Category Archives: Neuroplasticity

Selective Perspective

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

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Cognitive Distortions #3 and #4: Filtering and Polarized Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfection is a futile pursuit because it is impossible to attain. In the last chapter, we talked about the criteria for healthy and effective neural information – that it be rational, possible, and reasonable. Perfectionism fulfills none of these.

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

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

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

Controlled or Controlling: Who’s in Charge?

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

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Cognitive Distortion #2: Control Fallacies

Our anxieties manifest in how we think about ourselves and how we think others think about us. We struggle with our fears of criticism and ridicule. The majority of us also live with depression, which can lead to multiple cognitive distortions like Filtering and PolarizedThinking (Chapter 10), Overgeneralization (Chapter 12), and Personalization (Chapter 14). This chapter focuses on our tendency to engage in ControlFallacies due to our SAD-induced feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. 

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

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

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

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

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

PROACTIVE NEUROPLASTICITY YOUTUBE SERIES

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7: The Awesome Power of Proactive Neuroplasticity

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Directo/ReChanneling

Numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter Seven – “The Awesome Power of Proactive Neuroplasticity” in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. I present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions that I will gratefully consider and evaluate as I work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to a degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<Seven>
The Awesome Power of Proactive Neuroplasticity

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.”
– Siddhartha Gautama

Until we immerse ourselves in recovery, social anxiety disorder governs our emotional well-being and quality of life. We are subject to an irrational, and manipulative entity. Our thoughts are distorted and our behavior destructive due to our SAD-induced fears and anxieties. We feel helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. Until we dissociate ourselves from our symptoms and embrace our value and significance, we will continue to subordinate ourselves to an unscrupulous dysfunction that thrives on our misery and self-destructive behaviors.

Our phobias are not real, however; they are abstractions. They have no power on their own and cannot exist without us. They are figments of a SAD imagination run rampant. Once we learn to rationally examine and respond to them, they cease to be real. I will not minimize their impact, but our response to adversity is of our own making. SAD is the enemy, and it is well-weaponized. Proactive neuroplasticity is our weapons research facility, and we are in charge of development. The objective is to build an arsenal capable of countering that of the enemy and we can’t adequately do that until we know what we are defending against.

Recovery and empowerment work in concert. Recovery is regaining possession and control of what has been stolen or lost. Social anxiety disorder steals our autonomy, our hopes, and our self-esteem. Empowerment is reasserting our inherent capacity to control our emotional response to stressful situations. Recovery and empowerment complement each other through simultaneous, mutual interaction. 

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Our weapons research facility is operational; it is our neural network. Neuroplasticity is the scientific evidence of our brain’s constant adaptation to information. It is what makes learning and registering new experiences possible. Scientists refer to the process as structural remodeling of the brain.

All information notifies our neural network to realign, generating a correlated change in behavior and perspective. What is significant is our ability to accelerate and consolidate the process by compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information (DRNI) develops new mindsets, skills, and abilities, replacing decades of negative self-beliefs. It empowers us to empower ourselves.

Human neuroplasticity comes in three forms. Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaption to information – thought, behavior, experience, sensation – anything and everything that impacts our neural network. Active neuroplasticity happens through cognitive pursuits like engaging in social interaction, teaching, aerobics, writing, and art. 

Proactive neuroplasticity is the most effective means of learning the tools and techniques of recovery while unlearning the irrational thoughts and behaviors that annihilate our quality of life. By acting proactively, we compel change rather than responding to it after it has happened.

Neurons are the core components of our brain and central nervous system. They convey information through electrical activity. Information sparks a receptor neuron, sending electrical energy to a sensory neuron, stimulating postsynaptic neurons that forward it to millions of participating neurons, causing a cellular chain reaction in multiple interconnected areas of our brain.

Our brain’s natural plasticity was identified in the 1960s, stemming from research into brain functioning after a massive stroke. Before that, researchers believed that neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons, stopped shortly after birth. 

Today, science recognizes that our neural pathways are dynamic and malleable. Our human brain continually reorganizes to information. 

When behaviorist, B. F. Skinner claimed that the neural input of information was more important than the amount, he was half right. That was before we realized how our brain reacts to information – how repeated input results in repeated firing. Neurons don’t act by themselves but through circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on electrical activity. Like muscles, the more repetitions, the more robust the energy of the information

The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information activates long-term potentiation, which increases the strength of the nerve impulses along the connecting pathways, generating more energy. The process creates higher levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) –proteins associated with improved cognitive functioning, mental health, and memory. 

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

The neural chain reaction generated by repetition reciprocates, in abundance, the energy of the information. Millions of neurons amplify the electrical activity on a massive scale. Positive information in, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Conversely, negative information in, negative energy reciprocated in abundance. This affirms the value of positive reinforcement

When the activity of the axon pathways is heightened, the neurotransmission of chemical hormones accelerates, feeding us GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure and motivation, endorphins to boost our self-esteem, and serotonin for a sense of well-being. Acetylcholine supports neuroplasticity, glutamate enhances our memory, and noradrenalin improves concentration. 

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Cortisol and Adrenaline

Those are the highlights. Scientists have identified over fifty chemical hormones in the human body. They are the messengers that control our physiological functions – our metabolism, homeostasis, and reproduction. Their distribution is precise. Even slight changes in levels can cause significant disruption to our health as in the cases of cortisol and adrenaline.

Among other things, cortisol helps to regulate our blood pressure and circadian rhythm. Adrenaline can relieve pain and boosts our body’s immune system. When transmitted into the bloodstream our body experiences a heightened state of physical and mental alertness. Normal amounts of the two hormones are necessary to our basic survival, and in most cases, beneficial to our overall health and well-being.

Cortisol and adrenaline are called fear and anxiety-provoking hormones. Both are designed to trigger the fight-or-flight response – our instinctive response to stress. Produced by our brain’s amygdala, cortisol increases our heart rate and blood pressure, altering our immune system, and suppressing our digestion. 

Adrenaline, transmitted by our adrenal glands, causes our air passages to dilate, redirecting more oxygen to our muscles. Blood vessels contract and send blood to the heart, lungs, and other major muscle groups. These activities all contribute to the high stress that impacts our fears and anxieties.

Chronic stress induced by our SAD symptomatology causes a higher and constant influx of cortisol and adrenaline into our system. Not only does this increase the risk of health problems like heart disease and stroke, but it contributes significantly to our anxiety and depression, causing problems with memory, cognition, and sleep patterns. 

