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You may have noticed that I touched on demands in the last paragraph.  Albert Ellis, age 93, founder of Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy states, “Most human disturbance is a form of demandingness.”  He is absolutely spot on.

If you have a perception that you dislike, you can be fairly confident that you will compensate for this by demanding that you must not have it.  So the person falls into the trap of pouring petrol onto the “fire”, then demanding that they must put it out.  This concept may be glaringly simple, yet we all fall into this trap and it causes emotional problems.  We are all born into the world with a natural perception of insecurity.  This predisposition to think irrationally can be exacerbated by sociological factors, such as adults and inanimate objects being bigger than us, upbringing and how we relate to other siblings within the family constellation.  Provoking a striving for a fictive goal of superiority.

In order to compensate and ignore the fact that we are and probably always will be highly inefficient mistake- making animals we create fiction and myths and then become even more insecure when the goal is not attained thus demanding even more that we must achieve it.

To comprehend the way demands work this may be a useful exercise do.  Imagine that I have approached you and in a polite, relaxed manner asking you to recall your telephone number.  I would presume that you would be able to easily and effortlessly remember it.  That is what we all wish in our life, effortless effectiveness.  Functioning this way, we can remember, be creative and to the best of our ability, enjoy our life.  Our memory will improve, our immune system will function better and we will reduce the excessive adrenaline, which is one of the stress hormones, in our bodies.  It therefore follows that we will be less stressed.  Need convincing?

  1. Now imagine a different scenario.  Visualise that I have just walked up to you in an aggressive manner, and then suddenly produced a gun.  I have pointed it at your head and shouted “You must recall your telephone number in five seconds and if not I will shoot you.”

Can you remember your telephone number now?  I would presume that you would blanch, your heart rate would increase and your ability to communicate would be impaired.  Does this remind you of any other situations in your life where you feel stressed?  Check out the demands.  They will always start with a SHOULD, an OUGHT, or a MUST.  They, in my view, come from the conscience, the moral arbitrator of the psyche.  They are society’s rules and introjected parental demands passed down to you.  So what can we do to reduce this stress?  Easy, shift the SHOULDS, the OUGHTS, and the MUST to preferences, wishes and hopes.  There is very little value in just parroting or intellectually believing them.  Preferences have to be worked at after the demands have been vigorously disputed.  More later.

Try the same exercise again only this time see me wearing yellow Wellington boots, kilt, string vest, tattoos on my arms saying “I love mum” and “Scotland forever”, ginger wig and tartan hat saying “I prefer you to tell me your telephone number, and if not it’s ok.  ”

You will notice the good effect humour has.  It has been proved to assist in better immune system functioning.  Psychoneuroimmunology It is hard to be stressed when happy.  As a hypnotherapist I tell the unconscious jokes, remember it is like a literal eight-year-old child.  The late Scottish comedian Chic Murray told a great one.  “I was in London the other day and someone came up to me and said “Battersea’s dogs home?”  I said I didn’t know it was missing.  ”

It is worth adding to your map a key plan, which through my years of clinical practise, I have found to be astonishingly accurate.

People who demand that they MUST have approval can experience symptoms of anxiety, guilt, depression and shame.

People, who command that they MUST be treated fairly by others, can experience symptoms of anger and passive aggressiveness.

People who expect that the world in general MUST be the way that they want it to be can experience procrastination, self-pity, poor self-discipline, hopelessness and problems with addictions.  At the end of these demands there is always the tag on part, the MAIN villain “and if not, it’s either all my fault, someone else’s fault or the world in general’s fault.

Congratulations, we have just created more ego defence mechanisms and they arise when we rate ourselves as a result of our thoughts, feelings, or deeds.  We all do that at some stage and it is part of the human condition.  We do not separate these actions from ourselves, so consequently self-damn when our actions do not produce the results we expect.  Imagine you’re child telling you that he achieved a good report from school… then told him how wonderful he was as a result…….What effect would telling him he was a failure have on him the next time he had a bad report?

Over a sustained period of damning, the child will blame self as whatever he does is not good enough and then view the world as a hostile environment and anxiously anticipate what may happen next.  He cannot function on his terms because he has fallen into the trap that his self-worth is dependent on what someone else says.

