Friday, May 27, 2011

Dr. Tingley's Belief #3: Gotta Decrease NST for Increase in Effective Thinking

As regular readers may have noticed,  I'm working on some changes in format, and recent changes in schedule. The new schedule will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday's post will generally be short — a stress reduction idea. Wednesday may be on gender differences, communication, or something of business/political/cultural interest for women, and Friday's post will be more focused on thinking: NST, PST, RST, problem-solving thinking, cognitive restructuring, strategic allocation of attention, perhaps neuroscience news about thinking.  As you'll note below I've written about thinking and this is a Friday. The post is a bit heavy, but I'm hoping you have the weekend coming up to relax, have fun, and forget about how hard it is to break a habit. As always, I'm open to your thoughts, opinions, and requests.

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #3:  The negative self-talk habit has to be eliminated before realistic or positive self-talk can be learned and maintained.
 Handbook #1 is about how to change your thinking behavior, not how to understand why you started criticizing yourself in the first place. Seeking the “whys” often causes an endless delay in making the choice and effort to break a habit, conquer an addiction, or end a relationship. Yes, understanding why helps us all feel more in control, self-aware, maybe pretty smart and analytical, but generally it’s a waste of time and energy for the analyzer and those who have to listen forever to the ever-changing insights and interpretations.
A flash of insight does not produce change. According to neuroscientific research, the actions of unlearning and learning produce change. The negative self-talk habit has formed automatically over time through learning, practice, and repetition. Often by the time we recognize that we have the damaging habit, our brain is captive to constant self-criticism and doubt.
 In the last ten years, scientists have determined that repeating a specific behavior pattern stimulates the involved brain cells to grow extensions (dendrites), which expand the habit connections.  Consequently, disconnecting the cell connections of the old, unhealthy negative self-talk habit has to take place before the learning and subsequent cell connection of healthy realistic thinking becomes possible. “The challenge is to replace well-established problem behavior patterns with more effective ones.  . . . It takes a fair amount of time for this brain cell growth-and-connection process to complete itself, which explains why it takes so much practical application and reinforcement to master a skill.”[4]
Bottom Line #3: Neuroscience now confirms that it’s an arduous, lengthy but possible task to break a habit and change a behavior. Unlearning negative self-talk has to start prior to learning realistic self-talk.
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