and unlearning), producing a correlated change in thought, behavior, and perspective. These changes become habitual and spontaneous over time.  

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

Our brain creates the same neural restructuring when we visualize doing something or when we verbalize it; we stimulate the same regions of the brain. Just as our neural network does not distinguish between rational and toxic information, it also does not distinguish whether we are physically experiencing something or imagining it. 

The thalamus is the small structure within the brain located just above the brain stem between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain and has extensive nerve connections to both. All information passes through the thalamus and is relayed to other parts of the brain. By visualizing an idea or performance repeatedly for an extended period, we increase activity in the thalamus and our brain begins to respond as though the idea was a real object or actually happening.

The thalamus makes no distinction between inner and outer realities. It does not distinguish whether we are imagining something or experiencing it. Thus, any idea, if contemplated long enough, will take on a semblance of reality. If we visualize a possible solution to a problem, the problem is more easily resolved because it specifically activates cognitive circuits involved with working memory.

We can visualize mitigating our anxiety and performing better, or we can envision being a more empathetic person. In either case, our neural repatterning will help us achieve those goals. The more we visualize with a clear intent the more focused we become and the higher the probability of achieving our goal. We activate our dopaminergic-reward system, decreasing the anxiety and fear-provoking hormones while transmitting those that make learning more accessible. In addition, when we visualize, our brain generates alpha waves which, neuroscientists have discovered, also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Mindfulness (recognition and acceptance)

Accepting scientific validity to the enormous benefits of PPAs makes it easier to endure the tedious, calculated regimen of deliberate, repetitive, neural information. The process is simple in theory but challenging due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term process. We do not put on tennis shorts and advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with racket and balls; philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent time at the keyboard. We can possess all the required tools, but they need to come out of the shed. Not only is DRNI repetitious and tedious, but it also fails to deliver immediate tangible results, causing us to readily concede defeat and abandon hope in this era of instant gratification. PPAs are one of the most effective means of replacing or overcoming the years of negative self-beliefs expressed in our ANTs. They dramatically accelerate and consolidate learning (and unlearning). If the science is not clear or we doubt the evidence, we must resolve these concerns; proactive neuroplasticity is the foundation of our recovery and our pursuit of goals and objectives. 

Recommendation. Create three viable (rational, reasonable, possible, unconditional, goal-focused, brief, and first-person present time). Repeat them aloud five times, a minimum of three times daily (or any variation that achieves the same results). This process consumes less than three minutes of our time; the positive impact on our neural network is immeasurable. Visualize sparking the fuse that propels the firework’s shell into the night sky where it explodes in a dazzling and powerful array of colors and lights, enhanced by the whistles, bangs, and staccato pops of celebration. Thus our neural receptor sparks the electrical transmission through its neural pathway, engaging millions upon millions of participating neurons in a positive cellular chain reaction.

The Power of the Word

We all carry an abundance of justifiable reasons for our anxiety to commit, among them physiological aversion, negative self-image, and the prejudice of our peers. We express this reticence in our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). There are categories of words that impede recovery and the pursuit of goals and objectives. Pressure, conditional, and negative absolute words are unconscious evidence of our resistance to commitment and accountability.

Pressure words like should and would equivocate our commitment. I should start my diet essentially means maybe I will and maybe I won’t. It allows us to change our minds, procrastinate, and fail. It unbinds us to action. We are either on a diet or will be on a diet. The pressure comes from the guilt of having done nothing (I should’ve done that). 

I shouldn’t drink at the office party. I will not drink at the office party. 

Negative Absolute Words. The adverse impact of won’t, can’t, and never is obvious. Our objective in recovery or self-development is to replace our ingrained ANTs with positive, affirming, productive ones. Hate is an extremely destructive sentiment. (I hate doing the dishes.) Do we really, or do we just dislike doing the dishes? Hate is an emotion; dislike is a feeling. Feelings quickly dissipate while emotions metastasize within us.

I won’t enjoy that lecture. I will learn from that lecture. (Which one offers the probability we will attend?)