When we demand that the world be the way that we want, and when of course it does not conform, we then experience ego discomfort disturbance.  The pre-cursor of addictive behaviour, frustration and self-pity.  We are defending ourselves from ourselves, someone else or an inanimate object.  Then we experience a symptom.  Anxiety, anger or procrastination.  Then convince ourselves of helplessness from this, our imagination takes it the rest of the way into failure.

These demands are known as dysfunctional core beliefs

In short, demanding, commanding and expecting.  A good description of what creates depression comes from Dr Ellis, the person demands they get what they want and gets depressed when they get something else in return.  See the connection with the literal eight-year-old unconscious mind?

Why do people get caught up in a cycle and resist giving up those demands, even when they are pointed out to them?

Because they mistakenly believe as a result of these beliefs they are not like other people.  Uncover the motivating belief and you will find that they are mistakenly striving for superiority.  In other words, because I’m an arse deep down, I’d better try like crazy not to be one.  All they achieve is being a “successful” arse.  How often have you thought, “everyone else is alright, but I’m not?”  Then the self-esteem or egotism comes in, then the MUST, OUGHT TO keep up with the Jones’.  Striving for wealth, purity, moral rightness, health, acceptability and “comfort”.  Striving for stress, heart attacks and cancer more to the point.  What a cycle we are in now.

Enjoy this story;

A rich American industrialist visits a picturesque fishing village in Spain.  He strikes up a conversation with a local fisherman and tells him that he has been watching him go out to fish every morning and notes that he comes back with twenty fish, and then takes them to the market.  Why not get a bigger boat and catch fifty fish?  Then get a bigger boat and catch one hundred fish?  Then get a bigger boat and catch two hundred fish.  Then buy a trawler with the profits and catch a thousand fish.  Then, with the profits, buy a fish processing plant and cut out the middleman – even more profit.  The fisherman then asks the rich Industrialist “What would I do with all that money”?  He replies, “Buy a cottage by the sea and enjoy life” The fisherman replies that he already lives by the sea and enjoys his life.

Initial Symptom

Ever experienced that sharp intake of breath?  The thought that all is not well with you?  That insecure, vulnerable, self-doubting shiver through your body.  A spasmodic impulse through your body.  A discharge of electricity across you nerves.  This feeling can be fleeting, intense and frightening.  This is the autonomic nervous system, preparing for fight or flight.  We humans have had this protection mechanism since the beginning of evolution.  The difficulty with it is that it can be triggered at times when we don’t need it.  We get a fright and misinterpret it as calamitous.

If by this stage, we do not realise and understand that the danger is something we can cope with this then produces a “what if” which perpetuates and creates worse symptoms.  Dr Weekes calls it, second fear.  It is vital that this is put under the microscope and understood.  Let’s do it.

Added Fear

“IF”, said Sir Winston Churchill “is the biggest word in the English dictionary.”  Put a “what” in front of it and how big does it become now?

The “what if” sends fearful messages to the already tense body and it naturally reacts with more symptoms.

This, in my view, is the main area that perpetuates and maintains a dysfunctional perception, which in turn creates the demand and manufactures debilitating symptoms.  The person is creating anxiety and bringing in the imagination, which can flash so many fearful visual images and create even more debilitating fearful symptoms.  Negative visual imaging can create 90% of phobias.  They perpetuate jealousy too.  Gestalt therapy views anxiety as the gap between the now and the later, in other words the person is projecting themselves into no man’s land.  This is the crucial start of The Vicious Circle and if not fully understood will condemn the sufferer to a lifetime of misery.  He will then be working from that perception from the past, which by now will be loaded with negative, fearful emotion and again start demanding (by way of compensation) in the present that they MUST not suffer, they MUST get better or whatever goal that has been set MUST be achieved.

Go back to what we were discussing regarding the gun at your head.  When I demanded that you give me your telephone number or if not I’ll shoot you.  In a fleeting, out of all proportion nano-second, the demand that you created for yourself not to die created a “what if”.

Who wouldn’t?  “What if I fail, make a fool of myself, mess up, collapse, and die?”  This goes around the circle adds to provoke a perception that “I’m out of control”, only this time the perception is even worse and is now gathering momentum.  Intense, huge, frightening, momentum.

