Tag: decision

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Albert had his attention directed towards the rabbit when he was frightened. The rabbit was removed and was not visible to him when he calmed down again. Fear (anxiety) and the presence of rabbit were connected, and calm was connected to the absence of rabbit.

An object or an event may acquire frightening characteristics if it disappears from you when you are frightened and is not with you when you are calming down. What happens is called conditioning, and the thing that acquires the automatically frightening characteristic is called a conditioned stimulus.

The fact that it was other people who removed the rabbit from Albert, and that he himself did not escape is of no importance. Only the fact that the rabbit was with Albert when he had anxiety, but was not there when he was calmed made him frightened of the rabbit. In the same way that Albert became frightened of his favorite rabbit, it is possible to become frightened by natural occurrences like standing in line, riding a bus, going to the movies, or the heart skipping a beat.

When you ruminate, you escape your discomforting thoughts with the help of your comforting thoughts. This leads to feelings of increased discomfort from the discomforting thoughts. As soon as conditioning has occurred, the discomforting thoughts automatically trigger discomfort. They have become conditioned stimuli for unpleasantness.

Escape, avoidances, and other safety-behaviors increase the sensitivity for the things that you escape or insure yourself against. In attempting to disprove, avoid or distract yourself from discomforting thoughts with comforting thoughts, you make them more frightening, painful and unpleasant.

When discomforting thoughts become increasingly discomforting through conditioning, it feels even more pressing to thwart them with more comforting thoughts. This makes discomforting thoughts even more discomforting, and may result in a vicious circle.

Comforting thoughts make you feel more discomfort in the face of discomforting thoughts through conditioning. This makes it feel even more necessary to use comforting thoughts to thwart the increased discomfort. In the long term, comforting thoughts make you feel worse from your discomforting thoughts, and even lead to more discomforting thoughts.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

The book is available in two similar versions. Please choose the green and black version. AuthorHouse (the white version) keep my legally earned royalty to themselves.

It Is Nice to Take Off Shoes That Are Too Small

cropped-Bild-23.jpgI had a friend who jokingly used to say: “I always buy shoes that are too small because it is so nice to take them off.” There is something in this joke. It resembles the motivation for ruminating and worrying. If you want to feel comfortable in that way, the only chance to do so is to put on shoes that are too small over and over. If you want to feel eased and comforted, the only chance is to first make sure that you have something that requires comforting. In order to experience a small part of the security that the comforting thoughts entail, you first need to feel discomfort.

The comforting thoughts reinforce the discomforting thoughts and make them return and multiply. It does not matter that the discomforting thoughts are painful and unpleasant when the reinforcement that follows just increases their number and variety.

Ruminations are driven by the shifting between the unpleasant thoughts and the comforting thoughts. The comforting thoughts reinforce the discomforting thoughts, which in turn increase in number.

Yet another piece of the puzzle needs to be added in order for us to understand how ruminations function, and it is about how chains of thoughts work.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

The book is available in two similar versions. Please choose the green and black version. AuthorHouse (the white version) keep my legally earned royalty to themselves, because of a self-imposed rule.

What drives ruminations and broodings?

Why is it so hard to make the hurtful thoughts disappear, even though you really want them to? What is the reason that ruminations go on and on despite our efforts to quit? What mechanism makes it persist even though we do “everything” to rid ourselves of it? Most of us have, at one point or another during our lives, wanted to end our ruminations instantly.

In order to clarify what drives ruminations I have to describe the driving force of human behavior, namely “reinforcement.

Reinforcement

We know from behavioral psychology and behavioral analysis that volitionally/voluntary, controllable behaviors are driven by their reinforcers. Reinforcement is something that is experienced as a positive or pleasant consequence of a behavior, which in turns increases the frequency of the behavior. Reinforcement always follows the behavior which is reinforced and influences what will happen in the future.

This should be written accordingly:

S———————- R —————————- C

Starter        Reaction/Behavior           Consequence which is pleasant (=reinforcing)

The pleasant consequence (C) makes the behavior (R) increase. The behavior will be repeated and more often so due to the fact that it led to a positive or pleasant consequence (C).  If a child skips with a jump rope (R) and finds it amusing (C), the child will skip with a jump rope again. The behavior to skip with a jump rope is reinforced, and what happens is called reinforcement.

Premack’s principle

A researcher named David  Premack made an observation that came to be of major importance for the understanding of human behavior. He claimed that certain behaviors were self-reinforcing.

The activities that we choose to spend time on are the kind that are reinforcing in and of themselves. This means that these behaviors do not need any other reinforcement in order to be repeated or sustained. They are so pleasant and nice that they are their own reinforcements – we do certain things because they are fun.

Premack then thought that these self-reinforcing behaviors must be able to function as reinforcements for other, less pleasant behaviors, if they follow immediately after these. We recognize this as the grandma law, and we often apply it in our child rearing. We tell our children that they have to do their homework before they can play computer games. To play computer games is a self-reinforcing behavior which leads to homework being done faster while making it more fun to do, since doing homework leads to the fun computer gaming. As such, computer gaming reinforces doing homework.