Conditional words such as possibly, maybe, might add ambiguity to our commitment. We either did it, are doing it, or will do it. Qualifying or conditional words are pre-justifications for our failures. (I might have won if only … )

I might begin my diet tomorrow. I will start my diet tomorrow.

Pressure Words

  • should, should’ve
  • would, would’ve
  • must
  • have to, got to
  • ought to

Negative Absolutes

  • won’t
  • can’t
  • never
  • impossible
  • every time

Conditional Words

  • possibly
  • maybe
  • could, might
  • perhaps
  • sometime

These words are self-fulfilling prophecies of our inaction. It is important to become mindful of our emotional dependency on these self-destructive words and eliminate them from our thoughts and vocabulary. 

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.

The Value of Psychobiography

Abstractions of Intent: How a Psychobiography Grapples with the Fluidity of Truth
Broadening the Parameters of the Psychobiography: The Character Motivations of the ‘Ordinary’ Extraordinary

Robert F. Mullen, Ph.D.

Just published: “Broadening the Parameters of the Psychobiography: The Character Motivations of the ‘Ordinary’ Extraordinary”  in C-H Mayer, P. J. P. Fouché, R. Van Niekerk (eds.) Psychobiographical Illustrations on Meaning and Identity in Sociocultural Contexts from Palgrave MacMillan.

The Psychobiography

A psychobiography is a biographical study focusing on psychological factors, such as childhood disturbances and unconscious motives. It studies the character strengths, virtues, and attributes that generate the motivation, persistence, and perseverance to pursue our goals and objectives and attain optimum functioning. The psychobiography utilizes an integration of psychodynamic or psychoanalytic approaches including individual history, case study, data collection, hermeneutics, and narrative. Originally directed towards historically significant individuals, it is now used to research methods to (1) alleviate symptoms of dysfunction (disorder) and discomfort (neurosis) that impact an individual’s emotional wellbeing and quality of life, (2) pursue personal goals and objectives—eliminating a bad habit, self-transformation—harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. 

Other Publications

Enlisting Positive Psychologies to Challenge Love within SAD’s Culture of Maladaptive Self-Beliefs in C.-E. Mayer, E. Vanderheiden (eds.) International Handbook of Love: Transcultural and Transdisciplinary Perspectives. Insight into the relationship deficits experienced by people with SAD. Their innate need-for-intimacy is no less dynamic than that of any individual, but their impairment disrupts the ability (means-of-acquisition) to establish affectional bonds in almost any capacity. Now available from Amazon and other fine booksellers. The prepublication draft can be accessed here.

The Art of Authenticity: Constantin Stanislavski and Merleau-PontyJournal of Literature and Art Studies, 6 (7):790-803 (2016). doi:10.17265/2159-5836/2016.07.010. 

Utilizing Stanislavski’s method for authentic stage acting to address our volatile emotions to deconstruct and better understand and control them. 

Establishing a Wellness Model for LGBTQ+ Persons with Anxiety and Depression. Academia.edu, Researchgate.com. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.17550.38728

The wellness model’s emphasis on character strengths, virtues, and attributes not only positively impacts the self-beliefs and image of a mentally ill person but resonates in sexual and gender-based identities and portends well, the recovery-remission of an LGBTQ+ person.

Holy Stigmata, Anorexia, and Self-Mutilation: Parallels in Pain and Imagining. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, 9:25, 2010.   

Addresses the types of personalities that engage in self-mutilation and how some manipulate their self-inflicted pain for healing and empowerment.

Additional Publications

(2020) A Wellness Model of Recovery-Remission from Mental Illness in the 21st Century. Academia.edu, Researchgate.com. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.13413.22244

(2018) Debunking the Origins of Morality; the Individual’s Commitment to Humanity, Academia.edu.

(2018) Aurobindo’s Supermind, Teilhard’s Omega Point & Plato’s Doctrine of Recollection, Academia.edu.

(2014) Evolutionary Panentheism and Metanormal Human Capacity.  California Institute of Integral Studies, 2014, 355; 3680241. https://www.scribd.com/document/348881976/..