By now, with perception contaminated with demand symptom, “what if” and even more symptoms, and even more demands, the patient, even before entering the therapists office is then reluctant to “relinquish control”, as he already is feeling out of control.  Notice how the perception is protecting itself.  So understandable when we now begin to understand how this cycle is developing.  It is so much easier to see how this cycle is beginning to delude us.  If you were to become more aware in situations that make you “feel” stressed and tune into your sub vocal voice, that is the voice that we think with, you may be amazed to discover how many “what ifs” are by now automatically being created by the protective literal eight year old child.  Is this not becoming a conditioned response, a habit?

Imagine if you owned a dog, and every time the doorbell rang the dog barked.  If the barking annoyed you, you would shout at the dog to keep quiet.  You probably would only succeed in making him more excited and yourself uptight.  The next time the doorbell rang he would bark even louder and for longer.  In short, not only does the dog have a conditioned response, but now you do too.  How would you feel, out of control?

The child is hooking the adult into helplessness.

More Symptoms

At this stage the cycle is gathering pace, and what may occur next will only convince the sufferer from stress or anxiety that they really are losing control.

Note that at this stage I am reviewing the worst possible outcome for people intensely caught up at this level of the cycle.  If you do not suffer from the intensity of the following stages of the cycle do not be scared.  The more you know about your potential enemy the less fearful and more able you are to prevent problems occurring, and therefore you will be more able to speak the language of friends, colleagues and loved ones who are suffering.  The purpose of this book is to encourage understanding of and clear away the mysteries and miseries of stress and the many forms it can take.  It is an attitude that can be applied towards any of life’s difficulties, thus encouraging you to have resolution to problems within you.  Far better than a mind-altering drug don’t you think?

Through my own personal experience and through clinical practise I have listened to my clients relay to me a vast array of symptoms.  .

Palpitations, pounding heart, trembling, sweating, dry mouth, difficulty in breathing, feeling of tightness in the chest, feeling of choking, nausea or abdominal distress, dizziness, light-headedness, fear of losing control, derealization, depersonalisation, fear of dying, hot flushes or cold chills, numbness or tingling sensations.  Mind going blank, difficulty swallowing, and easily startled, keyed up, insomnia, inability to cope.

Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and a judicial common sense approach is required to self-assess.  As I stated at the start of the book, if in doubt consult your medical practitioner

For others it may be a proliferation of the symptoms that they dislike.  Blushing, more cigarettes, more food, more anger, more procrastination, more guilt more fear.

The majority of you reading this will have heard of the fight or flight response.  This is a mechanism that seems to have been developed from our prehistoric ancestors.  When this strikes without apparent danger it is called a panic attack.  As I will show later on in the book, a better name for it would be a “cannot be loved attack”.

These symptoms that are generated create more fear of inability to be loved and the person tries to prove to self that he must achieve it, because if not he will be rejected this equals major fear.  See the loop?  When dangerous messages from the mind are transferred to the body, the body reacts by the heart rate increasing and producing more adrenaline, which is a stress hormone.  Other glands in the body produce adrenaline and the stomach can break up stored food substances to send more energy to the extremities of the body to defend the organism from a perceived attack.  Thus the person can complain of churning stomach.

Blood can drain from the head to protect the major organs such as the liver, heart and kidneys.  The person can therefore feel giddy and faint.

In my view, this mechanism may best understood with this analogy, as a picture can say more than a thousand words.

Imagine if you will, a small man in your stomach with a shovel and a mound of adrenaline.  To his right is a furnace and beside that are two light bulbs, one green, and the other red.  When a person perceives danger, messages are sent to the red light bulb and it glows.  The small man then shovels in one measure of adrenaline.  The person’s body experiences this and will react with more energy, and heightened awareness.  The sense of smell, hearing improves and vision becomes more focused.  In other words he is now ready for fight or flight.

Problems start when, over a short or long period of time those messages become so intense and are very quickly transmitted to the red light bulb, so that the small man dutifully responds by shovelling more adrenaline into the furnace.  Because the person keeps getting these shots of adrenaline, he then starts to live his life on red alert.  With a continuation of this, the slightest perceived danger can signal an activation of adrenaline.  When that starts to occur in situations where there is no danger the person then consciously but inadvertently adds “what if”, thus provoking even more red alerts.  This, unabated, equals intense physical suffering.  In short we are adding adrenaline to adrenaline, stress to stress.  Thus perpetuating our misery.

How do we turn the light bulb to green instead of red?  More to follow…


An extract form my book: Breaking The Vicious Circle of Psychological Misery