Category Archives: Neuroplasticity

ReChanneling: Updates and Happenings, Winter 2022-23.

Matty Saven
Media Consultant

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.   

Video #7: Constructing Our Neural Information

ReChanneling uploaded the seventh video installment on Proactive Neuroplasticity. Neural information is constructed by establishing our goal, identifying the objectives or steps we take to implement that goal, and determining the Information – the self-affirming or motivating statement we deliberately and repetitively input into our neural network. We want our information to be authentic and of sound construction to engage the full capacity of positive neural response. The integrity of our goal, objectives, and information correlates to the durability and efficacy of neural restructuring.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

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

Workshops

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Upcoming Book (2023)

Multiple draft chapters from ReChanneling’s book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities are posted on our website. We present them as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions gratefully considered and evaluated as we work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). LINK.

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Clio’s Psyche and Other Publications

Dr. Mullen’s article “Utilizing Psychobiography to Moderate Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder” is recently published in the Winter 2022 issue of Clio’s Psyche (Volume 18, Issue 2). The peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, founded in 1994, is published by the Psychohistory Forum, holding regular scholarly meetings in Manhattan and at international conventions.

Mullen’s “Broadening the Parameters of the Psychobiography” in Psychobiographical Illustrations on Meaning and Identity in Sociocultural Contexts has been uploaded to ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Edited by C.-E. Mayer, P. Fouche, R. van Niekerk, the book is published by Palgrave-Macmillan. Contact us to request a copy.

LINK to Other Publications

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

“ReChanneling’s Social Anxiety Workshop produced results within a few sessions … I’m now much more at ease in situations that were major sources of anxiety and avoidance just a few months ago. The shared experience of working through social anxiety with other people who “get it” is powerful, and I’ve felt Dr. Mullen is truly committed to our growth and recovery.”   — Liz D.

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

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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.

Latest Posts

… 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.

Workshops and Speaking Engagements

  • January 3rd — Pride Toastmasters
  • January 26th March 30th — Social Anxiety Disorder Workshop
  • January 28th  — Empowerment with Proactive Neuroplasticity (Online)
  • February 24th Proactive Neuroplasticity: Lake Shore Unitarian Society, Winnetka, IL 
  • February 26th – April 10th — Proactive Neuroplasticity Empowerment Workshop

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

Feeling Our Way Thru Life

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

Cognitive Distortion #1: Emotional Reasoning

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, others, and the world. 

Consider this example. The entire office staff congratulates us on our promotion, except for one individual who ignores us. 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 and especially relevant to social anxiety. Jumping to Conclusions supposes we know what others are thinking. We are mind-readers. Emotional Reasoning is arriving at conclusions based solely on our feelings. When we engage in Personalization, we assume that doings and events are directly related to us and random remarks are personally relevant.

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

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

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Emotional Reasoning is making judgments and decisions based on instinct or feelings over objective evidence – best expressed by the colloquialism, my gut tells me…  This emotional dependency dictates how we relate to things. At the root of this cognitive distortion is the belief that what we feel must be true. If we feel like a loser, then we must be a loser. If we feel incompetent, then we must be incapable. If we make a mistake, we must be stupid. All the negative things we feel about ourselves, others, and the world must be valid because they feel true. Resolving this opposition is a crucial element of recovery. 

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

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

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

Recovery requires a rational response-based strategy for psychological balance. One that considers the simultaneous mutual interaction of our mind, body, spirit, and emotions working in concert. When one component becomes psychologically untenable, we divert to another to moderate the severity.

Through recovery, we replace or overwhelm our toxic self-beliefs with healthy self-appreciation. We discover rational alternatives to our self-annihilating thoughts and behaviors. We become mindful of the value of introspection, examination, and analysis of our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. We learn to rechannel the emotional angst of our situational fears and anxieties into intellectual self-awareness and consider alternative possibilities and multiple perspectives.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

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

Whoever Said Life is Fair?

