About 12 years ago I was listening to an interview with leading neuroscientist Mark Waldman who spoke about a new way to use your researched brain functions to retrain your mind about your perceived Conflicts, Resistances, Anxieties and any other Problems you might have. (CRAP).
This methodology was based on 30 years of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy research as well as the latest neuroscience studies.
Mark explained that the frontal lobes of the brain are always working, with the right ‘keeping you safe’ by constantly running negative thought processes.
You cannot get rid of negative thoughts, we have been biologically and evolutionally designed to have negative thoughts, to recognise danger and avoid it.
This worked for primitive man but not for us, in our modern world. So what can we do to manage and maybe even reduce the negativity?
A cluttered and confused head makes it impossible to move forward. When you’re overwhelmed you get stuck in a mental fog. You get frustrated because nothing’s changing as you go round and round and always end up in the same place.
Grab a sheet of paper, because of course it’s a writing exercise! More than that, its a brain resetting process. You get rid of the stuff clogging up your brain and create space for new thinking and creativity and being empowered to make better decisions.
On the page, list out every negative concept you have about yourself: you’re weak, you’re poor, you’re lazy, you’re no good, you’re not good enough, you never did it before, you always mess it up.
All your concerns, worries, the to do list that never gets done, the things you need to remember, the things you want to forget. A brain dump essentially of everything you are harbouring in there.
Everything, in all aspects of your life, health, work, family, finance, community, personal growth and spiritual, and anything else you can think of.
I had forgotten this old process and when I rediscovered it last night, I decided to get started on it again and it was incredibly freeing. I just wrote and wrote and wrote.
At first, I was arguing with the negative thought and telling myself all the positives that counter it, but I stopped self justifying and just let it all out.
I’m considered a very positive and optimistic person and I amazed myself with just how much CRAP I had in my head. Three full journal pages later….
I shared this process with my friend Jane this morning and she agreed that like a vision board or life goals, the CRAP list will never end; it will change, remembered humiliations will rise up for inclusion and others will fade away.
An ongoing job of work but definitely a worthwhile process.
Change how you feel
Once you’ve got your list, it’s time to bring yourself into the present moment. Rather than ruminating on what you’ve just poured out on the page.
Start by breathing deeply and use the pleasurable sensations of your own body to relax you; stroke your hands, arms, face and neck. I like to gently massage my inner wrists. Focus on the sound of your breathing, and you can use a bell to help you focus and concentrate.
When you’re in a deeply relaxed, self soothed state, now look at the list of negative thoughts and feelings, all the CRAP you’ve been carrying around in that beautiful head of yours.
Because you’re deeply relaxed, you’re embedding a sense of relaxation and pleasure in your brain as you look at that list of CRAP.
You can know that most of the things on the list aren’t true, because they are not happening in the present moment, and it’s only what’s happening now that is true.
And here’s the interesting twist to this process: you keep your list of personal CRAP.
You don’t throw it away or burn it.
Why? Because if you get rid of it, then your right frontal lobe gets busy trying to remember everything on your list, to keep you safe, just in case.
So do this instead. Make up a CRAP board, right next to your vision board if you have one, with your list and pictures if you want to go all out, of what you don’t want in your life; and that gorgeous brain of yours will go, ‘Okay see, there’s all my CRAP over there. I don’t need to think about it, and I’m free to do my best work.’
I know, this is counter to what I usually teach about focusing only on what you want. But as long as this stuff is inside your head, it’s poisoning the RWID process and slowing down your progress. This will help you clear your head and move forward faster.
This is called neurocoaching or neurotraining and you’re coaching yourself to be neurologically productive. Isn’t that great? You get to move forward in life unencumbered by this CRAP.
When you create a vision board or focus on your positive thoughts, on what you want in your life, when you only know what your desires are, and you don’t know where and what your problems are; then your problems are going to sabotage your desires. Because that’s how we think!
