How do you stop unwanted thoughts?

By David Joel Miller.

How do you get rid of painful, unhelpful thoughts?

Thought Stopping.

Thought Stopping.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Changing unhelpful thoughts is an important part of the process of recovery. These techniques are commonly used in cognitive behavioral therapy, a proven, effective, treatment for emotional problems. Thought stopping is one of the common ways of attempting to prevent the impact of recurring negative, unhelpful thoughts. In a previous post, I wrote about what thought stopping is, when you might want to use it and some of the problems you might encounter. Now let’s look at some specific, related methods you might use to stop those unwanted, unhelpful thoughts. Different theoretical orientations and the various mental health specialties may use different names for these techniques, but the ideas are essentially the same.

Distracting yourself from negative thinking.

As a short-term solution, thought distracting, can interrupt the train of unhelpful thoughts (Wegner et al., 1987). Be careful to not to look all around your environment at a lot of things which might later become cues for the unwanted thought. Use a transitional object that has helpful, positive associations. Religious symbols, a piece of jewelry that brings back positive memories, inspirational quotes can all be helpful in interrupting the current negative thought.

Thought substitution – think about something else.

Shifting your thinking to something more helpful has been shown to result in forgetting the thought you were trying to stop. One approach to grief work is to shift your thinking from the pain of the loss to the happy memories that you have of the person who is no longer in your life.

When dieting, rather than trying to not think about food, try to think about the improved health towards which you are working. Think about how much money you’re saving by not buying cigarettes, not about your efforts to stop smoking.

Think about a hobby or project you want to work on. When you’re busy thinking about redecorating a room or fixing your car, there’s less mental space to ruminate about unhelpful thoughts. If you’ve ever experienced flow, you have been so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time; you may have noticed that thoughts of problems, addictions, and worries disappeared.

Moving towards positive, helpful thoughts is much more effective than trying to sit and not think unhelpful thoughts.

Use stress reduction behaviors.

Mindfulness and meditation can be helpful in reducing the tension you would feel while wrestling with unhelpful thoughts. Physical exercise can also be helpful. The human brain doesn’t like to do the slow, tiring work involved in deep thinking. As you begin to walk faster, your brain is more likely to drop the unhelpful thoughts to stay focused on your exercise routine.

Make friends with your feelings.

Efforts to avoid negative feelings by suppressing them don’t work. Neither do efforts to solve your emotional pains by focusing on them, ruminating over them, constantly asking yourself why. Trying to avoid sadness by not feeling can render you numb and unable to feel happiness.

Come to recognize that feelings you don’t like are likely to come and go, but they do provide you information. Feeling lonely can motivate you to seek out other human companionship. Learn to surf the waves of emotion in your mind rather than insisting that you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling.

This approach is sometimes called monitoring your thoughts and feelings. You simply note that the thought has come, and then you watch it go. Not wrestling with your feelings allows you to escape their grasp.

Cognitive restructuring can help you change unhelpful thoughts.

Cognitive restructuring often begins with keeping a thought record or journal. The goal is to learn to recognize your own mental processes. Not every thought you have requires an action. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it so. Rather than getting carried away by unhelpful thoughts, learn to evaluate your thinking. Practice increasing your helpful thoughts and becoming more optimistic.

Practice reframing your thoughts by setting positive goals you wish to approach rather than giving unhelpful thoughts more prominence by focusing on the things to be avoided.

Disputing unhelpful thoughts.

Many negative, unhelpful thoughts are based on faulty assumptions. You walk into the room, and people start laughing, it’s easy to think they’re laughing at you. Learn to argue with these unhelpful thoughts. Maybe someone just told a joke, maybe they’re all having a good time.

Remember, you don’t have to believe everything you think. If you have a magic, magnifying mind probably you have had many experiences of thinking that other people’s behavior has something to do with you. If they look at you, did you think they were judging you? Check these thoughts out with someone you can trust. There’s a good chance they looked at you because you were there.

Evaluating the evidence for the thoughts you have.

People who are depressed or high in anxiety, frequently have a lot of negative, unhelpful thoughts. You get a bad grade on the test, and you may have told yourself you’re stupid or a failure. If you look carefully at the evidence, you may find that your scores on tests are about the same as other students in your class, possibly even better. Getting a “B” on the test is not the same thing as failing.