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

Cognitive Distortion #9: Fallacy of Fairness  

is the unrealistic assumption that life should be fair. It is human nature to equate fairness with how well our personal preferences are met. We know how we want to be treated and anything that conflicts with that seems unreasonable and emotionally unacceptable. Fairness is subjective, however. Two people seldom agree on what is fair. The fact that those living with SAD are predisposed to emotional reasoning or personalization does validate the irrationality that life is fair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

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

Chapter 12: Positive Personal Affirmations

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChannelng

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

This is a draft of Chapter Twelve – ‘Positive Personal Affirmations” 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 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.

<Twelve>
Positive Personal Affirmations

The positive thinker sees the invisible,
feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”
Winston Churchill

One of the most effective ways to input neural information is through positive personal affirmations (PPAs) – our self-empowering, motivating statements of purpose. Practicing positive personal affirmations is an extremely productive form of DRNI or the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information. 

On the surface, creating positive personal affirmations (PPAs) sounds easy, but it is deceptively complex for SAD persons. The theory is by deliberating repeating PPAs, the power of suggestion instigates positive changes in our thoughts and behaviors. We persuade ourselves to believe what we tell ourselves. Those of us living with social anxiety disorder, however, are not so easily fooled. Years of negative self-beliefs cannot simply be overwhelmed by a few choice words. It is difficult enough to say something self-supportive, much less believe it. 

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I know many of you are skeptical. SAD drives us to distrust unfamiliar ideas and concepts. How can anything this simple contribute so significantly to the restructuring of our neural network? Our resistance to positive reinforcement is robust. Since childhood, we have been badgered by parents and teachers to think positively, but they never understood the science. Cajoling someone to do something without explanation is like teaching a puppy to walk on its hind legs. It eventually learns, but only under duress, and probably resents us. It also does not perform without an audience. 

Many of us disparage the new-age implications of PPAs. Even when we become mindful of the obvious benefits of positive reinforcement in neural realignment, we dismiss it as silly and boring. Nonetheless, if we do the work – if we construct three viable PPAs and repeat them at least five times a day for one week, we will experience a perceptible change in our attitude and outlook on life. Trust me on this; I have experienced and witnessed the change.

That’s why mindfulness of the science behind proactive neuroplasticity is so important. If our PPAs meet the criteria for good information, our neural network will recognize them and restructure accordingly, whether we believe our information or not. Remember, our brain doesn’t think; it is an organic reciprocator. It doesn’t distinguish healthy from toxic information. Positive information in, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. Conversely, negative information in, negative energy reciprocated in abundance. So, telling ourselves PPAs are a waste of time because we don’t believe in them is not only self-annihilating but also incorrect. 

In defining his counteroffensive in war, Sun Tzu wrote, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” That is what we are doing with the deliberate, repetitive neural input (DRNI) of our PPAs. We are breaking down our brain’s resistance to healthy thoughts and behaviors due to our life-consistent negative self-beliefs by barraging it with positive information. Executing PPAs properly initiates the rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation that causes positive neural chain reactions. PPAs are the most effective form of DRNI. That they also help us focus on goals, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and reprogram our subconscious minds should confirm their value. 

Neurons don’t act by themselves but through neural circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on electrical activity. The deliberate, repetitive, input of information compels neurons to fire repeatedly, causing them to wire together. The more repetitions, the more robust the new connections. 

Neuroscientist, Donald Hebb was a pioneer in establishing the correlation between psychology and neuroscience as it relates to behavior. Hebbian Learning is a complex algorithm that is best summarized as “neurons that fire together wire together.” That means the simultaneous activation of nearby neurons leads to an increase in the strength of synaptic connections between them. While our input of information is not simultaneous no matter how quickly we repeat it, the corresponding reactivity of participating neurons produces the same response. DRNI accelerates and consolidates learning by causing neural circuits to strengthen and power information.

In addition, as we now know, multiple repetitions of positive information activate millions of neurons that reciprocate that energy in abundance. PPAs decrease the flow of the fear and anxiety-provoking hormones, cortisol and adrenaline while simultaneously producing hormones for memory, learning, and concentration. PPAs amplify the activity of our axon pathways, creating higher levels of BDNF (brain-derived neural factor) proteinsWe accelerate learning and unlearning through repetition.

