Friday, May 27, 2011

Clash of the Realities - Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance - is a psychological term for the discomfort that most people feel when they encounter information which contradicts their existing set of beliefs or values. People who suffer from personality disorders often experience cognitive dissonance when they are confronted with evidence that their actions have hurt others or have contradicted their stated morals.

“It’s is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions {or holding on to past beliefs, attitudes, and actions in favor of more logical, update, or fully functional ones}.  Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. A closely related term, cognitive disequilibrium, refers to the experience of a discrepancy between something new and something already known or believed.

Experience can clash with expectations. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence**. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior. For instance it can lead to this pattern: one desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one's dissonance by criticizing it. Jon Elster calls this pattern ‘adaptive preference formation’.”

**People with personality disorders are not only biased, but their inability to relinquish previous choices is ingrained in their character. It’s not simply a choice to not change something. It’s a mental predisposition to create a steady, unalterable whole.

“Another overarching principle of cognitive dissonance is that it involves the formation of an idea or emotion in conflict with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as "I am a successful/functional person", "I am a good person", or "I made the right decision." The anxiety that comes with the possibility of having made a bad decision can lead to rationalization, the tendency to create additional reasons or justifications to support one's choices. A person who just spent too much money on a new car might decide that the new vehicle is much less likely to break down than his or her old car. This belief may or may not be true, but it would reduce dissonance and make the person feel better. Dissonance can also lead to confirmation bias, the denial of dis-confirming evidence, and other ego defense mechanisms.”

This may be a big contributor to why it is so difficult for someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder to accept change, or why we fight against it so hard.

Constant confliction. When it’s so hard to make a decisions, finally having one set decision, a solid belief, even something small is like a little life raft, something stable to hold onto in a wash of turbulence. When you’re confronted by something that threatens to dislodge that stability it can be panic inducing.
Imagine standing in a river. The current is never steady. Sometimes it rushes faster, sometimes it pushes gently. You’re not ever sure what to expect, what resistance to offer; how to brace yourself.  Forming a solid belief, wanting to believe something definite, is like finding a big rock to hold onto in that river. No matter what the force of the current, that rock can keep you from drowning. When someone presents you with evidence contrary to the belief, it’s like applying an oily film to that rock. It’s like having someone slowly/quickly chip away at that rock. You may recognize that this rock is no longer going to provide that safety it had before but it’s held you up for so long, been the only thing keeping you from getting swept away so you instinctively try to hold on. The erosion of this belief means part of you is set adrift again and you’re not sure when or where your feet will touch bottom.

It may also lead to the degradation of our beliefs in general. At least temporarily. Because then it makes you question what other beliefs you held that may not be correct. And slowly everything starts to crumble. Question everything. All or nothing thinking. If I’m wrong about this, I must be wrong about everything. If I can be right about that, then I’m probably right about everything else. Everything fits. Everything has a place.

When you have one belief, and then are presented with another, it’s easy enough to see how the new belief logically applies so you may want to adopt it (let go of the rock in favor of one that’s not being chipped and eroded away), but at the same time you still want to hold onto the one that has made so much sense to you for so long.

Cognitive dissonance can explain a lot of the fear and anxiety in someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder. So much of our lives revolve around other people, our relationships to people, our own sense of identity, etc. All of which, normally, are constantly evolving and changing things. However someone with BPD, gets comfortable with one idea, one person, one trait, so when it changes it calls into question everything we knew about it, almost as if it left the course of natural continuum. Like, it’s not the same thing evolving, but one thing now being different, the old thing lost. Trying to hold onto the thought that this thing is still the same thing, but also different, and just because it’s different doesn’t mean we have no relevance with it, we do still have a place/hold with it, and change is not necessarily a bad thing… it’s so very difficult. When you’re used to, or afraid that changes will lead to abandonment, the abandonment of ideas and beliefs while also seeing the relevance of incorporating new ideas is one massive anxiety ridden conflict.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Be Specific, please.