Managing stress and learning how to reduce the levels of cortisol and adrenaline through coping mechanisms and skills is essential to our emotional well-being. We will explore these elements of recovery in Chapters 11 and 13. 

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Each input of positive information factors in the release of these hormones. Here’s the challenge, however. Our brain doesn’t think; it provides the means for us to think. It does not distinguish healthy from toxic information. Our neurons transmit these wonderful hormones in response to negative as well as positive information. That’s one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or recovering from emotional dysfunction is challenging. 

We are physiologically averse to change, making it difficult to remove ourselves from hostile environments and break habits that interfere with optimum functioning. We are hard-wired to resist anything that jeopardizes our status quo. Our brain’s inertia senses and repels change, and our basal ganglia resist any modification to behavior patterns. 

So, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of positive reinforcement. Certain recovery coping skills like rational response, projected positive outcomes, and positive personal affirmations are guided by the electrical energy of our information. Positive information is crucial to our neural restructuring, and to moderate our fears and anxieties. I realize we’re getting ahead of ourselves with unfamiliar terms. Rest assured, we will delve deeply into them as we proceed. What’s important here is our mindfulness –recognition and acceptance of the power and effectiveness of positive information. 

We are at war with our social anxiety disorder. Proactive neuroplasticity is our weapons research facility, responsible for developing a strategic advantage over our enemy. While the realignment of our neural network is the framework for recovery and empowerment, a coalescence of science and east-west psychologies is essential to capture the diversity of human thought and experience. Science gives us proactive neuroplasticity; cognitive-behavioral modification and positive psychology’s optimal functioning are western-oriented, and eastern practices provide the therapeutic benefits of Abhidharma psychology and the overarching truths of ethical behavior. Also crucial to recovery are approaches that focus on the recovery and rejuvenation of our self-esteem

A one-size-fits-all solution cannot comprehensively address our complexity. We are better served by integrating multiple traditional and non-traditional approaches, developed through client trust, cultural assimilation, and therapeutic innovation. Our environment, heritage, background, and associations reflect our wants, choices, and aspirations. If they are not given consideration, then we are not valued. Recovery builds upon our strengths, virtues, and accomplishments. We do not triumph in battle through incompetence and weakness but with skill and careful planning. 

Recovery and empowerment require incentive and perseverance to endure the potential ennui of repetitive neural input. Once we start down the path, however, our capacity for change grows exponentially as we restore our confidence and self-appreciation. This book provides the tools and techniques for recovery. The onus is on you whether you choose to use them. Should you not, take responsibility for your inaction. Don’t blame the chef if you refuse to taste the food. Meaning, don’t dispute the methods of recovery if you decide not to avail yourself of them. Your resistance is formidable; that’s how SAD sustains itself. I only ask, for your sake, that you consider the possibility. Do not allow yourself to suffer the fate of Whitter spinster, Maud Miller. “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been.”

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Comments. Suggestions. Constructive Criticism

The Facileness of Blaming 

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops

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

Cognitive Distortion #1: Blaming

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

Consider this example. The entire office staff congratulates us on our promotion, except for one individual who looks the other way. Rather than embracing the support, we obsess over the shunner. That is Filtering – selectively choosing our facts to support our poor self-image by dwelling on the negative while overlooking the positive. While the number of cognitive distortions varies widely, there are thirteen that are primary. Jumping to Conclusions might indicate we know what our perceived antagonist is thinking. We are mind-readers. Emotional Reasoning is arriving at our emotional conclusion without considering other factors. Perhaps our antagonist has a toothache or is distracted by unrelated events. The cognitive distortion, Personalization speaks for itself.

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

Let us begin our study with Blaming, a cognitive distortion very relevant to SAD.

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Blaming

Since we have determined that onset is a consequence of childhood disturbance and other factors for which we are not accountable, attributing blame for our social anxiety disorder should be a moot exercise. 

Knowledge, however, is not resolution. We are still learning the tools and techniques of the enemy, but our counteroffensive remains on the drawing board. Until we design and implement our weaponry, we remain in emotional limbo, overwhelmed by feelings of incompetence and undesirability. Much of recovery is devising and implementing rational responses to our SAD-induced negative perceptions. This does not happen overnight, however, and the burden of responsibility for our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors can be overwhelming. Trapped within SAD’s vicious cycle of fears and social avoidance, we see ourselves as victims. Victimization needs an antagonist – someone or something to blame. 

PROACTIVE NEUROPLASTICITY YOUTUBE SERIES

The mature and logical approach is to rationally respond to our emotional angst, but SAD subsists on irrationality. Until we master recovery, it is reasonable to search for avenues to unburden ourselves of responsibility. One alternative is external blaming – holding others accountable for our dysfunction including our parents, society, god, and our golden retriever. 

Internal blaming is taking personal responsibility even though we are not accountable for the onset. When we define ourselves by our dysfunction rather than our attributes, we blame ourselves. 

Internal or self-blaming is one of the most toxic forms of self-abuse because it goes against nature to self-harm. We are not put on this earth to hurt ourselves. Self-abuse is an abomination of creation especially when there is a solution. 

Until we devise rational responses to our fears and social avoidance, we continue to blame ourselves for our behaviors and perceived character defects. We hesitate to contribute to discussions for fear of criticism. We avoid conversations, worried our nerves will expose us. We blame ourselves when we shun others out of fear of rejection. Then, adding insult to injury, we beat ourselves up because our symptoms get the better of us causing us to self-characterize as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. 

The resolution is learning how to rationally respond to our emotional angst. We cannot function optimally without moderating our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. The ability to look at our actions through the prism of intellectual awareness is a necessary component of the transformative act and indispensable to recovery. Rational response allows the flow of positive thought and behavior necessary for recovery, eliminating the need to blame. 

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

Chapter 5: The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChannelng

Numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter Five – ‘The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation’’ in my upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. I present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions that I gratefully consider and evaluate as I work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<Five>
The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything.
Maybe it is about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you,
so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”
— Paul Coelho

While we remain conjoined with our social anxiety disorder, we continue to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. These become our core self-beliefs as a result of childhood disturbance. By dissociating ourselves from our condition, we perceive things more rationally. It is SAD that compels us to think irrationally, and it is this compulsion that causes us to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. In my experience developing and implementing programs to challenge the self-annihilation of those living with SAD, I have identified the overarching integrant. We are lost. Like the preverbal wandering lamb, our flanks are exposed to the wolves of our irrationality. 