Like any neural input of information, PPAs spark receptor neurons that forward positive energy to millions of participating neurons, causing a cellular chain reaction in multiple interconnected areas of our brain. A colleague visualizes her PPAs as holiday fireworks. The receptor neuron is the match, the sensory and postsynaptic neurons are the fuse, and the cacophony of colors and sounds simulate the neural chain reaction. 

Three PPAs repeated five times, three times daily generates forty-five cellular chain reactions, dramatically accelerating and consolidating the restructuring of our neural network. The process takes approximately five minutes out of our day.

We outlined eight rules for productive neural information in Chapter 10. Mindful of the value of repetition for learning and unlearning, let’s repeat these criteria one more time.

Rational. The only logical recourse to irrational thoughts and behaviors.

Reasonable. Unreasonable aspirations get us nowhere.

Possible. If we are incapable of achieving our goal, there it is unreasonable to pursue it.

Positive. Negative information is counterproductive to positive neural restructuring. 

Goal-focused. If we do not know our destination, we will not know it when we arrive. 

Unconditional. Our commitment must be certain.

First-person present or future. The past is irrevocable.

Brief. Succinct and easily memorized.

The most effective PPAs are calculated and specific to our intention. Are we challenging the negative thoughts and behaviors of our social anxiety? Are we reaffirming the character strengths and virtues that support recovery and transformation? Are we focused on a specific challenge? What is our end goal – the personal milestone we want to achieve? 

PPAs are only one example of the positive coping mechanisms we use in recovery. A structured plan to challenge our feared-situations incorporates Rational Responses to our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs); Character Focus and Persona support our clearly defined Purpose and overall Strategy, while our Projected Positive Outcome predetermines the realization of our efforts. Affirmative Visualizations are positive outcome scenarios that we mentally recreate to counteract our natural negative bias and our predisposition to set negative outcome scenarios due to life-consistent negative self-beliefs and images. These and other mechanisms are explained in detail when we begin to construct our Plan for Exposure Situations, and they are all supported by the positive construction of our information.

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 in this era of instant gratification. Fortunately, the universal law of compensation anticipates this. The positive impact of proactive neuroplasticity is exponential due to the abundant reciprocation of positive energy and the neurotransmissions of hormones that generate the motivation to persevere. Proactive neuroplasticity utilizing positive personal affirmations dramatically accelerates and consolidates learning and unlearning.

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

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

Chapter 11: Regenerating Our Self-Esteem

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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

<Eleven>
Regenerating Our Self-Esteem

“It is only when you have mastered the art of loving yourself
that you can truly love others.
It is only when you have opened your own heart
that you can touch the heart of others.”
– Robin Sharma

In Chapter Nine, we learned how to construct the necessary neural information to (1) produce rapid, concentrated, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network and (2) help us replace or overwhelm our life-consistent negative thoughts and beliefs with healthy and productive ones.

Self-esteem is mindfulness of our value to ourselves, society, and the world. It is self-recognition and appreciation of our value and significance. It is embracing and utilizing our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. Self-esteem is honest and nonjudgmental awareness and acceptance of our flaws as well as our assets. It is directly related to how we think about ourselves, how we think others perceive us, and how we process or present that information. 

Research tells us that persons living with SAD have significantly lower implicit and explicit self-esteem relative to healthy controls. Our negative core and intermediate beliefs stemming from childhood disturbance and dysfunctional onset are directly implicated. Our symptomatic fears and anxieties aggravate this deficit.

Fortunately, our self-esteem is never lost, but latent and dormant due to the disruption in our natural human development. Underutilized self-properties that atrophy like the unexercised muscle in our arm or leg can be regenerated. 

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Self-properties are the elements that constitute the strength of our self-esteem. Positive self-properties include self -reliance, -compassion, -confidence, -worth, and other qualities. Negative self-properties include self -destructive, -loathing, and -denigrating. Our healthy self-properties tell us we are of value, consequential, desirable, and worthy of love. Conversely, toxic qualities confirm our perceptions of helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and worthlessness.

