MD Of The Mind
This psychological therapy was originally designed and applied some 40 years ago by the author to help an OCD patient who was troubled by the constant urge of wanting to shove cyclists, passing quite legally on their side of the pavement, into road traffic, and this, in spite of there being clear demarcation lines. In curing the patient of his obsessive/compulsive thoughts by giving him back executive control over his mind, it was also found to bring other benefits in neutralising the General Anxiety Disorder he also suffered from, and even his tendency to be depressive as a result. The treatment method was then extended to help all patients suffering with similar problems that affected normal enjoyment of everyday living.
Although uncontrolled information-seeking, so called sideways-thinking as opposed to normal chimney-thinking, can help achieve unique, innovative creativity when pursuing an idea in some mentally strong and gifted people, free-roaming attention at other times, for everybody, is mostly negative and can lead to worrying and stressful consequences; the brain in kept in a constant alert phase when residual, primary anxiety guards against thoughts going down illogical paths.
The process of mindfulness as this process is now called, and the enjoyment of the benefits it brought used to occur naturally, when everyday living was filled with physical and practical activity that kept people’s minds much more in external contact with other people and local surroundings, and long before it was applied to specific activities, and marketed as a commercial product (where, in many instances, the patient often pays a fee to just report on progress).
Today, with so much information available from many sources, and with everyday living becoming highly-technical and complex, our brains are struggling to keep up in trying to process all that information. And we need to use simple training methods on a regular basis to keep specifically the brain’s attention mechanism functioning optimally.
This is achieved by using relatively short periods of forcing the mind to remain perception-steered rather than data-steered in order to keep the person in charge of the recollection of memory processes, enabling him/her to control all passive thought and potential actions, i.e. to control attention and remain mentally in charge, and healthy.
Although it may seem strange, it is not the achievement of being perception-steered that makes you more mentally healthy, it’s each successful attempt to actively take thoughts away from the natural tendency to revert to recalling mostly random inner data, i.e. memories not relevant to the situation you’re actually experiencing through the five senses, and retaining control of that external contact using perception as long as possible. Success requires high and sustained levels of concentration and it is continually, actively winning this struggle that brings therapeutic benefits. This part is not easy, as you’ll soon discover when you try it.
But, the ability to remain perception-steered in training sessions while not letting the mind revert to inner thoughts, improves with practice as you become, more and more, the rightful ‘’MD of your own mind!”
This therapeutic process is best done in solo sessions of about an hour or two, a couple of times a week, although couples can do it if they only talk about what they’re experiencing through the senses i.e. their perceptions, nothing else during the whole session. (If you’re struggling with a distinct attention control problem, for example, obsessive thoughts or recurring anxiousness, then daily session of twenty minutes or so, may well be necessary for the therapy to be effective).
Ideally, to start with, walking leisurely on an hour or so long promenade in green and peaceful Nature, round a park or lake, through a wood, by the sea etc., is the best milieu for facilitating this therapy. Walking in the busy city can work, but the hustle and bustle and attention to movement and manoeuvring, although keeping attention externally fixed i.e. perception-steered, has the disadvantage of predominately using only two, sometimes three, of the five senses i.e. sight and hearing. This therapy can though be used in nearly any leisurely situation, as long as the rules of the technique are meticulously followed.
So you’ve set out on your walk and have started to be conscious of taking in impressions of all you experience through the perceptive organs, the five senses: shapes and form of beautiful, majestic trees, the cloud formation, the general landscape, where you’re heading, bushes, flowers and birds etc., but also smells of the countryside, the sea, sounds, birds singing, waves crashing, the tactile brushing of the wind or the sun warming your skin, even awareness of your own presence, muscle and limb movement, your breathing, dryness in your mouth, in fact just choosing which sensual information to concentrate on at any given moment. Talking with someone you might meet is still following the rules as long as the conversation is not thought about too long afterwards. This is being perception-steered, and the idea is to try to maintain it as long as possible, requiring an act of active concentration.
Now. here’s the important part, as soon as your attention reverts or wanders back in to inner thoughts, referred to as being data-steered, immediately force your attention back to concentrating on perceiving the on-going phenomena in the external world around you.
Inner thoughts to be avoided can be what’s going to happen tonight, shopping you need to do, what someone said yesterday, images of a close person, a special or sad moment from the past, something funny that happened recently, some philosophical idea, or reading and thinking about following these instructions, in fact anything from inner memory that is not part of the direct experience of being in the external world.
By concentrating on forcing these irrelevant, inner thoughts to vacate consciousness in favour of turning your attention to experiencing what is actually going on in the external world around you, is the therapeutic process, and it will, in time, help you get better control over the most important factor in brain function, which is: who controls what the brain does when not engaged in a specific thought or action like, for example, making an urgent decision, deciding on a necessary manoeuvre, controlling or tracking an important happening.
It stops idle attention drifting into areas of primary process, which, experienced as strange thoughts, causes the defence of low-level primary anxiety to arise, which, if it happens frequently, can be depressive by reducing psychical energy levels. This can also just be experienced as creeping stress. When the session is over, the brain can alternate between normal perception-steered and data-steered thinking at will, and as it happens, for the ability to use both types of mental processing spontaneously is important. This therapy helps keep you more in control of and stops entering or loitering in the fuzzy mental states between the two.
Keeping attention focused on the external world, on perceptions, is not as easy as it sounds, and requires intense practice. People have walked 8 kilometres on a round tour without remembering anything of the walk because they’ve been so engrossed in inner thoughts, just surprised at how quickly it all went. We have become closed thinkers and less observant of the world about us. This natural method of countering Man’s tendency to juggle with data in memory, to theorise, to philosophise, at the cost of interacting directly with the external world, with real on-going experiences, is very effective, and the positive effects are noticeable quite soon after it is regularly applied.
As this therapy works by isolating and improving a distinct, natural, and relatively primitive part of cognitive mental functioning, bringing it up to scratch so that it can compete with later developments, it is more effective in its purpose than relaxation therapies, such as yoga, Tai chi, meditation with mantras, cannot be emulated by, for example, getting extra sleep, or taking any type of medication.
The method, simple to its description and function, is not so easy to apply in practice, but perseverance and the will to succeed is the therapeutic factor, attaining more effective control of the mind means the therapy has worked, the effort has been rewarded, but it needs repeating regularly.
Was meant to be put in as a journal entry again for Mental Health Week