(2012) Aristotle and the Natural Slave: The Athenian Relationship with India, Mithras Reader Vol III: An Academic and Religious Journal of Greek, Roman and Persian Studies.

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.

Challenging Our Self-Destructive Thoughts

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate, repetitive, neural information. WeVoice

To fully comprehend the most effective means of challenging our self-destructive thoughts we need to set a couple of definitions. 

Situation is the set of circumstances ̶ the facts, conditions, and incidents affecting us at a particular time in a particular place. For social anxiety disorder, Situations are those that generate discomforting anxiety or stress such that it impacts our emotional wellbeing and quality of life. Examples range from restaurants and the classroom to job interviews and social events. The same is evident in the pursuit of goals and objectives. There are certain Situations that challenge our motivation and self-esteem.  

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)

ANTs are the involuntary, anxiety-provoking emotions or images that occur in anticipation of or reaction to the Situation. They are unpleasant expressions of our fears and apprehensions – manifestations of our irrational self-beliefs about who we are and how we relate to others, the world, and the future. (I am incompetent; No one will talk to me; I’ll say or do something stupid; I’ll be rejected.)They are our predetermined assumptions of what will happen in a Situation. 

ANTs are the expressions of our dysfunctional assumptions and distorted beliefs about a Situation that we accept as true. For example, the Situational automatic negative thought ( I am ugly and fat and no one will like me ) might result from the core belief ( I am undesirable ), and intermediate belief ( I am unattractive ). This negative self-appraisal can elicit an endless feedback loop of hopelessness, worthlessness, and undesirability, leading to substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 

ANTs are cognitively distorted and supported by maladaptive behaviors. 

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Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the onset or perpetuation of anxiety and depression. They are thoughts that cause us to perceive reality inaccurately. We all engage in cognitive distortions and are usually unaware of doing so. Cognitive distortions reinforce or justify our negative thinking and behaviors. We convince ourselves these false and inaccurate thoughts and reactions are the truth of any situation. 

Cognitive distortions define the ANT. I am ugly and fat and no one will like me is a distorted and irrational statement. It is Jumping to Conclusionsassuming that we know what another person is feeling and thinking, and why they act the way they do. There is also Emotional Reasoning, Labeling/Mislabeling, and Personalization distorting the statement. Cognitive distortions tend to blend and overlap much like the symptoms and characteristics of most dysfunctions. 

Maladaptive behaviors mean we adapt to Situations badly or wrongly. In psychology, experts present two forms of behavior – adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive behavior is behavior that is positive and functional. Maladaptive behaviors are dysfunctional behaviors uniquely characteristic of social anxiety disorder. They distort our perception and we ‘adapt’ negatively (maladapt) to a positive Situation. To analogize, if the room is sunny and welcoming, SAD tells us it is dark and unapproving. 

More About ANTs

Prevalent in social anxiety disorder, ANTs are irrational, perceptual, and self-destructive. To challenge them, we need to interrogate them to understand their structure. Why do we have these self-destructive thoughts and where did they come from? Without a clear inventory of the causes and consequences of our negative thoughts and behaviors, we do not have a chance of defeating them.

They originate with our Core Beliefs.

Core Beliefs

Core beliefs are determined by our childhood physiology, heredity, environment, information input, experience, learning, and relationships.

Negative core beliefs are generated by any childhood disturbance that interferes with our optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established. Any number of things can generate a negative core belief. Our parents are controlling or do not provide emotional validation. We are subjected to bullying or a broken home. The disturbance can be real or imagined, intentional or accidental, A toddler whose quality time with a parent is interrupted by a phone call can feel a sense of abandonment, which can generate core beliefs of unworthiness or insignificance. This is important when it comes to attributing blame or accountability for our social anxiety disorder because of the possibility no one is responsible; certainly not the child. 

Social anxiety disorder senses our vulnerability and onsets at adolescence. A combination of genetic and environmental factors drive social anxiety disorder. Researchers recently discovered a specific serotonin transporter gene called “SLC6A4” that is strongly correlated with susceptibility to the disorder, but we are still not clear why some of us are impacted and not others. 