Regeneration, in physiological terms, is the ability of our living organism to replace lost or injured tissue. In proactive neuroplasticity, the same process is designed to replace our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors with healthy and productive ones. In the case of self-esteem, regeneration reawakens our dormant and latent self-properties.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

As we now recognize, our susceptibility to SAD originated with childhood disturbance and onset occurred around the age of thirteen. These factors negatively impacted our physiological and psychological development. This is best illustrated by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as illustrated below. The pyramid on the left portrays healthy development. The one on the right reveals how the childhood perception of detachment, exploitation, or neglect impacts our biological needs. Subsequently, safety and security needs are not met, as well as our sense of belonging and being loved, which subverts our development of self-esteem.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a series of human requirements (needs) deemed important for healthy physiological and psychological development. A pioneer of positive psychology,  Maslow originally divided human needs into five categories: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. The additional three levels came later and are irrelevant to this chapter. The hierarchy establishes how important the stages are to basic human functioning and motivation, and how they influence the other stages.

While the hierarchy is fairly rigid, satisfaction is not a purely linear process but fluid and individuated, subject to experience and personality. Therefore, individuals may move back and forth between the different types of needs. A child will have difficulty learning if they are hungry. Absent reliable parenting, a child is unlikely to feel safe. It is also worth noting, that the theory is based on western culture and does not translate effortlessly into other customs and traditions. 

Physiological Needs are the basic things that we need to survive and develop naturally. Physical, sexual, or emotional disturbance, real or perceptual, can negatively impact our early sleep patterns or sexual health A sense of detachment or abandonment could imperil our assurance of shelter. If these needs are not satisfied the human body cannot develop optimally. Already, we can see the potential impact on our emotional dysfunction if these needs are not satisfied. 

Safety and Security. Needless to say, childhood disturbances of any kind can impact our feelings of safety and security. Our formative years need to experience order, protection, and stability, and these stem. primarily, from the family unit. Our childhood disturbance, however, can cause us to distrust authority and relationships, two common symptoms of SAD. If we do not feel secure in our environment, we will seek safety before attempting to meet any higher level of survival. 

Love and Belongingness. Love is interpretational and broadly defined. The classic Greeks were more discriminating, separating love into seven types, e.g., platonic, practical, sexual, and so on. For those of us living with SAD, love is challenging because of our fear and avoidance of relationships and social interaction. SAD disrupts our ability to establish interconnectedness in almost any capacity. Childhood disturbance impacts filial connectedness; we struggle with platonic friendships, and pragmatic relationships are symptomatically contradictory. 

Belongingness is our physiological and emotional need for interpersonal relationships and social connectedness. Examples include friendship, intimacy, acceptance, receiving and giving affection, and social contribution. We are social beings; we are driven by a fundamental human need for social interaction and interpersonal exchange. The necessity for tribe is hardwired into our brains. Human interconnectedness is one of the most important influences on our mental and physical health. Research has shown that social contact boosts our immune system and protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases. Healthy interpersonal contact triggers the neurotransmission of chemical hormones that improve learning and cognition while moderating the influx of cortisol and adrenaline. 

Esteem. The next stage of our psychological development centers on how we value ourselves and are valued by others. Esteem includes self-worth, achievements, and respect. Self-esteem is both esteem for oneself (character strengths, virtues, and achievements), and the need for respect and appreciation from others (status and reputation).

Notwithstanding the initial disruption of our childhood disturbance and onset, any number of factors continue to impact our self-esteem including our environment, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, and education. Family, colleagues, teachers, and influential others contribute heavily. Our symptoms exacerbate these potential issues. It is important to recognize, however, that the love and approval of others do not equate to self-esteem; otherwise, they would call it other­-esteem

The Greeks categorized love by its objective. For philia, the objective is comradeship, eros is sexuality, storge is familial affection, and so on. The concept of self-esteem evolved from the Greek Philautia. Translated as love-of-self, Philautia is the dichotomy of the love of oneself (narcissism), and the love that is within oneself (self-esteem, self-love). 