We are the personification of the fabled protagonist wandering, helpless and hopeless, in the forest. Our hunger for safety and comfort drives us to grasp onto anything that offers sustenance, no matter how destructive to our well-being. We encounter the house of candy and voraciously consume it even though our instincts advise us of the likelihood of villainy within. 

Mindful we are not accountable for having SAD should relieve us of the unjustifiable shame and guilt we have relied upon to rationalize our condition. Since we are not at fault for having SAD, we should no longer feel the need to beat ourselves for our condition. Yet we continue to do so. Why is that? The answer is obvious. While we are not accountable for the cards we have been dealt, we are responsible for how we play the hand we have been given. In essence, our resistance to recovery continues the cycle of guilt and shame that causes us to continually beat ourselves up. 

It is a common refrain that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. That is especially true for social anxiety because we find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle of irrational fears and avoidance of social interaction. Contrary to what SAD tells us, we are not stupid. We know, after decades of denial, that our thoughts and behaviors are self-destructive yet feel doomed to repeat them ad nauseam. Then we beat ourselves up for our failure to escape this prison of self-abuse. We hate our life, and we hate ourselves for putting up with it. 

So, in this chapter, we are going to learn the history of our negative thoughts and behaviors so we can put an end to this endless cycle of fear that alienates us from our true nature. We will see the development of our self-destructive proclivities as a series of stages. It is not a perfectly linear trajectory. It is a collaboration of associated events. For example, the onset of SAD corresponds to our negative intermediate beliefs which are associated with our perceptions of childhood disturbance. Like the simultaneous mutual interaction of mind, body, spirit, and emotions in all human endeavors, each stage in our trajectory complements, influences, and overlaps.

The negative cycle we are in may have convinced us that there is
something wrong with us. That is untrue. The only thing we may be
doing wrong is viewing ourselves and the world inaccurately.

Core Beliefs

It begins with our core beliefs that underscore our understanding of self. Core beliefs are our deeply held convictions that determine how we see ourselves in the world. We formulate them in childhood in response to information, experiences, inferences and deductions, and by accepting what we are told as true. They mold the unquestioned underlying themes that govern our perceptions, and they, ostensibly, remain as our belief system throughout life. Even if a core belief is irrational or inaccurate, it defines how we see ourselves in 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 in individuals with SAD because we tend to store information consistent with negative beliefs, ignoring evidence that contradicts it. This produces a cognitive bias – a subconscious error in thinking that leads us to misinterpret information, impacting the accuracy of our perspectives and decisions. 

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Childhood Disturbance

During the development of our core beliefs, we are subject to a childhood disturbance – a broad and generic term for something that interferes with our optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, or social development. The word disturbance generates images of overt and tragic abuse, but this is not necessarily the case. As explained in Chapter One, any number of things can be defined as childhood disturbance. It can be intentional or accidental, real or imagined. (The suggestibility and emotional creativeness of the pre-adolescent is legendary.) I gave you the example of the toddler who senses abandonment when her or his parental quality time is interrupted by a phone call. It is safe to posit that every child perceives disturbances daily. They are universal and indiscriminate. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established, and experts speculate that each of us will develop at least one diagnosable emotional dysfunction at some point in our life. 

Negative Core Beliefs 

This confluence of developing core beliefs and childhood disturbance generates negative core beliefs about the self (I am abandoned) and others (you abandoned me). Feelings of detachment, neglect, and exploitation are also common consequences of childhood disturbance. It is our self-oriented negative core beliefs that compel us to view ourselves in these four ways. As helpless (I am weak, I am incompetent); hopeless (nothing can be done about it); undesirable (no one will like me); and worthless (I don’t deserve to be happy). Our other-oriented negative core beliefs view people as demeaning, dismissive, malicious, and manipulative. Other-oriented self-beliefs incentivize us to blame others for our condition, avoiding personal accountability. We hold others responsible for our feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and worthlessness. 

Emotional Dysfunction

The next step in our trajectory is the onset of emotional dysfunction as a result of childhood disturbance. Roughly 90% of onset happens during adolescence. Two exceptions are narcissistic personality disorder and later-life PTSD. The symptoms and characteristics of emotional dysfunction often remain dormant, manifesting later in life. The susceptibility to onset originates in childhood – emotional viruses that sense vulnerability. Experts tell us that SAD infects around the age of thirteen duo to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Researchers recently discovered a specific serotonin transporter gene called “SLC6A4” that is strongly correlated with SAD. Whatever the causes, it is our perception of childhood disturbance that produces the susceptibility to infection.

Insufficient Satisfaction of Needs

Self-esteem is mindfulness of our value to ourselves, society, and the world. It can be further understood as a complex interrelationship between how we think about ourselves, how we think others perceive us, and how we process and present that information. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reveals how childhood disturbance disrupts our natural development. The orderly flow of social and emotional development requires satisfying fundamental human needs. Childhood perceptions of abandonment, detachment, exploitation, and neglect subvert certain biological, physiological, and emotional needs like familial support, healthy relationships, and a sense of safety and belongingness. This lacuna negatively impacts our self-esteem which we express by our undervaluation or regression of our positive self-qualities. This does not signify a deficit, but latency and dormancy – underdevelopment of our character strengths and attributes due to inactivity. 

Negative Intermediate Beliefs 

The confluence of SAD and the disruption in self-esteem generate life-consistent negative self-beliefs sustained by cognitive distortions. The onset of SAD happens during the development of our intermediate beliefs. These establish our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Attitudes refer to our emotions, convictions, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations that influence our behaviors. Our assumptions are what we believe to be true or real. Despite similar core beliefs, we each have varying intermediate beliefs developed by information and experience, e.g., social, cultural, and environmental – the same things that make up our personality. 

Negative Self-Beliefs and Image

These SAD-induced attitudes, rules, and assumptions result in distorted and maladaptive understandings of the self and the world. 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. that unique characteristic of SAD. They distort our perception and we ‘adapt’ negatively (maladapt) to stimuli or situations. To analogize, if the room is sunny and welcoming, SAD tells us it is dark and unapproving. 

