Some years ago I was kicked out of a band because I didn’t write anything.
At that point in my life the group was the most successful thing I had ever been involved in. We’d had a critically acclaimed first album, a successful tour and a loyal following. I went and threw it all away due to writers block.
This break-up hit me hard, afterwards it felt as if I were grieving. I became real low for some time over the missed opportunity and damaged friendships. Internally I was extremely hard on myself for not trying harder.
In the years that followed, and then becoming a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist, I’ve managed to find a different and more compassionate view of this time in my life. I have learned something of the truth about procrastination and the thought patterns I accepted and developed back then.
Whenever it was time for me to sit down and write, templates stored in my primitive mind would start to feed subconsciously into my thinking. Whether these underlying templates were fears of not being very good, a fear of what others would think of my efforts or any other combination of fears and anxieties did not matter; I would find other things to do other than write. Then, I’d feel extremely guilty about this avoidance too, heaping more and more negative feelings on top of the others.
Does it matter when these templates were laid down? Were they there because of harsh words from parents or teachers? Was I hung up because of the bullies in my school days? In those moments it did not matter, nor could I have distinguished these subconscious ideas either.
It’s our primitive minds that are responsible for assessing and responding to emotional (or stressful, dangerous) situations. Part of this brain region, the amygdala, would assess the writing task at hand, and due to whichever negative templates, it’d respond that the outcome of my effort would not be positive. In order to protect myself from a further negative (or stressful, dangerous) situation, my fear and anxiety would rise, stress hormones would be released and I would avoid even trying to write.
Fight or flight
This system is responsible for our survival and must have been invaluable in our evolution. Fighting off polar bears, outrunning sabretooth tigers or just hiding away when the environment was too dangerous; our fight or flight response has been a powerful and reliable resource.
Obviously I can’t say that sitting down to write some lyrics is tantamount to a life or death situation. However, with all those negative emotions coming up increasing the adrenaline levels, my primitive mind reacted with resistance (fight) and avoidance (flight).
The thing was, we were already successful (although broke!). Intellectually I knew this and knew that I was (possibly) the best MC* in the group, if not the country (debatable)!
Our primitive minds have to work faster than rational thinking though. We do not want to waste valuable time trying to calculate whether that polar bear looks hungry. We can’t afford to guess whether that lorry has had it’s brakes serviced or estimate whether the driver has seen us as it hurtles straight toward our fragile body. No, we must react quickly in order to survive. Our primitive mind works around 3 times faster than our rational thoughts patterns can, so this mind often takes precedence and ultimately wins those creative struggles.
When it successfully got me to avoid writing, it was validated, I survived! That behavior meant that I was alive to try and write again another day. This is how a pattern of behavior becomes reinforced, I desperately wanted to write again, so I came back to this cycle of thinking many times.
These negative templates that we all carry around, can limit what we get out of life. They can colour and distort our memories of the past, can give us a narrow view of the future and spoil our enjoyment of the present moment.
Depending on your experience, upbringing, personality and outlook you’ll react to these stressful life events in different ways. Maybe it’s through procrastination and depression. But it could be through anxiety or anger or dependency/addiction or OCD behaviors. There are a multitude of ways that these reactions can exhibit, but all come down to our primitive mind being switched on when it is not going to be of any help.
Learning to notice when this mind is leading the way with emotional, unhelpful thoughts and concentrating on positive goals are some of the ways we can start to get our mental health back on track. I will be writing in this blog with the many other ways we can help ourselves (please have a look at the previous ones too).
Our past does not have to influence how we live our lives today. The neuroplasticity of our brains’ means that any behavioral or emotional template we hold can be manipulated or rewritten simply by thinking differently. In fact it is by concentrating on how we want things to be, rather than going over the past, that creates new behavioral responses through new neural pathways.
If you get stuck in a rut with things however, it is ok to ask for help. I have worked with artists and sports people, business leaders, entrepreneurs, parents, students, and children through many different problems in their lives. Hypnotherapy has an added advantage because we can use the trance state to embed these new ways of thinking in a very positive and relaxing way.
If you’d like things to be different in your life, if you’re ready to learn new ways of thinking, please contact me today.
* Mic Controller/Master of Ceremonies/Move the Crowd