Healthy self-esteem is mindfulness of our flaws as well as our inherent character strengths, virtues, and attributes. It allows us to assess our strengths and limitations honestly and nonjudgmentally, and to value ourselves over the opinions of others. It is independent of status or competition with others. It is self-recognition and appreciation for our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. 

Self-esteem or the love that is within oneself is a prerequisite to loving others. If we cannot embrace ourselves, we cannot effectively love another. It is difficult to give away something we do not possess. 

Narcissism is a psychological condition in which people function with an inflated and irrational sense of their importance, often expressed by haughtiness or arrogance. It is the need for excessive attention and admiration, masking an unconscious sense of inferiority and inadequacy. 

Healthy philautia is beneficial to every aspect of life; individuals who love themselves appropriately have a higher capacity to give and receive love. By accepting ourselves, warts and all, with understanding and compassion, we open ourselves to sharing our authenticity with others.

Healthy philautia is the recognition of our value and potential, the realization that we are necessary to this life and of incomprehensible worth. To feel joy and fulfillment at self-being is the experience of healthy philautia. Mindfulness of our self-worth compels us to share it with others and the world.

The deprivation of our fundamental needs caused by our emotional dysfunction impacts our acquisition of self-esteem. It is not lost but undeveloped and subverted by our negative self-perspectives. The rediscovery and regeneration of our self-esteem are essential components of recovery. We learn to emphasize the character strengths and virtues that generate the motivation, persistence, and perseverance to function optimally through the substantial alleviation of the symptoms of our dysfunction. 

Proactive Neuroplasticity YouTube Series

How Do We Compel Regeneration

Recovering our self-esteem is an essential element of recovery and cannot be second-tiered. Due to our disruption in natural human development, we are subject to significantly lower implicit and explicit self-esteem relative to healthy controls. We rediscover and regenerate our self-esteem through the integration of historically and clinically practical approaches designed to help us become mindful of our inherent strengths, virtues, and achievements, and their propensity to replace negative self-perspectives and behavior.

Social anxiety disorder so overwhelms us with our negative self-beliefs, we repress our inherent and developed assets. Fortunately, our brain never deletes files; it fractures neural connections that can be regenerated. Proactive neuroplasticity and DRNI (the deliberate, repetitive, input neural input of information) compel our brain to repattern and realign its neural circuitry.

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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 regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

Repeat Offender

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChannelng

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

Cognitive Distortion #7: Overgeneralization

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

Overgeneralization supports our negative self-beliefs and image. If someone rejects us, we assume everyone will find us undesirable. Because we persuade ourselves it is unlikely anyone is interested in getting to know us, we avoid situations where that might occur. That aggravates our SAD-induced fears of intimacy and avoidance of social situations.

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

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

This distortion inevitably leads to avoidance, limiting our willingness to experience things because we have self-prophesied what will happen based on it happening before. Similar to Filtering, where we ignore the positive and dwell on the negative, and Polarized Thinking, where we see things in black or white, overgeneralization is based on assuming the worst. Keywords that support overgeneralization include allevery, none, never, always, everybody, and nobody. See the section on The Destructive Nature of Negative Words in Chapter Nine. Overgeneralization often tends to be self-fulfilling prophecy and is associated with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, depression, panic attacks, PTSD, and OCD.

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

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

Don’t Take It Personally

Robert F. Mullen
Director/ReChanneling

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Cognitive Distortion #6: Personalization

If someone says to us, “don’t take it personally,“ we are likely engaging in Personalization. When we engage in this type of thinking, we assume we are the cause of things unrelated to us. We believe that what others do or say is a reaction to us – that random comments are personally relevant. For those of us living with social anxiety disorder, Personalization is symptomatic of our belief we are the center of attention and the subject of criticism or ridicule. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 13: Strategizing Our Recovery

Robert F.Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

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

<Thirteen>
Strategizing Our Recovery

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

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

Before presenting the Nine-Stops for Rational Response, we have additional key definitions to assimilate. 