A behavior that leads to a self-reinforcing behavior is reinforced, and is hence repeated and carried out more often. This is Premack’s principle.

starter                         Behavior                              Reinforcement

S ————————-  R ———————————–  C
starter                  cleaning one’s room               is allowed to play football

Pelle will clean his room more often because he knows that immediately afterwards, he will be allowed to play football. To play football reinforces the behavior to clean his room, since he enjoys playing football.

In the same way, a pleasant and comforting thought reinforces a preceding, discomforting thought. A liked behavior reinforces a less liked behavior.

S   —————————-    R      ———————————  C
starter              thinks a discomforting thought             thinks a comforting thought
If Pelle thinks painful, anxiety-provoking and discomforting thoughts (R), and immediately afterwards thinks calming/comforting thought (C), the discomforting thought (R) will be reinforced. The behavior of thinking calming comforting thoughts (C) will hence function as reinforcement for the discomforting thoughts (R), according to Premack’s principle. In behavioral therapeutic theory, this is the reason that makes it hard to quit ruminating.

You want to quit the painful, anxiety-provoking and worrying thoughts, but you do not wish to quit the comforting, calming and reassuring thoughts. This is part of the explanation to why it is so hard to get rid of discomforting thoughts.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

The book is available in two similar versions. Please choose the green and black version. AuthorHouse (the white version) keep my legally earned royalty to themselves, because of a self-imposed rule.

What are rumination and brooding

Ruminating is thought-behaviors – cognitive behaviors. The typical rumination is a type of internal struggle, an internal discussion where a person in his or her mind considers the possibilities to affect, alter, predict, understand, and prepare for something. Sometimes the problem being ruminated upon is not solvable through either thoughts or actions.

 

It is possible to control and affect thoughts, something that might be hard to believe for someone who suffers from a lot of ruminating. It feels as if you cannot quit ruminating, even if you really want to. Ruminating has a tendency to return, time and again. Yet the fact remains that we can control both our external actions (the motor behavior) as well as our thoughts (the cognitive behavior). The difference between controlling our actions and controlling our thought can be described accordingly.

We can decide between raising our right arm or not moving it at all. We can decide between speaking or being silent. Motor behaviors are under our absolute control, with the exceptions of reflexes and tics.

When it comes to thinking, the situation is slightly different. We can decide on thinking about a certain thing, but we cannot decide on not thinking at all. However hard we try, we will always be thinking about something. Thus, we cannot restrain ourselves from thinking in the same manner that we can restrain ourselves from moving. This is one of the problems with ruminating. We think during all of our waking time. It is also hard to not think about a certain thing, since we are constantly thinking, and it is easy to skip from one thought to another.

It has been proven difficult – indeed impossible – to decide on not thinking on, for example “a blue elephant”. Indeed, as soon as you try to not think about the blue elephant, a blue elephant appears. This is because when you try to keep track of what to not think about, you automatically think about it.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadstrom. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

The book is available in two similar versions. Please choose the green and black version. AuthorHouse (the white version) keep my legally earned royalty to themselves, because of a self-imposed rule.

Preface to Quit Ruminating

cropped-Bild-23.jpgIt is not common among people who call themselves behavioral analysts or behavioral therapists to attempt a behavioral analysis of cognitive behaviors. One likely reason for this is that thoughts (cognitions) are internal and cannot be measured or observed in the same way as external, motor behaviors. Demands for visibly measurable results of the treatment cannot, in these cases, be met. When working with behavioral analysis, this demand is close to holy.

I do not feel that it is reason enough to not attempt to understand and find ways to treat a thought-behavior such as rumination. Whatever the case, many – maybe even most of us – suffer from ruminations and broodings. Both of these lead to anxiety, concerns and sleepless nights. Rumination and brooding are significant components of compulsive disorders and social anxiety disorders, and can in these cases not be ignored. In these cases, there must be some way to approach them.

Another reason to dedicate oneself to the problem of rumination is that it is a willfully controllable behavior, even if the ruminator does not always experience it in that way. Rumination is a learned behavior such as any other motor behavior. Treatments that are based on learning, such as CBT, should for this reason be interested in rumination. Difficulties of “touching the behavior” should therefore not lead to not handling it. One way to make rumination more substantial is by looking at it as “self-talk”.

Considering how much suffering it brings, and how much private time that is spent doing it, I see it as an urgent matter to teach a way of tackling it based on behavioristic premises. This book describes how behavior therapy can be used to treat a cognitive behavior.

This book is an attempt to provide an approach to the behaviors of ruminating and brooding. It can be applied whether the ruminating is of an everyday character or if it is part of a more serious condition. It is my ambition that the reader will understand, not only how to face his or her ruminating, but also why he or she should act in the manner described.

 

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadstrom. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

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