This research chimes perfectly with the RWID theory, as it also shows you always have both negative and positive thought running all the time.
Now you have a tool for getting the negative out of your head, losing the emotional charge to it and reframing it with relaxation and pleasure.
This is a relatively quick thought process to keep your brain focused on positive strategy and optimistic outcomes.
You glance quickly at the negative thought processes that are always going on in the right frontal lobe, evaluate them and then come back to strategy and ask, ‘What’s the best step I can take at this moment?’
This strategy is so effective its being taught in prestige schools like Harvard Business School and it truly is what will propel you forward into productivity.
Now, you’re not taking your negativity and shoving it in the basement like a horror movie monster. It’s not going to grow in the dark and jump out and get you when you’re least prepared for it.
You’ve identified it, you’ve called it out into the light and reduced its influence. I liken it to being like when Dorothy soaked the Wicked Witch with water, we all cheered along with the flying monkeys as the witch just shrivels up and disappears.
I finished my CRAP list today, adding more to what I’d written out last night and felt I’d gotten everything that was creeping around in my mind out on my page.
Then I focused on it whilst I was doing my meditation, all the while massaging my inner wrists, at the end of which, I was able to smile whilst reading stuff that would previously have made me shudder.
It’s now pinned up to the left side of my desk and I don’t need to worry about the stuff on there again.I’ve soothed myself out of the anxiety those thoughts would normally create in me.
When I originally followed this process, I kept doing the CRAP list daily for weeks and I found an old blog from back then that spoke to the impact on my thoughts and feelings. This is it below:
So I decided to keep doing it and see just how clear I could get my head, and how much change I could affect with something so simple.I have been keeping an ‘Additional CRAP list’ with the day’s date, open on my jotter, every day since I started this process 14 days ago, and in late afternoon doing a meditation with self soothing to release the charge.
I don’t have pages to write out like day one, in fact its usually something that comes up during the day that makes the list, not some long held issue or pain or fear.
I haven’t quite had the amazing contrast of experience from the first day either, when I felt that astonishing sense of space and freedom, but it has been no less extraordinary, as every day, my list got shorter and shorter, and the sense of space became my normal state of mind.But even more than the fact that I had cleared out worthless stuff I had obviously been carrying around for decades, was the fact that, what I was writing, even the stuff that had annoyed me that day, held little to no emotional charge for me.There was no pit of doom feeling in my belly about things that would normally have set me off into a panic quite easily.And yesterday, I couldn’t think what to write, how excellent is that? I added in the usual, money, fitness and weight and career/job, but they have absolutely no emotional charge and such thoughts don’t hold me prisoner anymore.Today’s list is so far empty too.
Prioritise the List
- Cross of things that are no longer relevant to you.
- Identify any items that you can add a simple next one action to take. The one thing you can do to move you forward to clear more space/make progress on. Make a separate list of your next action steps untainted by the CRAP list energy.
- Place items in order or urgency and importance, add due dates and the time necessary to complete and make it realistic and achievable so it encourages you to get more things done. Don’t set impossible targets that will make you blow the whole thing off.
- On a different page, make a list of outstanding errands and to dos that you can then delegate/batch to complete and get done and out of the way as required.
It’s easy to see just how effective this is not only to get your limiting, debilitating thoughts out of your head but to also actually get you moving in the desired direction of your life.
This gives your positive RWID work far more oomph because you have stopped pressing on the brake at the same time as you are stamping on the accelerator.
Nothing holds us back more than a looping old thought and I really don’t want you getting stuck on that.
Do this and and combine it with your RWID mantra and you won’t.
The pen and page are your best friends in clearing CRAP and setting yourself up to succeed.
Give this a go, you’ll surprise yourself with how quickly your head clears.
PS. Its almost here, my Winter Wonder programme designed to banish the winter blues so you regain six months of the year that you might usually spend moping, miserable or feeling genuinely depressed. It doesn’t have to be like that. I promise.