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

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

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are anxiety-provoking thoughts, emotions, and images that occur in anticipation of or reaction to a situation. We touched upon them in Chapter 5. They are the unpleasant expressions of our negative self-beliefs that define who we are and how we relate to others, the world, and the future. (“I’m incompetent.” “No one will talk to me.” “I’ll do something stupid.” “I’m a loser.”) 

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

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As individuals living with social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities, we are challenged by a series of symptoms. Individually, we are not impacted by all of them or by the same ones as others living with SAD. Our issues are as distinctive as our experiences and personalities. The approaches to recovery are targeted to meet these individual needs. Notwithstanding our differences, the Nine-Stop Process for Rational Response works for all anticipated and recurring situations and provides a fluid template for unexpected ones. Moderating our associated fears and corresponding ANTs demands an integrated and targeted approach supported by personal revelation, evaluation, and implementation. Through the following steps, we learn to: 

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

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

Unmask our Corresponding ANT(s). We determine how we express our anxiety. What are our involuntary emotional expressions or images? It helps to visualize the situation and our associated feared reactions. What do we tell ourselves? “No one will talk to me.” I’ll say something stupid.” “I’m a loser.”

Examine and Analyze Our Fear(s) and Corresponding ANTs. What are the causes and trajectory of the negative self-beliefs that precipitate our fears and anxieties? Discovery approaches include cognitive-behavioral modification, cognitive comprehension, introspection, and the vertical arrow technique. Psychoanalysis can help us discover the origins, but recovery is a here-and-now solution

Generate Rational Responses. Through recovery approaches, we learn to identify and accept the irrationality of our fears and ANTs. We discover and analyze the cognitive distortions that we employ to validate or misrepresent our fears. Then we devise rational responses to counter our false assumptions. The character motivations of psychobiography and positive psychology are useful here.

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

Devise a Structured Plan for Our Feared Situations(s). Utilizing our learned tools and techniques, we develop a plan to challenge our situational fears and anxieties by incorporating predetermined and targeted, coping mechanisms and skills. Together, we will create a structured blueprint in Chapter Twenty-Two.

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

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

Workshop participants are asked to list their top five anxiety-provoking situations. First on George’s list was speaking in front of a group or audience. His corresponding fears were that he would not be taken seriously and be overwhelmed as the center of attention. His automatic negative thoughts were “I will be criticized” and “They will sneer at my anxiety.” Rational responses to these fears and ANTs are multiple. George chose “I deserve to be here,” “This is a formable presentation,” and “I am as worthy as everyone else.” That fulfilled the first steps in George’s Nine-Stop Process for Rational Response

Our regimen of positive personal affirmations that we assembled in Chapter Ten is expediting our neural energy conversion. (Three PPAs repeated five times, three times daily generate forty-five cellular chain reactions.) As we progress in our recovery, we will utilize our information in incorporating coping mechanisms including projected positive income, intention, and focus into our Structured Plan for Feared Situations. 

A coping strategy is our plan of action, and coping mechanisms are the tools or weapons we bring into play to implement our strategies. Coping skills refer to our adeptness at executing coping mechanisms. Since coping skills are developed through interactivity, role-playing, and practice, our concern here is designing the coping strategy and supporting mechanisms.

Coping Strategies, Mechanisms, and Skills.

To paraphrase the strategic offensive principle of war, “The best defense against social anxiety is a good offense” There are many moving parts to a counteroffensive requiring different levels of responsibility and expertise. At the top, we have our military strategists like Napoleon, Hannibal, and Eisenhower whose roles are to develop structured plans of action to outmaneuver the opponent. In recovery, this is our coping strategy designed to outmaneuver our social anxiety disorder – to take back control. In essence, that is our overriding goal. 

The strategist then identifies the actions or measurable steps needed to achieve the goal. In military jargon, those are the tactics generally implemented by field officers on the ground. In recovery, these are our coping mechanisms – the tools and techniques we utilize to support our strategy. A definitive strategy also identifies what resources are needed to implement the tactics. On the battlefield, the resources are the infantry, its training, and equipment.