Automatic Negative Thoughts and Behaviors 

We articulate our fears through preprogrammed, self-fulfilling prophecies called ANTs. Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are involuntary, anxiety-provoking assumptions that spontaneously appear in response to the places or circumstances that provoke our anxiety. Examples include the classroom, a job interview, a social event, and the family dinner. Dysfunctional assumptions caused by our negative self-beliefs impact the content of our ANTs. Even when we know our fears and apprehensions are irrational, their emotional impact is so great, they run roughshod over any healthy, rational response. We will delve deeper into all of this as we progress. Then, together we will develop a targeted plan to dramatically moderate your social anxiety.

We briefly discussed how SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Propaganda is the distribution of biased and misleading information. SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-annihilating thoughts and behaviors. We manifest the effectiveness of SAD propaganda through our maladaptive behaviors and cognitively distorted responses to our fears.

Cognitive distortions are the exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of our anxiety and depression. Everyone engages in cognitive distortions and is usually unaware of doing so. They reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors. They twist our thinking, painting an inaccurate picture of our self in the world. We distort reality to avoid or validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions.

Part of our counteroffensive is recognizing these cognitive distortions to challenge and counteract them. Throughout this book, we will analyze and discuss each of the thirteen cognitive distortions most applicable to SAD and analyze how we utilize them to reinforce and justify our irrational thoughts and behaviors.

The bulk of this chapter focuses on the origins and trajectory of our life-consistent negative self-beliefs, illustrating the slow but inexorable progression of the SAD army on our emotional well-being. We are now beginning to understand SAD’s tactical advantage. This will help us forge the tools and techniques to (1) defend ourselves and (2) overwhelm or conquer our fears and avoidance of social connectedness. In Chapter Seven, we will look at some of these tools both scientific and psychological.

One of the repercussions of living with SAD is our self-annihilation – our compulsion to beat ourselves up for our difficulties rather than embrace our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. You are challenging your social anxiety. That is positive neural information, the cornerstone of proactive neuroplasticity. Acknowledge your determination, take credit for it, and give your psyche a hearty pat on the back.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
— Lao Tzu

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New Workshop: Recovery and Empowerment

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Recovery: the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

Empowerment: the process of becoming stronger and more confident in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Neuroplasticity: our brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning or experience.

Proactive: controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

Proactive Neuroplasticity: accelerated learning through DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information.

Dr. Mullen’s years of researching and implementing programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives demonstrate the learning effectiveness of proactive neuroplasticity. DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neutral input of information dramatically accelerates and consolidates our pursuit of personal goals and objectives—eliminating a bad habit, self-transformation—harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living.

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. 

See Anatomy of Recovery and Empowerment Workshops 

Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaption to information. Information includes all thought, behavior, experience, and sensation. Active neuroplasticity is 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 restructuring. 

Hebbian Learning

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 Hebbian Learning. DRNI is the most effective way to promote and retain learning and unlearning. 

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. 

Accelerates and Consolidates Learning

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. Repeated neural input creates 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. The activity of the axon pathway heightens, urging the synapses to increase and accelerate the release of chemicals and 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. 

PROACTIVE NEUROPLASTICITY YOUTUBE SERIES

We know how challenging it is to change, remove ourselves from hostile environments, and 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 well-being and quality of life by proactively controlling the input of information.

Neural Reciprocity

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 reciprocated in abundance. 

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. 

Hormonal 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 is one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or recovering is challenging. We receive neurotransmissions of GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure and motivation, endorphins for euphoria, and serotonin for a sense of well-being. 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 positive information, our brain naturally releases neurotransmitters that support that negativity. 

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

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. 

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 and motivation. 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. 

ReChanneling targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration, utilizing an integration of science and east-west psychologies. Science gives us proactive neuroplasticity, CBT and positive psychologies are western-oriented, and eastern practices provide the therapeutic aspects of Abhidharma psychology and the overarching truths of ethical behavior. 

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RECOVERY AND EMPOWERMENT

ReChanneling has reached a new plateau with more than 1,000 individuals learning how to consciously restructure their neural networks. Proactive neuroplasticity can dramatically transform self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. 

Recovery: regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost

Empowerment: becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning or experience.

Proactive: controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

Proactive Neuroplasticity: defining our emotional well-being through DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information.

Proactive Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change

DRNI: Proactively Restructuring Our Neural Network

Proactive Neuroplasticity: YouTube Series

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Chapter 3: Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics

Dr. Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

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This is a draft of Chapter Three – ‘Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics’ in ReChanneling’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. I present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions that I will gratefully consider and evaluate as I work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<Three>
Assessing the Enemy’s Tactics

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
but he who conquers that fear.”
– Nelson Mandela

I want you to mentally dissociate yourself from your social anxiety. Recognize it as a separate entity, familiar but distinct from the substantive individual known as you. The most important thing to take away from Chapter One is the resolve that you will no longer define yourself by your fears and apprehensions, but by your character strengths, virtues, and achievements. 

This is a crucial lesson in recovery. When we identify ourselves by our emotional dysfunction, we attribute our self-destructive feelings and behaviors to a personality defect. Something must be wrong with me. That is false. Our life-consistent negative thought patterns are SAD propaganda – biased and misleading information that promotes a false self-image. Nothing is wrong with us.

We are not dissociating ourselves from our memories, feelings, and achievements that constitute our unique personalities. We are dissociating ourselves from the things that make us feel incompetent and undesirable while embracing our inherent and acquired qualities that challenge these irrational self-beliefs. It is purely a mental exercise, and it is a necessary one. Our fears are expressed by unsound emotions. We challenge them through rational responses. Mind over emotion. Right now, social anxiety disorder controls our emotions. The goal of recovery is to take back our rightful control.

SAD is the enemy. Seize that awareness and emblazon it on your frontal lobe – the part of your brain that processes your emotions and your decisions. To successfully engage this sinister adversary we must learn its tactics and the scope of its weaponry. From that, we devise our stratagem. That is the substance of this chapter. This is a war for control over our emotional well-being and quality of life 

As the third-largest mental health care problem in the world, SAD is culturally identifiable by our persistent fear of social interaction and performance situations. Our suspicions of criticism, ridicule, and rejection are so severe, that we avoid the healthy life experiences that interconnect us with others and the world. It is not the fears that devastate our lives; it is the things we do to avoid them. We have far more to fear from our distorted perceptions than what we might encounter in the real world. Our imagination takes us to dark and lonely places. 

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Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are anxiety-provoking emotions or images that occur in anticipation of or reaction to a feared situation. They are unpleasant expressions of our life-consistent negative self-beliefs that define 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.”) They are our predetermined assumptions of what will happen in a Situation. We will discuss ANTs in more detail when we analyze the life cycle of our negative self-beliefs in Chapter Five.

