Practice: Can you label the Mental Action Patterns in real life situations?
Specific life situations provide an opportunity to practice identifying common mental action combinations. Can you identify the combinations most influential in those here provided? For the big payoff, can you recognize the combination of patterns that prevail in your own life experience? Consider the means available to you to modify the established combinations and create the pathways that lead to preferred destinations. Skill in recognizing the linkage of the mental action choices to one another will grow your self-mastery by leaps and bounds.
Examples of mental response combinations: see how they change and how you can change:
- 1. For several years following a football injury that left him quadriplegic as a teenager, “A” was embittered, hopeless, depressed, and preoccupied with dying. He blamed others and himself. One day he had an insight that changed his life. He realized that as long as he focused on what he had lost, didn’t have now, or couldn’t attain, he’d stay miserable. He began to focus on what he did have and what he could do. He obtained help to attend school including an aide to literally “turn the pages.” He earned a degree in higher education, married, and adopted a child. When I saw him, he was strikingly enthusiastic and happy. Here is a mixture of the blaming, avoidance, helplessness/hopelessness response dramatically changed by problem-solving and self-endorsement.
- 2. “B’s” parents were very demanding and her superior performance made her their favorite among her siblings. “B” had what most people want – brains, good looks, a good job, and recognition from her peers. Yet her perfectionism kept her miserable and she suffered from regular tension headaches. Nothing she did was quite good enough, not the way it should be. For example, even though she had beautiful teeth, she was preoccupied with a perceived “defect” which was unnoticeable to others, and so she tried not to smile. She was what I would call a “love junkie,” dependent on others’ approval for her self-worth. Here is a mixture of shoulding on herself, i.e. blaming-in, worry (“what if they don’t accept me/”), and the Mind/Body response.
- 3. “C” found that a bit of alcohol before a talk relieved his anxiety. He felt better, and perhaps he did better. He found similar relief from marital stress. In time, alcohol became like a “best friend” – it gave him immediate comfort, was uncritical, and was readily available. You can imagine how this short-term gain brought increasing longer-term pain. When those who cared urged him to abandon his “friend,” he became resentful and adamantly denied his growing dependence: “I can stop anytime I want!” As his work and marriage deteriorated, he was given an ultimatum: “Get help or else!” While at first he was reluctant, his resistance to AA gradually changed to enthusiasm. He acquired the wisdom others offered. His newer manner of thinking led to one of his greatest satisfactions, helping others by doing 12th step work (mentoring others). What MAPs can you identify?
- 4. “D” had such panic episodes that she came to avoid most situations. She could not take her graduate exams, refused to drive an automobile, and her “what if” thinking regularly pictured the worst of all outcomes. With encouragement and support, she step-by-step confronted her fears and slowly expanded her boundaries, including driving. As the “what iffing” changed to “most likely” and she grew more confident, she was able to take and pass her graduate exams. She established a more wholesome life style. Can you recognize the change in her mental response patterns?
- 5. “E” was adopted when her new dad wanted a daughter rather than his biologic son. Her presence was a rose to dad, but a thorn to mom. Life for E became quite difficult when several years after her adoption, dad died. The balance of “favored” (dad) and “reject” (mom) was suddenly shifted to “reject.” E was no longer the prankish, spoiled child; she quickly became a hellion. All that goes with blaming-out bloomed, especially lack of consideration for others. As she later expressed, “Better to be rejected for what you do than what you are. You can always change what you do; you can’t change what you are.” What MAP’s can you identify? Could self-endorsement skills make a difference?
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