This process of strategizing is not linear or trickle-down, but complementary to its accessible assets. A smart military strategist plots the counteroffensive around the available weaponry, the expertise of the field officers, and the numbers and capabilities of the ground troops. In recovery, our coping strategy is fashioned around our ability to execute it. Until we identify our coping mechanisms, we cannot produce a feasible strategy. We will get to that; there is a method to my madness. This lacuna will be resolved in Chapters Eighteen and Twenty where we explore some of the tools and techniques that support our efforts.

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

Coping Strategies

There are maladaptive and adaptive coping strategies. Since maladaptive is particular to social anxiety disorder, we focus on adaptive coping strategies to counter our negative thoughts and behaviors. Experts tout problem-focused strategies, emotional-focused strategies, and a plethora of others. For recovery, strategies are primarily response-focused, but all options should be considered and incorporated into the overall strategy for the situation. That will then identify the coping mechanisms to support it. In Chapter Eighteen we will examine the most effective coping mechanisms for unexpected situations, and those that support anticipated and recurring situations in Chapter Twenty.

Defense Mechanisms

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

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A word of advice. Don’t be fooled by its negative implications. Defense mechanisms, when used appropriately, can have a beneficial effect on behavior and health decisions. While they are often portrayed in a negative light, some defense mechanisms can be useful tools in our recovery. We will break these down for you in Chapter 17. Without coping mechanisms, healthy or otherwise, we can experience decompensation – the inability or unwillingness to generate effective psychological coping mechanisms in response to stress – resulting in personality disturbance or disintegration.

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

Those of us living with SAD are preoccupied with the future, predicting how things will go wrong. We avoid situations because we anticipate making a fool of ourselves. We dread exposing ourselves to criticism and ridicule. We have beat ourselves up for so long, and the future always looks bleak. Not only are we consumed with anxiety during situations, but we confront it days in advance. We create self-fulfilling prophecies of miserable and lonely solutions. Before recovery, I recall repeatedly circling the block before a social situation to bolster my courage. More often than not, I ended up in the bar rather than the event. Not only did I fear letting myself down, but I guaranteed it through my avoidance. 

Strategizing how to combat our feared-situations is a crucial element of recovery. Knowing what to anticipate and how to effectively respond is challenging enough. Devising fluid strategies to help us moderate unexpected or guerrilla situations is another. Each supports the other as we become more comfortable with practice and implementation. Knowing how SAD impacts us drives us to devise strategies that challenge the situations that seriously impact our emotional well-being.

There are literally hundreds of coping mechanisms that can make those stressful moments in life easier to handle, including yoga, dancing, meditation, eating, painting, writing, and streaming a movie. Anything that takes us out of the stress of the moment and reduces the flow of those pesky chemical hormones. The mechanisms detailed in these chapters are designed specifically to moderate the symptoms of our social anxiety in feared-situations. Once we have achieved that, the rest of our recovery falls into place. With all due respect to Emily Dickenson, we reverse her sequence of events. We take care of the big things and the little things take care of themselves.

Knowing how SAD impacts us allows us to devise strategies that complement our wherewithal to engage coping skills that support our coping mechanisms. Going into a problematic situation without a strategy and functional coping mechanisms is jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. In the words of the pioneer of moderation, Benjamin Franklin: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” 

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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.  

Selective Perspective

Robert F. Mullen, PhD
Director/ReChanneling

Subscriber numbers generate contributions that support scholarships for workshops.

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

Cognitive Distortions #4 and #5: 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 the cognitive bias that compels 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.

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. 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. 

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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. 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 faultless, we must be broken and inept. There is no middle ground, no compromise. There is no middle ground. “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 #3: 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 including Filtering, Polarized Thinking, Overgeneralization, and Personalization. This chapter focuses on our tendency to engage in Control Fallacies 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 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, blaming outside forces for our adversities. 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 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.

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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.  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.