PROACTIVE NEUROPLASTICITY YOUTUBE SERIES

Core beliefs remain as our belief system throughout life. They mold the unquestioned underlying themes that govern our perceptions. Even if a core belief is irrational or inaccurate, it still defines how we see the world. When we decline to question our core beliefs, we act upon them as though they are real and true.

Core beliefs are more rigid and exclusive in individuals with social anxiety because we tend to store information consistent with negative beliefs and ignore evidence that contradicts them. Social anxiety disorder generates a cognitive bias—a subconscious error in thinking that leads us to misinterpret information, impacting the rationality and accuracy of our perspectives and decisions. 

Negative core beliefs fall within two categories: self-oriented (I am unlovable, I am stupid) and other-oriented (You are unlovable, you are stupid). Individuals with self-oriented negative core beliefs view themselves in one of four ways: 

  • Helpless (I am weak, I am incompetent)
  • Hopeless (nothing can be done about it)
  • Unlovable (no one will Ike me)
  • Worthless (I don’t deserve to be happy).

These beliefs can lead to fears of intimacy and commitment, an inability to trust, debilitating anxiety, codependence, aggression, feelings of insecurity, isolation, a lack of control over life, and a resistance to new experiences.

People with other-oriented negative core beliefs view people as demeaning, dismissive, malicious, and manipulative. We tend to blame others for our condition, avoiding personal accountability (I can’t trust anyone). This generates serious anxiety towards Situations we perceive as potentially dangerous, causing us to avoid them in anticipation of harm.

So, we accumulate negative core beliefs due to childhood disturbance and other early-life experiences. They heavily influence our intermediate beliefs which are developing our adolescence. These beliefs are negatively aggravated by the onset of social anxiety disorder, which generates our negative self-beliefs and image, which generate our fears and anxieties of a Situation, which generate our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). A corresponding intermediate confirmation of the core belief,  I am undesirable might be,  I am unattractive and fat. A corresponding intermediate resolution might be, If I diet and have my nose fixed, I will be desirable

Intermediate Beliefs

Intermediate beliefs are the go-between our core beliefs and our automatic negative thoughts and image. Despite similar core beliefs, we have different intermediate beliefs because they are developed by our social, cultural, and environmental experiences – the same things that make up our personality.

Intermediate beliefs establish our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Attitude refers to our emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations that influence our behaviors. Our assumptions are what we believe to be true or real which, in social anxiety disorder, are irrational and cognitively distorted. Dysfunctional assumptions caused by our negative intermediate beliefs, and consequential to our negative core beliefs, generate our ANTs (automatic negative thoughts). Even when we know our fears and apprehensions are irrational, their emotional impact is so great, that our dysfunctional assumptions run roughshod over any healthy, rational response. 

How do we challenge our self-destructive thoughts?

Challenging and moderating our self-destructive thoughts is a process of revelation, evaluation, and implementation. ReChanneling has established Nine Steps to Moderate our Fear(s) of a Situation:

  1. Identify the Feared Situation
  2. Identify the Associated Fear(s)
  3. Unmask the Corresponding ANT(s)
  4. Examine and Analyze Our Fear(s) and Corresponding ANT(s)
  5. Generate Rational Responses
  6. Reconstruct Our Thought Patterns
  7. Create a Plan to Challenge Our Feared Situation
  8. Practice the Plan in Non-Threatening Simulated Situations (including Affirmative Visualization)
  9. Expose Ourselves to the Feared Situation

Identify the 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 the 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 the Corresponding ANT(s). Determine how we express our anxiety? What are our involuntary emotional expressions or images?

Examine and Analyze Our Fear(s) and Corresponding ANT(s). Examine and analyze the origins and trajectory of self-beliefs underlying our fears and anxieties while rationally addressing their veracity.

Generate Rational Responses. Recognize and accept the cognitive distortions and irrationality of our fears and ANTs and create rational responses.

Reconstruct Our Thought Patterns. Through proactive neuroplasticity and supporting psychological approaches, restructure our neural network by changing our thought patterns.