Think you’re extremely fat? Sit for a while outside the shopping mall, preferably with a reliable friend, and keep track of how many people entering the mall appear to weigh more than you do. If you tell yourself the truth, you may find out you’re about average. Certainly, you may have room for improvement, but calling yourself names and judging yourself is unhelpful. If you want to motivate yourself to exercise and get into shape, you will do it more effectively by praising yourself for the efforts you make to eat healthily and increase your exercise.

Train your brain to stop thinking those thoughts.

You can use conditioning techniques to train your brain to avoid unhelpful thoughts in the same way you might train a child not to do something dangerous. When the unhelpful thought enters your mind, yell “STOP” either verbally or mentally. Pair thoughts of smoking with pictures you have seen of seriously ill people.

For some conditions, professionals recommend keeping a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it to remind you not to think that thought. This kind of conditioning probably works better for helping you not do things that may seem enjoyable in the moment but have long-term negative consequences.

In using conditioning techniques be careful to avoid behaviors that might be harmful or addicting such as cutting or other nonsuicidal self-injury.

For the alcoholic, when the automatic thought “I need a drink” occurs they can automatically tell themselves “no I don’t, I’m in recovery and can handle this situation without a drink.”

Coupling these self-conditioning methods with some of the other techniques above can train your brain to automatically shift from an unhelpful thought to a positive, helpful thought.

Which of these thought-changing methods do you think would help you?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life.

You can recover. You are cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, breakup, or lost a job, your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Other books are due out soon; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Does thought stopping work?

By David Joel Miller.

What is thought stopping and does it work?

Thought Stopping.

Thought Stopping.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Thought stopping is a common cognitive behavioral therapy technique. Some people, clients, and counselors alike report that thought stopping can be very helpful for reducing or avoiding rumination, catastrophizing, and other unwanted thoughts. Learning to stop unwanted thoughts can be helpful for reducing depression, anxiety and recurrent thoughts of substance use. Others have reported that thought stopping was unhelpful and did not work. Why does thought stopping work for some people and not others?

Not thinking about something does not work.

There’s a big difference between trying not to think about something and getting your mind to stop going over and over the thought once you have it. The human brain doesn’t work well at preventing thoughts. Setting up a list of things to “not think about” does not prevent those thoughts from reentering your mind. That no-think list will keep your mind occupied looking for the very thoughts are trying to avoid.

If you have had a history of negative thoughts, negative self-talk, or the kind of recurrent negative thinking that damages your self-esteem, you will find the thoughts recur whether you want them to or not. People in drug and alcohol recovery find that their default thought, no matter what happens, is likely to be I need or want a drink. Maybe I could do a little drug just this one time.

In a past post, I wrote about “don’t think about elephants.” What people find is that the effort to “not think about” anything keeps that thought right at the edge of consciousness waiting for its chance to pop back into your current thinking. If you’re not sure about this, sit for a while and don’t think about something. You will find that every time you tell yourself to not think about it, the thought miraculously enters your mind.

Researchers have used both “white bears” and “red Volkswagen’s” in various combinations to study the effects of thought stopping. The studies are enlightening, but make it hard to set firm rules for when and how to use thought stopping. If you’re someone who has recurrent, unwanted thoughts, you need to practice and probably work with a professional to become proficient in using thought stopping to make your life more manageable. There are some other techniques you can learn that are probably more effective than thought stopping.

Thought stopping is most effective when used briefly in crisis situations. Telling yourself not to reach for that drink or drug can help in the moment. When your mind tries to take into a dangerous neighborhood telling it to “knock that off” may keep you out of trouble for the moment, but it won’t last for very long if you don’t change some of the things.

Suppressing unwanted thoughts requires cognitive effort. When you put a lot of effort into something, you get tired. Humans are cognitive misers and customarily revert to patterns that don’t require a lot of effort. Letting your guard down against unwanted thoughts can happen quite quickly.

Your mood impacts the effort needed to suppress unwanted thoughts. When you are depressed, it is harder to stop negative, painful thoughts. Being in a happy, optimistic mood makes it easier to suppress negative thoughts.

You need to remember some things and forget others.