Hazy Recall as a Signal Foretelling Depression
OXFORD, England — The task given to participants in an Oxford University depression study sounds straightforward. After investigators read them a cue word, they have 30 seconds to recount a single specific memory, meaning an event that lasted less than one day.
Cues may be positive (“loved”), negative (“heartless”) or neutral (“green”). For “rejected,” one participant answered, “A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with my boss, and my ideas were rejected.” Another said, “My brothers are always talking about going on holiday without me.”
The second answer was wrong — it is not specific, and it refers to something that took place on several occasions. But in studies under way at Oxford and elsewhere, scientists are looking to such failures to gain new insights into the diagnosis and treatment of depression. They are focusing not on what people remember, but how.
The phenomenon is called overgeneral memory, a tendency to recall past events in a broad, vague manner. “It’s an unsung vulnerability factor for unhelpful reactions when things go wrong in life,” said Mark Williams, the clinical psychologist who has been leading the Oxford studies.
Some forgetting is essential for healthy functioning — “If you’re trying to remember where you parked the car at the supermarket, it would be disastrous if all other times you parked the car at the supermarket came to mind,” said Martin Conway, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Leeds in England. But, a chronic tendency to obliterate details has been linked to longer and more intense episodes of depression.
Now researchers at Oxford, Northwestern University in Illinois and other universities are conducting studies with thousands of teenagers to determine whether those with overgeneral memory are more likely to develop depression later on. If so, then a seemingly innocuous quirk of memory could help foretell whether someone will experience mental illness.
There are already some clues in this direction. In lab experiments Dr. Williams has induced an overgeneral style in subjects by coaching them to recall types of events (“when I drive to work”) rather than specific occasions (“when I drove to work last Saturday”). He found they were suddenly less able to solve problems, suggesting that overgeneral memory is capable of producing one symptom of depression.
And an unusual paper suggests that overgeneral memory is a risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder. Scientists at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, assessed 46 firefighters during their initial training and again four years later, when all had experienced traumatic events like seeing comrades injured or killed. Those who could not recall the past in specific detail during the first assessment were much likelier to have developed the disorder by the later one.
“People with P.T.S.D. tend to ruminate at a very categorical, general level about how unsafe life is, or how weak I am, or how guilty I am,” said the lead author, Richard Bryant. “If I do that habitually and then I walk into a trauma, probably I’m going to be resorting to that way of thinking and it’s going to set me up for developing P.T.S.D.”
Dr. Williams stumbled across overgeneral memory by chance in the 1980s. He had asked research subjects to write down the memories elicited by certain cues, and when they left the page blank he thought he had given unclear instructions. Soon he began to wonder about the significance of the omissions.
Usually people seeking a particular memory traverse a mental hierarchy, Dr. Williams said. They begin by focusing on a general description (“playing ball with my brother”) and then narrow the search to a specific event (“last Thanksgiving”). Some people stop searching at the level of generality, however and are probably not conscious of having done so.
This is sometimes a helpful response, which is perhaps why overgeneral memory exists in the first place — it can be a useful way to block particular traumatic or painful memories. Researchers at Leuven discovered that students who did poorly on exams and were more specific took longer to recover from the disappointment than those who were more general. The overgeneral students thought less about the details of what happened and so fared better, at least in the short term. “
“But these researchers say problems can arise when overgenerality becomes an inflexible, blanket style.
Without detailed memories to draw upon, dispelling a black mood can seem impossible. Patients may remember once having felt happy, but cannot recall specific things that contributed to their happiness, like visiting friends or a favorite restaurant.
“If you’re unhappy and you want to be happy, it’s helpful to have memories that you can navigate through to come up with specific solutions,” Dr. Williams said. “It’s like a safety net.”
Some experts think such insights could also be helpful in treating depression. For example, Spanish researchers have reported that aging patients showed fewer symptoms of depression and hopelessness after they practiced techniques for retrieving detailed memories.
“When we have a disorder like depression, which is so common and so disabling for so many people, we need to increase the tools in our tool kit,” said Susan Mineka, a clinical psychologist working on a study by Northwestern University and the University of California, Los Angeles, that is testing for depression and anxiety risk factors, including overgeneral memory. “If we could change their overgeneral memory, maybe that would help even more people stay better for longer.”
Dr. Williams has found that specificity can be increased with training in mindfulness, a form of meditation increasingly popular in combating some types of depression. Subjects are taught to focus on moment-to-moment experiences and to accept their negative thoughts rather than trying to avoid them. It may help by making people more tolerant of negative memories and short-circuit the impulse to escape them, which can lead to overgenerality.
Meditation means that for some, the past is no longer such a heavy burden.
“I always tried to forget the past, the very bad past that made me depressed when my husband died,” said Carol Cattley, 76, who attended a mindfulness course here taught by Dr. Williams. “I’m much more interested in it now.”