These cognitively distorted emotions can elicit an endless feedback loop of hopelessness, worthlessness, and undesirability, leading to substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 

We fear the unknown and unexplored. We obsess about upcoming events and how we will reveal our shortcomings. We experience anticipatory anxiety for weeks before a situation and anticipate the worst. We visualize those events in high school when we were the last to be chosen. The times we felt shunned when we tried to join a conversation. We do not revisit the good times or relive our happy experiences because SAD sustains itself by focusing on the negative aspects of our life. 

As Lord Acton stated, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  We do not seek power in recovery, but empowerment. There is a huge distinction. Empowerment is the process of overcoming power and becoming stronger and more confident. We exponentially erode SAD’s power by consciously compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. Out with our life-consistent negative self-beliefs; in with the self-appreciation of our value and significance. As our neural network realigns, we regain control of our life and emotions. We embrace our universal entitlements.

SAD is ostensibly the most underrated, misunderstood, and misdiagnosed disorder. Nicknamed the neglected anxiety disorder, few experts understand it, and even fewer know how to address it. The constant and massive number of revisions, substitutions, and changes in defining SAD do little to remedy the problem. SAD is routinely misdiagnosed. What did your therapist tell you? That you are depressed or obsessive-compulsive. That you might be borderline personality or agoraphobic? Here is an indisputable reality. Experts may be up-to-date on the latest issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and familiar with the revolutionary new anti-depressant, but they cannot comprehend the personal impact of social anxiety. One has to have SAD to recognize the severity of its impact. We know it because we experience it every moment of every day. 

Chronic and debilitating, SAD attacks on all fronts, negatively affecting our entire lived-body. It manifests in mental confusion, emotional instability, physical dysfunction, and spiritual malaise. Emotionally, we are depressed and lonely. We are subject to unwarranted sweating, trembling, hyperventilation, nausea, and muscle spasms. Mentally, our thoughts are discordant and irrational. Spiritually, we define ourselves as inadequate and insignificant. 

We feel unjustifiable shame and guilt for an emotional dysfunction that is due to heredity or childhood disturbance that interfered with our natural human development. Social anxiety disorder sensed this vulnerability and onset during our adolescence. The disturbance might have been real or imagined, intentional or accidental. It is essential to recognize it is not our fault. It is not the result of aberrant behavior. We did not make it happen; it happened to us. 

While we understand the relevance of past circumstances, the focus of recovery is on the present and the solution. In the case of David Z., his recollections of childhood physical and emotional abuse helped him understand and moderate his avoidance of trust and intimacy. Notwithstanding, awareness is not obsession. The past is immutable, the future is to be defined. Transformation is a here-and-now endeavor. Dwelling on the past is not helpful to recovery. We must unencumber ourselves of things over which we have no control, giving us room for new possibilities.

Our commitment-to-recovery rate is abysmal ― reflective of our SAD-induced perceptions of worthlessness and futility. SAD’s recovery rate mirrors a general inability to afford treatment due to employment instability. Over 70% of us are in the lowest economic group. Why? Because SAD makes us feel non-essential and incompetent.

Do you feel trapped in a vicious circle, restricted from living a normal life: Do you feel alienated from your peers and isolate yourself from family and friends? Do you reject new relationships before they reject you? Do you repeat the same mistakes over and over again?  

As one client once confided, “anxiety has crippled me, locked me in a cage and has become my master. ”Feeling anxious or apprehensive in certain situations is normal; most of us are nervous speaking in front of a group and anxious when visiting our dentist. The typical individual recognizes the normality of a situation and accords appropriate attention. The SAD person dreads it, dramatizes it, and obsesses about its potential ramifications. We make mountains out of molehills and spend our days in tortuous anticipation of our projected negative outcomes. We guarantee our failure through SAD-fulfilling prophecy.

We intuitively know it is an irrational and maddening way to live. We have tried everything to circumvent our behavioral patterns, yet nothing seems to work. That is because SAD thrives on counterproductivity, a tactic that guarantees the opposite of the desired effect. Established recovery approaches fail because they are not designed to address this irrationality. SAD is the ultimate enigma – an intractable condition difficult to evaluate. That is the purpose of this book – to unravel the enigma and defeat the enemy.

Do you feel like your actions are under a microscope, and everyone is judging or criticizing you? Do you worry you are making a poor impression on individuals who do not matter? Are you inordinately concerned about what you might do, how you look, and how you express yourself? 

We live with persistent anxiety and fear of social situations such as dating, interviewing for a position, and even contributing to class. We anticipate others will deem us incompetent, stupid, or undesirable. Often, mere functionality in perfunctory situations – eating in front of others, riding a bus, using a public restroom – can be unduly stressful. 

The fear that manifests in social situations can seem so fierce, that we feel it is beyond our control, a conclusion that manifests in perceptions of helplessness and hopelessness. We avoid situations where there is the potential for embarrassment or ridicule. Negative self-evaluation interferes with our desires to pursue a goal, attend school, or form relationships– anything that might precipitate our anxiety. Our imagination creates false scenarios. 

When making her initial list of feared situations, Liz D. admitted she was terrified of the scenario where every newcomer is faced with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” By simply devising a rote rational response and trying it out in graded exposure situations, she was able to dramatically moderate her fear. Planning structured responses to our situational fears is an important facet of recovery. Tolkien reminds us, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” Meaning, that if you know you have a feared situation, devise a rational plan to counter it. The solution is obvious, but SAD thrives on irrational responses to the simplest situations. What is irrational? Anything thought or behavior that is emotionally self-destructive. It is irrational to self-harm.

Do you imagine you are the constant focus of everyone’s attention? Do you worry that people will notice you sweating or blushing? That your voice will tremble and become incoherent? We are overly concerned that our fears and anxieties are glaringly obvious to everyone. That is rarely the case, however. Each of us is the center of our little universe, too self-conscious to notice the idiosyncrasies of another.

The overriding fear of being found wanting manifests in our self-perspectives of incompetence and unattractiveness. We walk on eggshells, supremely conscious of our awkwardness, surrendering to the GAZE―the anxious state of mind that comes with the fear of being the center of attention. We are reminded of that phrase from the Book of David: “You have been weighed on the scales and you have been found wanting.” It is a self-image difficult to reconcile when SAD is the scale upon which we are being weighed. 