Forgetting important things can be very frustrating. It can be equally upsetting if you find you can’t forget the painful past. Unwanted and intrusive memories are characteristic of several mental illnesses. People who have been victims of trauma, those with PTSD especially, wish they could forget. There are a lot of materials available to help people improve memory, but far fewer to help people forget the painful, unhelpful memories. Change your thinking techniques are one of those few tools that may be helpful in preventing unhelpful thoughts from taking over your consciousness.

Researchers have found that remembering feelings from the past can influence how we feel in the present. The more you think about an unhappy memory, the more depressed or anxious you may become right now. So, if telling yourself not to think about your ex just brings the sadness you experienced during the breakup into your mind, how do you prevent spending all your time thinking about the things you wish had not happened. Thought changing methods may reduce the amount of time you spend caught in the downward spiral of unhelpful thinking.

Euphoric recall – thoughts that need to be stopped.

Some thoughts that seem positive at first glance turn out to be highly inaccurate and unhelpful. It’s common in addiction for people to suddenly experience thoughts of the good times they had when drinking or using. Remember that time you partied? What’s hard to remember is that you got into a fight at the party, took off in a hurry, maybe got arrested for driving under the influence. The same thing happens when dysfunctional relationships end. You tend to remember the good times in the beginning and not the bad events later.

What is thought stopping?

Thought stopping is the process of monitoring your thinking, detecting unhelpful or unwanted thoughts and getting your mind off that thought and back onto something more helpful. It’s important to take active steps to prevent unwanted, intrusive thoughts from taking over control of your mind.

One way of thinking about thought stopping is a process of transforming automatic unhelpful thoughts into cues to activate your thought stopping and thought transforming mental systems.

Thought stopping is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced.

“Recent research indicates that people control unwanted memories by stopping memory retrieval, using mechanisms similar to those used to stop reflexive motor responses” (Anderson, M., Levy, B., 2009.) The article goes on to say that the control of unwanted thoughts and memories happens in the lateral prefrontal cortex, the executive function of the brain. If your brain has an effective CEO, he can control the activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates storage and retention of memories. Learning what to remember and what to forget is a skill you can develop.

As people grow and develop, they could become better at regulating which memories are prioritized for storage in which are slated for deletion. We would expect it to be harder for young people to forget the painful memories. Life events that alter your brain chemistry, trauma, depression, anxiety, or a substance use disorder appear to reduce your control over memory storage and retrieval. For example, people who are addicted to methamphetamine had “lower grey matter intensity in the brain region associated with performance” on both thought stopping and the ability to look at past events in another way, a skill called reappraisal or reframing (Tang, D., Schmeichel, B., 2014)

Thought stopping shouldn’t be the only tool in your self-help toolbox.

So, not thinking about things often does not work. You can use thought stopping to interrupt the flow of an unhelpful thought. Anyone who’s tried to do mindfulness or meditation knows that as soon as you empty the mind, a mob of thoughts tries to reoccupy that emptiness. The more you practice, the better you can get at keeping unwelcome thoughts out of your head. In the short run, you may need some mental protection from other skills.

Practice becoming more optimistic. Learned to fill your mind with positive thoughts that can guard the space against the return of unhelpful thoughts. Distracting techniques, filling your mind with other helpful thoughts, appears to make thought stopping more effective.

Are there times you shouldn’t use thought stopping?

Turns out that there are times when thought stopping is not helpful. People have experienced a loss in their life, the death of a loved one, may find that simply trying not to think about that death leaves unresolved grief which they may need to deal with later. While going on with life may work temporarily, eventually you need to come to terms with the loss and find a way to make meaning out of that experience.

If you have a problem that needs to be solved, not thinking about it is likely to interfere with solving the problem or dealing with the consequences. Thought stopping is not effective when eventually you will have to solve the problem.

People who were on a diet and tried to simply not think about eating are at increased risk to binge eat when the thoughts of food return (Sarah L. Gaskell et al., 2001.)

Thought stopping is a verbal technique which works best to correct unhelpful self-talk. Thought stopping is less effective when physical objects such as people, places, and things try to the unhelpful thoughts. For those objects, you need to avoid places where you’ll see them. It’s hard to avoid thinking about having another drink when you’re sitting in a bar.

Some additional cautions about thought stopping.

When trying to stop unwanted thoughts, people tend to look around the room. Be careful what you look at, the things you look at while trying to avoid thinking about something, get paired with the original unwanted thoughts. You look around the room and see a particular lamp or picture, the next time you look around the room those objects are likely to bring back the unwanted thoughts.