Create a Plan to Challenge Our Feared Situation. Utilizing the appropriate tools and techniques to challenge our fears and ANTs, develop a comprehensive plan to challenge the feared Situation.

Practice the Plan in Non-Threatening Simulated Situations. Strengthen our rational responses by repeatedly implementing the Plan in practiced exercises including role-play and other workshop interactivities. Practice Affirmative Visualization.

Expose Ourselves to the Feared Situation. This should only transpire after a suitable period of graded exposure to facilitate the reconstruction of our neural network and a familiarity with the prescribed tools and techniques.

Converting ANTs to ARTs 

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 put on tennis shorts and advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with racket and balls; philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard. Neural restructuring 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. However, once we initiate the process, utilizing the tools and techniques provided by a comprehensive recovery program, progress is exponential.

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.

Proactive Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate, repetitive, neural information. WeVoice

This is a general overview of Dr. Mullen’s 90-minute Academa.edu course titled Neuroscience and Happiness. Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change and a reprint of a guest post for a Canadian mental health website.

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 behavior and perspective. 

What is significant is our ability to dramatically accelerate learning by consciously compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. Deliberate, repetitive, neural information (DRNI) empowers us to proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. 

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Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaption to information. Information includes thought, behavior, experience, and sensation. Active neuroplasticity is achieved through cognitive pursuits such as engaging in social interaction, teaching, aerobics, and creating. Proactive neuroplasticity is the most effective means of learning and unlearning because the regimen of deliberate, repetitive neural input of information accelerates and consolidates the brain’s restructuring. 

Neurons, the core components of our brain and central nervous system, convey information through electrical activity. The input of information causes a receptor neuron to fire. Each firing stimulates a presynaptic or sensory neuron that, depending upon the integrity of the information, forwards it via an axon or connecting pathway to a synapse. The signal is picked up by the postsynaptic neuron’s hairlike dendrites that forward the information to the nucleus of the cell body. Continuous electrical energy impulses engage millions of participating neurons, causing a cellular chain reaction in multiple interconnected areas of our brain.  

A Brief History

The science of neuroplasticity was identified in the 1960s from research into the rejuvenation of brain functioning after a massive stroke. Before that, researchers believed that neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons, ceased shortly after birth. Our brain’s physical structure was assumed to be permanent by early childhood. 

Today, we recognize that our neural pathways are not fixed but dynamic and malleable. The human brain retains the capacity to continually reorganize pathways and create new connections and neurons to expedite learning.

Neurons do not act by themselves but through neural circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on electrical activity. The deliberate, repetitious, input of information impels neurons to fire repeatedly, causing them to wire together. The more repetitions, the more robust the new connection. This is called Hebbian Learning.

Hebbian Learning

Synaptic connections consolidate when two or more neurons are activated contiguously. Neural circuits are like muscles, the more repetitions, the more durable the connection. Hebb’s rule of neuroplasticity states, neurons that fire together wire together. When multiple neurons wire together, they create more receptor and sensory neurons. Repeated firing strengthens and solidifies the pathways between neurons. The activity of the axon pathway is heightened, causing the synapses to accelerate neurotransmissions of pleasurable and motivating hormones.

We not only prompt our neural network to restructure by deliberately inputting information, but through repetition, we cause circuits to strengthen and realign, speeding up the process of learning and unlearning. 

What happens when multiple neurons wire together? Every input of information, intentional or otherwise, causes a receptor neuron to fire. Each time a neuron fires, it reshapes and strengthens the axon connection and the neural bond. The more repetitions, the more neurons are impacted, creating multiple connections between receptor, sensory, and relay neurons, attracting other neurons. An increase in learning efficacy arises from the sensory neuron’s repeated and persistent stimulation of the postsynaptic cell. Postsynaptic neurons multiply, amplifying the positive or negative energy of the information. Energy is the size, amount, or degree of that which passes from one atom to another in the course of their chain reaction. The activity of the axon pathway is heightened, prompting the synapses to increase and accelerate the release of hormones that generate the commitment, persistence, and perseverance useful to recovery or the pursuit of personal goals and objectives.