Our social interactions are often clumsy, small talk inelegant, and attempts at humor embarrassing. Our anticipation of repudiation motivates us to dismiss overtures to offset any possibility of rejection. SAD is repressive and intractable, imposing self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. It establishes its authority through defeatist measures produced by distorted and unsound interpretations of reality that govern our perspectives of desirability. 

It does not have to be this way. We function under false perspectives – illusions perpetuated by SAD. We are not unworthy, undesirable, or insignificant. We are children of the universe, endowed with all its unalienable substance. We are an integral part of the evolution of consciousness. 

Let us briefly discuss one of the more devious strategies of a well-executed campaign of warfare. Propaganda is the distribution of biased and misleading information. SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. It is a form of control and manipulation. We manifest the effectiveness of this propaganda through maladaptive behaviors and cognitively distorted responses to our fears.

Maladaptive behavior is a term coined by Aaron Beck, the pioneer of cognitive-behavioral therapy. A unique characteristic of SAD, maladaptive behaviors are manifestations of our negative self-beliefs. We find ourselves in a supportive and approving environment, but SAD tells us we are unwelcome and the subject of disparagement and ridicule. SAD distorts 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. 

Cognitive distortions are the exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of anxiety and depression. Because they reinforce or justify our irrational thoughts and poor behaviors, it is a crucial element of recovery to recognize these distortions to eliminate them from our self-destructive repertoire. We will be discussing this further in Chapter Five as we familiarize ourselves with the origins and  trajectory of our life-consistent negative self-beliefs

Do you incessantly replay adverse events in your head? Do you stay constantly relive all the discomforting things that happened to you during the day? Do you avoid meeting people or going on dates because you persuade yourself it will be a disaster? Do you beat yourself up for all those lost opportunities? 

We circle the block endlessly before confronting a situation, then end up avoiding it entirely. We avoid recognition in the classroom, our hearts pounding, hands sweaty, hoping we will not be singled out. We lay awake at night, consumed by all the negative events of the day. 

We do not have to live like this. We do not have to be afraid to connect with others. We do not have to constantly agonize over how we will be perceived. We do not have to worry about criticism and ridicule from people who do not contribute to our quality of life. By deliberately and repetitively feeding our neural network with healthy information, we proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors from self-doubt and avoidance to self-assured expressions of our relevance and contributions.

We crave companionship but shun social situations for fear others will find us unattractive or stupid. We avoid speaking in public, expressing opinions, and fraternizing with peers. We are prone to low self-esteem and high self-criticism due to the childhood disturbance that precipitated the disruption in our psychological development, allowing the onset of SAD. 

The various positive qualities prefixed by the term self, including -esteem, -efficacy, -reliance, -compassion, and -resilience are not lost, however, but are underdeveloped and redeemable. The renewed recognition of our character strengths, virtues, and achievements augmented by the deliberate, repetitive neural input of positive information, awakens and reinvigorates our dormant self-esteem and motivation. All that is lost shall be found when you commit to recovery. That is the wonderful product of transformation.  

Do you avoid persons and situations for fear of criticism and rejection? Do you refrain from sharing your opinion because you believe people will think you are stupid? Do you lose out on life’s experiences because you are afraid others will disapprove of you?

We blame ourselves for our lack of social skills. We feel shame for our inadequacies. We guilt ourselves when we avoid getting close to someone, terrified of rejection. We know these feelings are irrational, we know we are not responsible for onset. But our social anxiety compels us to self-loath and self-destruct. Then to top it off, we consistently beat ourselves up for these feelings that are the product of emotional dysfunction that is not of our doing.

We must stop beating ourselves up. We did not ask for our social anxiety, we did not make it happen; it happened to us. We are, however, responsible for doing something about it. We are the captains of our ship. The onus of recovery is on us; no one else does it for us. It comes down to a simple choice. Are you happy with who you are now, or would you like to change for the better? Do you choose to be miserable or comfortable in your own skin? It is that cut and dried. The tools and techniques for recovery are ours for the taking. 

We are engaged in a war that is not easily won – a life-consuming series of battles. The process of proactive neuroplasticity is theoretically simple but challenging, due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term, repetitive process. We do not don tennis shorts and advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with rackets and balls. Philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard. 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 of recovery, utilizing the appropriate tools and techniques, progress is exponential.

There are many things that seem impossible
only so long as one does not attempt them. – André Gide

Social anxiety disorder is comorbid with multiple emotional dysfunctions including depression, substance abuse,  panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. Proactive neuroplasticity and subsequently, this book addresses emotional dysfunction in general because each originates with childhood disturbance and benefits, dramatically, from neural realignment.

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Comments. Suggestions. Constructive Criticism.

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

ReChanneling: Updates and Happenings, Fall 2022

Matty Saven
Media Consultant

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YouTube Series on Proactive Neuroplasticity

ReChanneling has produced the sixth YouTube installment on Proactive Neuroplasticity – 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. Installment #7 will be available on September 15th. LINK

These and other instructional videos are currently hosted by YouTube, BitChute, ReChanneling, Regimed Pharmacy, and other supporting organizations.

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Clio’s Psyche

Dr. Mullen’s article “Utilizing Psychobiography to Moderate Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder” will be published in the Fall issue of Clio’s Psyche focusing on Psychobiography. Clio’s Psyche is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal founded in 1994. It is published by the Psychohistory Forum, an organization of academics, therapists, and laypeople, founded in 1982 and holding regular scholarly meetings in Manhattan and at international conventions.

Early this year, Palgrave MacMillan published Dr. Mullen’s “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.   LINK to other Publications.

Mullen’s ‘Enlisting Positive Psychologies to Challenge Love Within SAD’s Culture of Maladaptive Self-Beliefs’ in Springer’s Handbook of Love. Transcultural and Transdisciplinary Perspectives has been uploaded to ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Contact us to request a copy.

Klatch: Information Technology and Services

Director Mullen was interviewed by Klatch, the e-learning communication platform for large groups and communities. The topic was the tools and techniques ReChanneling employs to keep over 970 individuals with emotional dysfunction actively engaged in groups and workshops and other interactivities.

WeVoice (Valencia and Málaga, Spain)

We continue to advise WeVoice in the development of technological support systems. Headquartered in Valencia, Spain, WeVoice is a program of mental health utilizing Adaptive 3D Sound Healing powered by Voice Emotion-AI.

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

Academia.edu

Academia.edu continues to offer two ReChanneling courses: Neuroscience and Happiness: A Guide to Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change and Social Anxiety in the LGBTQ+ Community.