When doing thought stopping, look at something positive and reinforcing. If you wear a religious symbol, look at that. Twelve-step groups often have quotes from the recovery literature and helpful sayings on the walls so that people who are trying to avoid thinking about their issues find it easier to shift from unwanted thoughts to helpful thoughts.

If you do have recurrences of unhelpful thoughts, don’t beat yourself up and create those thoughts being triggers for negative self-talk. Dismiss the unwanted thoughts as quickly as possible and shift your attention to helpful thoughts.

My take on thought stopping?

I think of thought stopping like being in the swimming pool and trying to hold that water polo ball under the surface. The harder you try to hold it under the more it pops back. Eventually, you get too tired to keep holding it down. What you need to do with that ball of unwanted thoughts is toss it out of the pool of your life, or get out of the pool and moved to a better environment.

In an upcoming post, I want to walk you through some techniques that should be more effective at helping you get rid of those unhelpful thoughts on a long-term basis than simply trying to “not think about it.”

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life.

You can recover. You are cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, breakup, or lost a job, your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Other books are due out soon; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Sad.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Sad child

Sad.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sad.

“You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.”

― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

“The funniest people are the saddest ones”

― Confucius

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

What is Paranoid Personality Disorder (F60.0)?

By David Joel Miller.

There’s more than one kind of paranoia.

Fearfulness

Paranoia.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

When you hear the word paranoid, most people think of the expression “paranoid schizophrenic.” Paranoia can be a part of several mental illnesses. Among the mental illnesses that include paranoia as a symptom Paranoid Personality Disorder is the most common. According to the DSM-5, estimates for the prevalence of Paranoid Personality Disorder range between 2.3% and 4.4 %. The estimate for all types of schizophrenia is between 0.3% and 0.7%. Since there are several types of schizophrenia, my rough estimate tells me Paranoid Personality Disorder is probably 10 times as common as paranoid schizophrenia.

Paranoia can also be a part of several other mental illnesses including, depression, bipolar disorder with psychotic features, other psychotic disorders, delusional disorder persecutory type. Suspicion and even paranoia may also be features cognitive dementia and substance use disorders.

There is also a condition known as “Subclinical paranoia” in which the person has milder forms of trust issues, suspicion, or paranoia. Symptoms that may cause them problems, but doesn’t quite meet all the criteria to be diagnosed as a specific mental illness. Professionals are beginning to believe that paranoia can exist on a continuum from occasional mild symptoms to the more persistent and serious symptoms that we see in those people diagnosed with Paranoid Personality Disorder.

Many cases of paranoid personality disorder do not get diagnosed. People with this disorder, whether in a mild form or more serious one, distrust others and believe people are out to harm them. As a result of these beliefs, they tend to avoid others, professionals in particular. Those with paranoid personality disorder are likely to only be diagnosed when they are involuntarily hospitalized for mental health issues or forced to be seen by professional because of criminal or legal issues.

How is Paranoid Personality Disorder diagnosed?

To receive the diagnosis of Paranoid Personality Disorder someone would need to exhibit the presence of at least four symptoms from a list of 7 possible symptoms. These symptoms involve suspiciousness, trust issues, beliefs that others are deliberately trying to harm them. The DSM calls for the symptoms to begin by early adulthood and happen in multiple contexts. This leaves us with a gray area in diagnosing paranoid symptoms which develop in senior citizens.

It’s easy to see that there can be a large mathematical number of combinations of having or not having the seven symptoms. My math tells me that there are over 5000 possible combinations of these symptoms with 840 of those combinations meeting criteria for a diagnosis of Paranoid Personality Disorder. Since we don’t have laboratory tests such as blood tests or x-rays to detect the symptoms, they are evaluated using symptom check-lists either from the patient’s reports or observations by others. Depending on how the client describes their feelings and the mood of the therapist’s that day it’s easy to call a particular symptom either in or out resulting in fuzzy diagnoses.

Many of these possible symptoms can vary in intensity. Deciding if someone has 3, 4, or 5 symptoms present can be very much a judgment call. Using more objective screening tools and checklists result in a large number of people who show some symptoms, but not enough to make the cut off for having Paranoid Personality Disorder. One commonly used instrument is the 20-question questionnaire, Paranoia Scale by Fenigstein and Vanable. Results from this scale vary from very low, occasional, symptoms of paranoid to extremely high and constant levels. In future posts, I want to talk about those people who fall in the middle of the score range on the paranoid scale, enough that they frequently experience trust issues and suspicion but don’t quite meet the cut off to be diagnosed with Paranoid Personality Disorder.

