Your Mental Health…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably remember my big discovery about myself last year. This article continues the theme, though it has nothing to do with the earlier entries.

I’ve always thought that I was as mentally healthy as the next person. “Well adjusted” is the term commonly used. I had some problems as a child, but I’d pretty much overcome them; the few that remained were normal, everyone had them to some extent.

I was wrong.

As in so many areas, you don’t realize how ill you are until you start getting better. For me, that began when I tried out the Lefkoe Belief Method.

I was naturally skeptical about it at first. I’ve tried all sorts of things; I’m a connoisseur of self-improvement systems. Most legitimate self-improvement systems only seem to work for a few people (and there’s enough on that subject to make it its own article, which I’ll probably get around to writing some day). Some aren’t legitimate at all, but are nothing more than aggressively-marketed scams. I know the tricks that such scammers use to reel in the gullible; I’ve been the gullible, and learned the hard way. The aforementioned website used most of those same techniques, and like the scams, the system seemed to be far too simple to have any chance of actually working. But it was recommended to me by someone whose judgement I trust, so I gave it a shot by buying the book and trying it out.

To my shock, it worked as advertised. The beliefs I identified and chose to elminate seemed to be gone after a single session apiece (I used my journal, rather than talking with another person, but it worked for me). I couldn’t always tell at first, but after a few hours I would come back to probe the belief again, and almost always found that I felt noticeably different about it (I had to do a few a second time before they vanished). Better yet, after a few of them, I saw a noticeable improvement in my overall happiness and energy.

This wasn’t my first rodeo though. I’ve experienced such improvements before, and they’ve all been short-lived — after a few days, I was emotionally right back where I started. The proof would be in whether it lasted.

It did.

After a couple weeks, I was cautiously optimistic. It wasn’t euphoria, but I felt as happy as I ever generally had, and more consistently, and it wasn’t wearing off after a few days like it always had before! Time to dig into this further.

According to the author, few people make it out of childhood without at least a few self-esteem-destroying beliefs. I was very surprised to find that I had most of the ones he listed on that page — I thought my self-esteem was perfectly normal. I tried out the “free taste” that they offered, and discovered that the audio/video format seemed to work at least as well as my journal method for me, so I decided to buy the “Natural Confidence” program.

There are twenty-four sessions in the program. They’re very repetitive, so I could only manage to get through one or two a day, but I kept at it. And I saw some definite and major changes along the way.

I’ve always been a very private person. In my youth, people would read what I’d written or take words that I’d spoken and mock me for them, so I quickly learned to hide my thoughts and feelings except where I deliberately chose to share them in a context I felt safe (like on this blog). While I was doing the ninth session, GoddessJ walked into the office, and I immediately put it on headphones and started whispering my comments (I’d have done them all in my head, but you’re supposed to answer aloud to make the system work.) But when I was doing the fifteenth session a few days later, she walked in again… and I had no urge to hide it! I don’t know what beliefs were responsible for that, but they must have been eliminated between those two sessions.

(I could also never before leave the house in shorts, for reasons I’ve never really understood. No matter how hot it was, I always felt that I had to wear jeans or some other long pants. Now I can not only leave the house in shorts, but run around town in them, without feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious at all!)

I felt even better than I had before, to the point that I didn’t think it could get any better. (It turns out that I was wrong again; I’m now on even higher emotional ground, and it still seems to be improving. I don’t know how high it can go, but I’m feeling so good now that if I never felt any better than this, I suspect I’d be content.)

When I finished the self-confidence course, I went back to journalling my belief-disposal sessions, because I kept finding other false beliefs that were holding me back. For instance, I discovered that I believed “if I’m too happy, bad things will happen,” and the related beliefs “happiness is always short-lived” and “happiness hurts.” (There were reasons in my childhood for believing those, but they’re not interesting enough to go into here). All three are now gone, and I doubt most people can even imagine the difference.

I’m still discovering ways that I’ve changed:

  • I’ve always had difficulty doing things that are boring and repetitive; no matter how necessary they were, they were also gaping holes leading to depression. But since finishing the self-esteem course, they’re just tasks to be done. I had to think a while to realize that it’s because I no longer need constant intellectual stimulation to keep my mind off of depressing thoughts.
  • I used to waste a lot of time trying to do things perfectly. Now I can choose to work on something until it’s perfect or just work on it until it’s good enough for my needs.
  • I used to be nervous and awkward around people I didn’t know well, and disliked meeting new people intensely. I thought it was because I was shy and introverted. Now, though I’m still somewhat awkward, I’m no longer nervous and no longer avoid such situations.

I doubt this is over. I keep finding more false beliefs that are holding me back, though the rate has slowed. For instance, just last week I realized that I believed “life is hard” — since eliminating that one, everything seems so much easier, and I’ve got more enthusiasm and energy than I ever dreamed possible. I’ve even taken up jogging, something I’ve always wanted to do but never though I could… I don’t know if I’ll keep it up, but if I continue feeling like I do now, it shouldn’t be difficult.

While the personal consequences of this technique are profound, there’s another and much larger side to it. I’ll expand on that in my next post.