Draft Chapters from Social Anxiety Disorder: Recovery and Empowerment

Chapter drafts from Dr. Mullen’s upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities are presented twice monthly as an opportunity for colleagues and peers to share their thoughts and constructive criticism – ideas gratefully evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some extent). LINK. Passcode: WIP

Latest Posts

Devising Response Plans for Situations
Social Anxiety Disorder: A Definitive Guide
A Workshop Graduate’s Testimonial
Services Offered by ReChanneling

… and, of course, everything on the ReChanneling website is constantly updated as the program continues to evolve and flourish.

Discussion Groups

ReChanneling currently facilitates over 1000 individuals with social anxiety disorder in our two discussion groups. Social Anxiety and Proactive Neuroplasticity and LGBTQ+ Social Anxiety Group.

A third discussion group, ReChanneling: Recovery and Empowerment focuses on proactive neuroplasticity in the pursuit of goals and objectives.

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

Social Anxiety. Why Do We Resist Recovery?

Robert F, Mullen, Ph.D.
Director/ReChanneling.

Numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of the chapter on Resistance in my upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. I present this as an opportunity for others to share their feelings and constructive criticism – suggestions that I will gratefully evaluate as I work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

<One>
Overcoming Our Resistance

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Why begin this chapter with an obscure, 2,500-year-old quote about Chinese battle tactics? Because we must declare war on our social anxiety disorder if we are to conquer it. Make no mistake about it, SAD is the enemy, and it is devious and manipulative. If we are going to win this war, then we must educate ourselves about the symptoms and characteristics of our emotional dysfunction, and how they individually impact us. Roughly forty million U.S. adults and adolescents find themselves caught up in this devasting and lonely chasm of fear and avoidance of social connectedness. Statistics tell us that roughly a third of those seek recovery,  but what about the millions who choose not to reveal their condition or pretend it does not exist. Our resistance to recovery is formidable.

SAD makes us feel helpless and hopeless, trapped in a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety, and restricted from living a ‘normal’ life. We alienate and detach – loners consumed by trepidation. Our fear of disapproval is so severe we avoid the life-affirming experiences that connect us with others and the world. We fear the unknown and unexplored. We endure anxiety for weeks before an event and anticipate the worst. We worry about how others perceive us and how we express ourselves. We have tried everything to overcome our condition and have achieved little, which makes us incompetent and worthless. Why bother, we tell ourselves. 

Change is difficult for everyone; we are hard-wired to resist it. Our bodies and brains are structured to attack anything that disrupts their equilibrium. A new diet or exercise regime produces physiological changes in our heart rate, metabolism, and respiration. Inertia senses and resists these changes, while our brain’s basal ganglia gang up against any modification in our patterns of behavior. Thus, habits like smoking or gambling are hard to break, and new undertakings like recovery, are challenging to maintain. The irony, of course, is that change is constant and inevitable. We shed and regrow fifty million skin cells daily. Our bones regenerate every few months, and our entire skeletal system in a decade. Our neural network continuously readapts and realigns to new information and experience. What we fear most is happening to us every second of every day.

We resist recovery because of our emotional baggage. Our inherent negative bias predisposes us to focus on unhealthy experiences. We feel inferior and abnormal, consumed by shame and guilt even though SAD is not our fault but the result of early developmental disturbance. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established.

Any number of things can precipitate childhood disturbance. Our parents are controlling or do not provide sufficient emotional validation. Perhaps we were subject to gender bullying or a broken home. The disturbance can be real or imagined, intentional or accidental. A toddler who finds their parental quality time interrupted by a phone call can sense abandonment, which can generate core beliefs of unworthiness and insignificance. This is important when it comes to attributing blame or accountability for our SAD because of the possibility no one is responsible. Certainly not us as children. We are not accountable for the onset, although the onus is on us to do something about it. While not liable for the cards we have been dealt, we are responsible for how we play the hand we have been given. In recovery, we focus on the solution; the cause, while not inconsequential, factors little. 

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Yet we beat ourselves up daily for our perceptual inadequacies. We linger in depression, we drink or drug ourselves immoderately. We blame ourselves for our defects as if they are the pervading forces of our true being, rather than symptoms of our dysfunction. SAD does not define us. We are defined by our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. SAD is powerful, however. It compels us to reject our qualities, miring us in our self-destructive complacency.

We know in our hearts that recovery is the gateway to our emotional well-being and quality of life, yet we resist it. I am reminded of Al Pacino’s infamous film quote. “Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard.” Let me assure you, contrary to defeatist claims, recovery from SAD is not that difficult. It is repetitive and boring and demands extensive self-evaluation, but it is theoretically simple. 

So why do we resist? SAD sustains itself by convincing us we are unworthy and inconsequential. It is the enemy.

Society does not help. We are hard-wired to fear and ostracize anyone who hints at peculiarity. Individuals perceived as fragile or abnormal have suffered since the dawning of humankind. We fear emotional dysfunction because we see it in ourselves and scorn the reflection. And what do we often do when confronted by our weaknesses? We become the bully that hides the beast within. We prey on the vulnerable. 

We resist because society identifies us as weak aberrations and we accept the stereotype.

Our families share responsibility for our negative self-image. Parents and siblings hide their relationship with us or dispute our condition because they are ashamed. Throughout history, families have shouldered the blame for their child(s) emotional dysfunction because it is commonly accepted that it is either hereditary or the consequence of poor parenting.  Since the latter is likely, it is deemed unacceptable.

We resist because we cannot break the parental chain of emotional abuse.

The sensationalist media stereotypes us as annoying, dramatic, and peculiar. Films portray us as unpredictable and dangerous schizophrenics. Nearly half of U.S. stories on emotional dysfunction allude to violence. Now, of course, mean-spirited individuals anonymously spew their idiocies on social media. 

We resist because we have been inundated by hostile and ignorant personal attacks.

Finally, we are at the mercy of the pathographic focus on emotional dysfunction. The current psychological perspective focuses on our negative behavior rather than our positive achievements. Simply put, the disease model tells us what is wrong with us. Recovery is not achieved by focusing on our SAD-induced negative self-beliefs and image but on our character strengths and capabilities. 

We resist because healthcare experts emphasize the problem rather than the solution.

Our inability or unwillingness to fully embrace our emotional dysfunction is a major impediment to our recovery. Many of us stubbornly choose to remain ignorant of SADs destructive capabilities or go to enormous lengths to remain oblivious to its symptoms and traits as if, by ignoring them, they do not exist or will somehow go away.

