Don’t Think of a Pink Pineapple

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Photo of a hand holding a pink pineapple

I see many clients in my clinic, and the first thing I ask them is, “What can I do to help?” Most clients usually start by telling all their problems – everything that is wrong with them. It could be their anxiety, their worries, their obsessions, their fears, and all their low moments.

The next question I ask is, “So, what do you want instead?” It is this question that stumps some of my clients. They just want to get rid of the anxiety, depression, fear, anger, or whatever it is they don’t like about the way they are. But they don’t always think of how they would like to be instead. For example, if they feel anxious when they wake up, I want to know how they would like to feel when they wake up if they weren’t anxious.

This is the first step in the change process, because it is a very simple fact that when someone thinks a lot about their fear, anxiety, anger or whatever, their brain just gets more stressed and the
fear, anxiety, anger or whatever gets stronger.

The brain is not good at processing negative statements. If I tell you, “Don’t think of a pink pineapple” then the first thing you think of is that pink pineapple. That is because your brain finds it difficult to process the “Don’t” part of the statement.

So if you start to tell yourself, “I don’t want this anxiety/worry/harmful behaviour”, your brain will probably think about it some more, making it more likely to happen. And that is why it is really important to ask yourself, “What do I want instead?”

This is the crux of all solution-focused therapies, and you can do it yourself. If there are circumstances when you have anxiety, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel in these circumstances” and then imagine yourself being like that.

For example, if you feel anxious about answering the phone, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel when I answer the phone?” You might answer, “I want to be confident answering the phone.” You can then focus on being confident answering the phone, instead of focusing on not being anxious.

If you cannot manage your anxiety on your own, you may like to consider getting help. In my clinic in Fleet, I help people with anxiety. I use solution-focused hypnotherapy to help them get back in control of their lives and get rid of the unwanted symptoms.

Photo by Alex Gruber on Unsplash

Tim Maude

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