What are the 7 symptoms that may be present in Paranoid Personality Disorder?

  1. Being suspicious without good reason that others are trying to harm them, lie to them or take advantage of them. The presumption here is that the person can’t accurately perceive the actions of others. It can be difficult for the professional to determine whether these beliefs about others actions are accurate.
  2. They spend a lot of time thinking about their beliefs that others are not trustworthy, disloyal or have bad intentions.
  3. They do not trust anyone and avoid talking about their fears because of a belief that others will use what they say against them.
  4. They interpret normal, everyday events as threats or personal attacks.
  5. Holds onto the perceived attacks, may have grudges and be unwilling to forgive even accidental injuries because they believe others are deliberately trying to harm them.
  6. Gets angry and fights back because they believe others are attacking their character or reputation. The things they’re angry about most other observers don’t see as intentional attacks.
  7. Have unjustified suspicions that their regular sexual partner is unfaithful.

How does Paranoid Personality Disorder disrupt lives?

People with Paranoid Personality Disorder assume that others are out to get them. Sometimes these thoughts are totally unreasonable but other times there a matter of opinion or even experience. If someone has harmed you in the past, it’s not unreasonable to be on the lookout for other people seeking to harm you.

If your partner has cheated on you before, it’s hard to trust them again. Sometimes the mistrust makes sense but other times the injured spouse develops a persistent sort of paranoid jealousy, and no amount of checking will convince them that their partner is faithful.

People with varying levels of paranoid thoughts spend a lot of time doubting and worrying about whether the people around them are trustworthy and loyal. When you’re high in paranoia, you find it difficult to believe you can trust anyone.

Paranoia makes it harder to trust others and makes you reluctant to share personal information with others for fear they will use that information against you. They may be reluctant to answer personal questions and when asked to fill out forms may refuse to give answers to some questions saying that these things are “nobody’s business.” This high level of distrust leads them to believe that accidents were deliberate and that routine jokes were meant as personal criticism. The paranoid person is likely to take compliments as veiled insults.

There are some other characteristics of paranoia which aren’t included in the diagnostic criteria but are listed as associated features. It’s really hard to get along with people who have even moderate levels of suspicion and distrust. People who are high in paranoia are likely to be control freaks and have difficulty getting along with others.

Paranoid Personality Disorder is part of the “Cluster A Personality Disorders.” It’s common for people who are diagnosed with one of the Cluster A personality disorders to also have symptoms of several other personality disorders from this group.

Not everyone with trust issues gets diagnosed with Paranoid Personality Disorder.

As with the other things we are calling a mental illness this needs to interfere with your ability to work or go to school, your relationships, your enjoyable activities or cause you personal distress. Otherwise, you may have the issues, but you will not get the diagnoses if this is not causing you a problem. If the only time this happens is when you are under the influence of drugs or medicines, or because of some other physical or medical problem, this fear needs to be more than your situation would warrant. These other issue needs treating first; then if you still have symptoms, you could get this diagnosis.

In upcoming posts, we will look at the overlap between paranoia and substance use disorders, some possible causes for paranoia, some of the milder variations of fearfulness and trust issues as well as ways to reduce the impact of your trust issues on your ability to have a satisfactory life.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions, please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life.

You can recover. You are cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, breakup, or lost a job, your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Other books are due out soon; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why you shouldn’t have goals.

By David Joel Miller.

Not having goals makes life simpler.

Have you noticed how many books and blog posts there are about goals and

Setting Goals.

Setting Goals.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

motivation? I can’t even read all the materials on how to set goals, the steps you need to take to reach your goals, and why you may be pursuing the wrong goals. Despite all the efforts to reach a lot of goals everybody who is pursuing those goals seems to be unhappy. Then I run into people who have no goals, and they don’t seem to be in the least bit concerned about their lack of goals. Is it possible that we have it all wrong, could this constant emphasis on pursuing goals be the cause of a great deal of insecurity? Maybe the people who have managed to convince themselves they are incapable of reaching goals are onto something. Here’s a short list of reasons why having goals may not be all that desirable.