We are faced with a simple choice. We can do nothing and continue to live in fear, victims of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, or we can challenge SAD and take control of our life. If we choose the latter, then we must overcome our resistance. There is no other way. Only unequivocal acceptance of our condition and our willingness to change motivates us toward transformation.

The onus for recovery falls on us notwithstanding the causes of our condition. The perception of impotence–the belief that we are not the steward of our behavior is an unhealthy misconception that severely inhibits our potential for transformation. We are the agents of change, of personal evolution. Expecting anyone else to do it for us is foolhardy and futile. We are the captain of our ship; anxiety is just a passenger.

SAD thrives by our complacency and irrationality. Our SAD-provoking self-abuse is irrational.  We were not put on this earth to hurt ourselves. That flies in the face of universal law and common sense. Yet, we have stayed on our self-destructive trajectory since childhood. So where do we go from here? The first step is to overcome our resistance. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and comfortable shoes. The single step is non-resistance; the shoes are self-reliance and self-appreciation.

Our resistance compels us to settle even though we are disillusioned by our toxic condition and secretly crave a healthy alternative. These dual modes of desperation manifest in an inner contradiction, pitting fear against desire, in essence, shutting us down. We close ourselves off to innovative ideas and concepts. We let nothing in. We stay embrangled in our perceptions of incompetence and inferiority.

Resistance is borne by childish intransigence and underscored by antipathy and dread. It is the dam that stems the river’s flow, counterintuitive to evolution and the natural order. The universe is fluid and constantly adapting. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu tells us “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Do not resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Motivational gurus describe non-resistance as surrender. In recovery, we embrace it. Surrender is submission or concession. Embracement is willing and enthusiastic acceptance. That is what we must have to get well. Proactive neuroplasticity is our deliberate input of positive information to counter our life-consistent negative self-beliefs. Half measures or capitulation subverts the self-reliance and appreciation necessary for transformation.

Why is proactive neuroplasticity the most efficient means of recovery? We dramatically accelerate and consolidate recovery by consciously telling our neural network to repattern its circuitry. Our brain responds in multiple, positive ways. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input

of information empowers us to consciously transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. It powers us to take control of our recovery.

One more symptom of resistance is our tendency to attack the value and effectiveness of something without experiencing it. We refute ideas and concepts without intelligent consideration. To offer a common colloquialism, don’t knock it if you haven‘t tried it. Consider the possibility. The self-recrimination for not having the presence of mind to even try is far more destructive than any form of rejection or failure.

For those who dispute its effectiveness, doubt is another manifestation of resistance, and It will not serve you well in recovery. Remember, the truth does not care what you believe; the truth is the truth.

We are engaged in a war that is not easily won. It is a life-consuming series of battles. The process of proactive neuroplasticity is theoretically simple but challenging, due to the commitment and endurance required for the long-term, repetitive process. We do not don tennis shorts and advance to Wimbledon without decades of practice with rackets and balls; philharmonics cater to pianists who have spent years at the keyboard. 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. However, once we initiate the process of recovery, utilizing the appropriate tools and techniques, progress is exponential.

Our nonresistance is evidence of our willingness to accept what is fundamentally our inheritance. When we commit to recovery, a broader dimension of consciousness opens up and we merge into the orderly flow of the universe. We are no longer isolated but accept our inherent role as a creative force as both inlet and outlet. As receivers and givers, we become entangled with society. By recognizing our inherent worth and potential, we allow the transformation.

The negative cycle we find ourselves in may have convinced us that there is something wrong with us. That is too simple a rationalization. Perhaps we are viewing ourselves and the world inaccurately. That is not our fault. SAD sustains itself by feeding us life-consistent irrational thoughts and behaviors. When we break our leg do we become that injured limb or are we simply an Individual with a broken leg? We are not our social anxiety.

When we remain conjoined with our social anxiety disorder, we continue to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. These are our core self-beliefs as a result of childhood disturbance, something we will cover in more detail in Chapter Five. By dissociating ourselves from our condition, we view things more rationally because it is our dysfunction that compels us to think irrationally.

We realize we are not helpless. There are multiple resources available to anyone with the motivation and commitment to improving their emotional wellbeing and quality of life.

We are not hopeless unless we chose to be. We capitulate to despair to justify our fears. Once we recognize they are intangible, existing only in our imagination, we see them for what they are – SAD-provoking abstractions, powerless without our participation. Feelings of despair are not concrete but emotional states or reactions under our control. If we were truly devoid of hope, we would not be investigating avenues of recovery. 

We are not undesirable. SAD compels us to view life inaccurately. It reinforces or justifies our negative thoughts and behaviors. It convinces us our perceptions are the truth of a situation instead of interpretations. Assuming we know what others feel and think, and why they act the way they do is self-centered and illogical. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and SAD’s vision is myopic and jaundiced.

We are not worthless, but integral and consequential to all things, the ultimate, dynamic, creative ground of being and doing. Our life is an exquisite, creative work-in-progress, an integral force of nature. We are an agent of all future becomings. We are creativity itself, responsible for capturing, preserving, and passing along the entire history of the Universe. 

We are unique to every other entity; there is no one like us. We are the totality of our experiences, beliefs, perceptions, demands, and desires with individual DNA, fingerprints, and outer ears—no one shares our identities. There is and never has been a single human being with our sensibilities, our memories, our motivations, and our dreams.

The more formidable the challenge, the greater the adversity. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself and the greatest is that of the unknown. SAD sustains itself by inflicting anxiety and fear, but they have no power on their own. We fuel them; we give them strength and power. 

How do we defeat SAD? We outsmart it. We overcome it. We refute its authority. We challenge its legitimacy. Any new pursuit is uncharted waters and that is, by nature, scary. But with significant risk comes great reward. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the shadow of the unknown until we expose it to the light of rational response. That is why we must know the enemy and know ourselves and use this information to prepare for all contingencies. Confidence and mastery come through knowledge and preparation.

Social anxiety disorder is comorbid with multiple emotional dysfunctions including depression, substance abuse,  panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, issues of self-esteem and motivation, and half-a-dozen other disorders. Proactive neuroplasticity and subsequently this book addresses emotional dysfunction in general because each originates with childhood disturbance and benefits, dramatically, from neural realignment.

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Comments, Suggestions, Constructive Criticism.

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