The consequence of DRNI over an extended period is obvious. Multiple firings substantially accelerate and consolidate learning. In addition, DRNI activates long-term potentiation, which increases the strength of the nerve impulses along the connecting pathways, generating more energy. Deliberate, repetitive, neural information generates higher levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) proteins associated with improved cognitive functioning, mental health, and memory. 

We know how challenging it is to change, to remove ourselves from hostile environments, to break habits that interfere with our optimum functioning. We are physiologically hard-wired to resist anything that jeopardizes our status quo. Our brain’s inertia senses and repels changes, and our basal ganglia resist any modification in behavior patterns. DRNI empowers us to assume accountability for our emotional wellbeing and quality of life by proactively controlling the input of information.

Neural Reciprocity

Neural restructuring does not happen overnight. Recovery-remission is a year or more in recovery utilizing appropriate tools and techniques. Meeting personal goals and objectives takes persistence, perseverance, and patience. Substance abuse programs recommend nurturing a plant or tropical fish during the first year before contemplating a personal relationship. The successful pursuit of any ambition varies by individual and is subject to multiple factors. However, once we begin the process of DRNI, progress is exponential. Our brain reciprocates our efforts in abundance because every viable input of information engages millions of neurons with their own energy transmission. 

DRNI plays a crucial role in reciprocity. The chain reaction generated by a single neural receptor involves millions of neurons that amplify energy on a massive scale. The reciprocating energy from DRNI is vastly more abundant because of the repeated firing by the neuron receptor. Positive energy in, positive energy multiplied millions of times, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. 

Conversely, negative energy in, negative energy multiplied millions of times, negative energy is reciprocated in abundance. 

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

Our brain does not think; it is an organic reciprocator that provides the means for us to think. Its function is the maintenance of our heartbeat, nervous system, and blood flow. It tells us when to breathe, stimulates thirst, and controls our weight and digestion.

Neurotransmissions

Because our brain does not distinguish healthy from toxic information, the natural neurotransmission of pleasurable and motivational hormones happens whether we feed it self-destructive or constructive information. That’s one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or recovering is challenging. The power of DRNI is that a regimen of positive, repetitive input can compensate for decades of irrational, self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, and provide the mental and emotional wherewithal to effectively pursue our personal goals and objectives. 

We receive neurotransmissions of GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure and motivation, endorphins for euphoria, and serotonin for a sense of wellbeing. Acetylcholine supports our positivity, glutamate enhances our memory, and noradrenalin improves concentration. In addition, information impacts the fear and anxiety-provoking hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. When we input negative information, our brain naturally releases neurotransmitters that support that negativity. 

Conversely, every time we provide positive information, our brain releases hormones that make us feel viable and productive, subverting the negative energy channeled by the things that impede our potential. 

Definitions

Dysfunction and discomfort are conditions that can result in functional impairment and impact our quality of life. The difference is in severity. A dysfunction is a diagnosable condition that psychiatrists label a mental illness or disorder. Discomfort does not rise to the level of diagnosability but is holistically disruptive, nonetheless.

Personal goals and objectives are those things we want to change about ourselves: eliminating a bad habit or behavior, improving life satisfaction, and revitalizing self-esteem. The benefits of DRNI cannot be underestimated. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information significantly improves the probability of recovery. Likewise, it empowers us to pursue those personal goals and objectives that make our lives more viable and productive. 

Constructing the Information

Deliberate neural information is differentiated by context, content, and intention, which determine the integrity of the information and its correlation to durability and learning efficacy. The most effective information is calculated and specific to our intention. Are we challenging the negative thoughts and behaviors of our dysfunction? 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 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 racket and balls; philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard. 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.

Fortunately, the universal law of compensation anticipates this. The positive impact of proactive neuroplasticity is exponential due to the abundant reciprocation of positive energy and the neurotransmission of hormones that generate motivation, persistence, and perseverance. Proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI dramatically mitigates symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort and advances the pursuit of goals and objectives.

To quote Noble Prize-winning author, André Gide “There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.”

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.