Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mental Simulation to Change Your Behavior, Part V

Now that you have played out the scenes in your mind, it's time to play them out in real life.

But you don't want to go for the really tough situations yet.

Find some safe situations where you can practice your new behavior.

Suppose you are working on becoming more extroverted. Go to Starbucks and compliment the hairstyle of a customer, or ask a guy walking his dog a question about his dog.

The idea is to find situations that don’t matter if you fail. You are still practicing.

Now that you have done some real-life role playing, you are ready to practice your new behavior in situations that matter.

If you fail, don’t worry. Start from scratch. Maybe you will need to go back to the mental simulation phase for a while before you take your behavior out in the real world. Then try again.

Every time you are in a difficult situation, quickly play out the scenario in your mind the way you are now used to playing it out.

Act the way you do, when you imagine the situation. If you don't get the desired response, go back to the mental simulation phase.

Reevaluate your behavior. Perhaps there is a better response you can practice in situations that matter.

Mental Simulation to Change Your Behavior, Part IV

Mental simulation consists in acting out your new behavior in situations where you would normally respond in destructive ways.

But you don’t start out in real life.

Begin inside your mind.

Imagine yourself being in a difficult situation. Then you imagine how you would like to respond in this kind of situation.

Don’t do it once or twice. Do it repeatedly for many days or weeks.

The purpose of this is to train your brain to associate your new good behavioral patterns with the tricky scenarios.

When you create new thinking patterns, your brain creates new neural connections. You will eventually behave in more desirable ways in difficult situations because of the new pathways you have created in your brain.

To be continued...

Mental Simulation to Change Your Behavior, Part III

Mental Simulation Basics

Write down your exact aims.

If your aim is to settle for a loose connection with an emotionally unavailable man or a playboy you will be sharing with other women, and you have thought through your options and decided that's what you really want to do, then write that down. You will still need to change your behavioral patterns if you want to survive emotionally.

If you want to depend less on other people, write that down. If you want to become more extroverted, write that down. It's OK to have more than one aim.

Identify the personality traits or behaviors that stand in the way of you achieving your goals.

If you tend to put pressure on a guy in a relationship, if you tend to act needy or clingy, you are going to push the guy away. This is so, even if your guy is, in principle, emotionally available. So, you will need to change your co-dependent personality traits and behavioral patterns.

If your problem really is that you are too introverted to meet a good guy, then you'll need to change your introverted personality traits. What you'll need to change all depends on what your true goal is.

Once you have identified the personality traits and behaviors that stand in the way of your achieving your goals, identify the situations in which these personality traits or behavioral patterns become obstacles.

If you are too needy and dependent, this may show up as a tendency to check up on your guy constantly, texting him incessantly, continuously asking him to be with you or complaining about not seeing him enough.

You cannot change every unfortunate trait or behavioral pattern all at once. Pick one or two traits or behavioral patterns you want to change. Then focus on working on these.

Perhaps you are too introverted to meet new friends or men or too needy and clingy once you finally meet new people or too emotional to hide your destructive negative emotions. All of these traits of your personality are destructive. But you cannot change all of them at once. Decide which two specific features you really want to work on. Then work on them.

To be continued...

Mental Simulation to Change Your Behavior, Part II

When you suffer from lovesick love, you are sleepwalking through a large part of your life.

Your only concern is how to change an emotionally unavailable man (an impossible task), how to make someone who just isn't into you interested in you or how to get your boyfriend back.

Perhaps you want to know why the man in your life is emotionally unavailable, is behaving like a jerk or is not interested in you.

Perhaps you want to know why your boyfriend just broke up with you (by text?).

You may be filled with sadness and grief.

All of these destructive thoughts and emotions are fueled by your own personality traits and behavioral patterns.

You can change these personality traits and behavioral patterns.

You can choose to wake up and realize that you need to move on. You can affect your thinking patterns and slow down your inner tsunami of stress chemicals.

Slowing down this inner hurricane will make you act in more rational ways.

You can stop your own suffering.

You can stop wasting your life on a guy who is not going to commit to you or who isn't into you at all.

The most effective way to slow down your stress hormones and increase the "feel good" hormones in your body is to train your brain to think differently.

You deserve much more than an undefined connection with a guy -- a guy who isn't contacting you, who isn't really interested in meeting with you and who doesn't really care about you and your well-being.

By continuing to obsess over a guy, you are compromising. Worse perhaps: You are wasting your precious life.

You deserve better.

If your guy doesn't want to see you very often, he is either not feeling it for you, or he can’t attach to another person emotionally.

You cannot change your guy but you can change your own behavioral patterns by following a simple program called "mental simulation."

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mental Simulation to Change Your Behavior, Part I

"An unfortunate thing about this world is that the good habits are much easier to give up than the bad ones," said English short-story writer William Somerset Maugham.

The insight behind this quote is that deep-seated habits, or behavioral patterns, are difficult to change.

People's deep-seated habits reflect their personality, the clusters of dispositions, thoughts and feelings that make them unique. These pattern-forming features are also known as personality traits.

Personality traits can change gradually or through extensive counseling but they normally are relatively stable over time.

The thought that people can literally change their personality is controversial. The famous Minnesota twin family studies conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota--Twin Cities, examined more than 8,000 pairs of twins to identify the degree to which personality is a result of nature or nurture.

Psychologist Thomas Bouchard found that monozygotic, or identical, twins reared apart were just as likely to have the same personality as twins who grew up together. Since twins who are reared apart are reared differently, the results seem to indicate that personality is primarily hereditary, just like eye color or height.

If personality traits are primarily hereditary, it might seem that people cannot change their personality.

However, there is room for change.

Just as childhood nutrition can make a small difference to a person's height, nurture can affect personality to some degree.

It is also possible that some of the qualities found between identical twins reared apart were due primarily to physical similarities. Two people who look the same, have similar voices, the same height, and so on are likely to get similar responses from others regardless of where they grow up. So, the environment may have played a greater role in shaping the twins' personality than the Minnesota twin studies showed.

Furthermore, the human brain is amazingly flexible. When people get a small stroke in the left prefrontal cortex, the regions around the damaged area can take over the functions the damaged area used to perform.

When the stroke is significant, the corresponding right side of the brain can take over the same functions.

Practice can make new neural connections!

If personality traits and behavioral patterns are at least partly grounded in the brain's neural networks, it should not come as a surprise that we really can change our personality and behavioral patterns.

To be continued...