Goals take effort.

One of the easiest ways to avoid reaching goals is to avoid putting any effort into them. Don’t set goals in the first place. If by accident you discover that you have some life goals, make no effort in that direction. Especially resist anyone in your life who tries to suggest that you need to have some goals. Ignore the advice and encouragement of parents, partners, family, friends, and especially helping professionals. Avoiding all this goal hoopla will save you a whole lot of effort.

Success in reaching goals comes with responsibility.

As long as you have no goals or if you can convince yourself that you could never possibly achieve a goal any way you could avoid all the responsibility for your life. Success comes with responsibilities. The more you have, the more bills you’ll have to pay. If you have a job, they will want you to show up on a regular basis. Being successful in relationships means one more person you must care about. If you want to avoid responsibility in life accomplishes as little as possible, and the easiest way to avoid success is never to try.

Make lots of goals just don’t pursue them; you will accidentally reach some.

Be careful with that process of creating goals. Especially, don’t ever write down a list of goals. We used to think that the process of writing out goals would put the subconscious to work on creating those goals. Some professionals even believed in universal or subconscious goals that all humans might aspire to reach. Absolutely, do not think about goals and especially avoid writing anything down. Keeping any goals for life out of your mind reduces the risk that you might reach some of those goals without effort, purely because of your subconscious creating them.

Don’t waste time on goal planning.

People with goals get sucked into the whole planning their life process. Do your best to avoid thinking. You know that whole trying to figure out who you are and what you want process, is likely to make your head hurt. Save your time for important things like binge-watching television and frantically worrying about why you don’t have enough friends on social media. Planning and implementing goals will interfere with your vegetating time.

Efforts towards goals can be painful.

Effort at anything can be painful. Have you ever watched any of those exercise videos? Don’t you feel sorry for all those fit and trim bodies? Those people doing all that work, they could have saved themselves a lot of effort by just avoiding the work that is required to reach meaningful goals.

You shouldn’t have to choose your goals.

Choosing is hard. Do you want to be a doctor? Maybe you should be a lawyer? Or maybe you were destined to be a successful businessman. Why should you plan your future? Wait for the letter of acceptance from the medical school to arrive in the mail. Maybe the boss who wants to hire you and pay you lots of money will come knocking on your door. If you’re out going to school or hunting for a job, you won’t be home when opportunity knocks on your door and tells you which kind of success you’re supposed to be.

You were born unmotivated, why change?

When you were little, were there always people wanting you to do something. Somebody bugging you, first to crawl, and then to walk? Remember that whole potty training fiasco? You got through your childhood somehow putting things in your face and doing as little as possible. You probably have avoided a whole lot of work by telling yourself you’re lazy. It’s not your fault; you were born that way. Motivating you has always been somebody else’s job. If your parents couldn’t motivate you, your teachers in school didn’t motivate you, why are you going to try to self-motivate? The time for motivation is once you get a job, then it will be up to your boss to motivate you.

Stay unconscious so you won’t recognize when you reach your goal.

If all else fails, you can avoid any strenuous motivational thinking by staying as unconscious as possible. Drink lots of alcohol, do lots of drugs, and try to avoid straining your brain by thinking. But then if you are extra good at avoiding motivation, you probably didn’t read this, did you?

Still not convinced you should avoid goals? You may be one of those people headed for a successful, happy life. More posts on this topic are at motivation and success.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.
David Joel Miller.

You can recover. Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, breakup, or lost a job, your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Other books are due out soon; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Shy.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Shy

Shy.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Shyness.

“I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.”

― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

“I never wish to offend, but I am so foolishly shy, that I often seem negligent, when I am only kept back by my natural awkwardness.”

― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

“Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.”

― Andre Dubus

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Will you regret doing that?

By David Joel Miller.

Does anticipating regret increase protective actions and reduce risky behaviors?

Regret.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Regrets happen when you find out, or imagine, that the results would’ve been better if you had made a different decision. What behaviors are you doing today that you may regret in the future? What positive, healthy, activities did you leave undone today that in the future you will wish you had done?

Thinking about the positive advantages of exercise and healthy diet doesn’t seem to be enough to get many people to engage in these activities. Thinking about the regrets you will have in the future provides additional motivation to do proactive healthy behaviors and to reduce risky behaviors. People who think about the regrets they will have the morning after casual sex are more likely to alter their behavioral plans.

Will you regret not protecting your health?

People who have thought about the need to maintain good health and could anticipate the regrets they will have in later life for not protecting their health are more likely to make the effort to eat a healthy diet.

We all know that getting more exercise would benefit our health. Being able to anticipate the regrets you will have about your appearance and your health in the future because of not exercising increases the chances that you will exercise today to avoid those painful regrets in the future. It takes a long time for regrets about not protecting your help to develop. People go through life not exercising or eating a healthy diet, telling themselves there’s always time to start healthy living tomorrow. The regrets take up a lot of your time when you’re older and out of time to have lived a healthy life.

There has been a lot of controversies recently about vaccination. Regardless of how you feel about getting your family members vaccinated, it’s important to think about the regrets you might have if you fail to get vaccinated. The larger regret is not that you might catch the flu, but that because you did not get vaccinated, you might transmit an infection to a baby, young child or older adult. Thinking about the possible regrets of infecting others might be just the motivation you need to get yourself vaccinated.

Will you regret not helping others?

When you’re busy with your life, you’re likely to forget about donating blood or designating yourself an organ donor. Thinking about possible regrets you might have because you didn’t donate blood and someone died may motivate you to make that donation.

Will you regret risky sexual behaviors?

Recent research tells us that the possibility of regretting unsafe sexual behaviors has strongly influenced some people’s sexual practices. Thinking beforehand about the possible regretted consequences of unprotected sex, both from contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies increase the chances someone will use protection or abstain.

Will you regret your use or abuse of nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs?

Prevention efforts around alcohol consumption and drug use have been generally disappointing. Having people think about drinking or drug use is unlikely to reduce the risk they will consume substances. One promising prevention effort has been having people think about possible regrets. Are there things you might do while drunk or high that you would later regret? As you grow older, raise your children and live your life, will you regret having abused drugs or becoming addicted to them?

Knowing that tobacco consumption is hazardous to your health is almost universal. That hasn’t been enough to keep most young people from trying cigarettes or other products containing nicotine. One promising approach has been asking people early in the nicotine using experience about possible, anticipated regrets. Thinking about health risks off in the future is not much of a deterrent. Thinking about the anticipated regrets from having contracted emphysema, heart disease, or cancer offers a different perspective.

Thinking about anticipated regrets from binge drinking has been shown to reduce the rates of intending to binge drink (Cooke, Sniehotta, & Schuz, 2007). There has been limited recent research on whether anticipated regrets related to substance use changes behavior. What little research there has been, shows that anticipating future regrets increases the intent to avoid or stop using substances.

Will you regret not keeping yourself safe?

In the spur of the moment, it’s easy to ignore the risks from taking a phone call or answering a text while driving. Take a moment to think how you will feel if your distraction results in an accident and someone loses their life.

When we don’t think about risks, they don’t alter our behavior. Considering possible risks in life and anticipating the regrets you will have from engaging in risky behaviors and neglecting to engage in healthy ones may help you put the way you are living your life in perspective.

Why doesn’t anticipating regrets change behaviors?

People who drive dangerously, speed or weave in and out of lanes, report they would have severe regrets if that behavior resulted in an accident. Unfortunately, in the moment, the urge to get somewhere more rapidly and the excitement of the speed, outweigh the anticipated regrets of a potential accident. Excitement and pleasure also offset the anticipated regrets from alcohol and drug use.

Any behaviors whose consequences will happen far in the future, such as poor health behaviors, tend to remain unchanged because people tell themselves that they will begin living in a healthy manner in the future.

Potential regrets from risky sexual practices respond poorly to potential regrets when people tell themselves that it will not happen to them, but sex will be less enjoyable when they use protection or that stopping for protection will ruin the spontaneity.

Stop and ask yourself what things you are doing today you regret in the future. Consider the things you’re not doing now which will be major sources of regret as you get older. The more aware you become of anticipatory regrets more likely you will be to change your current behavior.

The things you may be regretting now may be very different from the things you will regret in the future. You might want to look at the things that older people say with their biggest regrets in life which were described in the post – Top 6 life regrets.

https://counselorssoapbox.com/2018/03/28/top-6-life-regrets/

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life.

You can recover. You are cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, breakup, or lost a job, your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Other books are due out soon; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.