I found this interesting, and relatable. I cannot recall a single period of being happy because generally what I remember is being depressed. I can remember instances and events when I’ve been happy, but I have to work much harder to draw on these and they don’t span any length of time. My depressed moods are overarching where my happy moods are temporary injections.The negative experiences and emotions I’ve had seem to permeate the expanses of my mind and coat the good instances in cyanide. No sugar coating here. I do notice that I think back to things and stop at a certain, more general, point instead of continuing to the more specific. For instance, I’ll think about spending time at movie night with Friend. In general I remember being withdrawn from the crowd, irritable, and depressed. I have to push myself to think of specific nights or hours or minutes where this was not how I felt. I have had a lot of great times hanging out, laughing, joking and just being goofy with Friend and my other friends that come along, but these aspects of recollection are not what immediately springs to mind.  I experience happiness, but my recollection of it is muted. I have to put in that little added effort to bring up the happy moments. It makes sense that this kind of memory generalization would lead to or contributes to depression. It’s weird. For as much as I focus on how different my BPD brain is from your average persons’, it still strikes me just how different other people experience the world and just how much those little quirks in our biology can morph our entire perception and interaction in the world.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lows are low, Highs are high

My moods, have been in major fluxuation. I’ve noticed this pattern before. Often, actually. I’ll slowly slide down. Work myself up with anxiety, with actually sinks me further until one day I have a complete breakdown, massive anxiety attack, or temporary distortion of my reality. Bottom out. Utterly. Then the next day I’m up in a way that I haven’t felt like in ages. My mood is more optimistic, my energy is ramped up, the sun is brighter, the sky bluer… and I can ride this for a few days.
I was ready to give up my life and lifestyle, everything I’ve worked towards… two nights ago. Today I’m renewed. I’m tackling problems and projects one thing at a time. I have plans for what I can do to get the information I need. Plans to further my knowledge and increase my proficiency. I feel like I have the ability to get the work done that I need to do.  I might not know everything yet, but I have the capability to get it. And I will. It’ll just take some time. Time, time, who’s got the time? I need more of it, but not in a projected sense. More of it right on top of the time I already have now. Overlapping experience.  Time on top of time on top of I want to do so much more at once than one limited body is capable of.
With just the barest twinges of anxiety lurking around the edges of my consciousness.
Everything feels hyper focused too. The sun is brighter. Peoples voices are more focused. My thoughts are racing a little faster. It feels like information, ideas, to-dos, are bouncing off each other inside my mind vying for priority.
Everything is starting to feel a little rushed too. I have so much I want to do, that I have to spread it out over time in order to accomplish it… is an angle of anxiety. Like things can’t be collected fast enough. I can see exactly how all these things will fall together, I know what I need to do to get them, if only I could rush faster, push harder, I could have all of them already and then things would slip to place. That time seems so far away, like I can almost touch it with my fingertips but then I have to reach for something in a different direction. I just can’t get there fast enough because I know there are so many steps I have to take first and those first steps don’t flow fast enough.  Fast enough. I want things to move faster. Faster. That they don’t makes me anxious. But not debilitating anxious, motivating anxious.
I want another one of me. With a connected consciousness so that my other body and this body can both collect more information and coalesce the results inside one mind. That would be optimal. Much more efficient. Having only one body, being able to only do one thing at a time is frustrating. Frustrating. I want to be there already. Yesterday, actually.  
I feel slightly like I’m floating to project myself in so many directions.
But, upwards! Haha, and that’s better than downwards any day.

There’s just so much I want to do! I’m motivated and productive at work. Things that pull my attention away are actually disconcerting because there’s so much I want to accomplish and figure out. I want to be home; reading, writing, painting. Did I mention I started painting? I’ve never done it before in my life so last Friday I went to the craft store and bought a set of acrylics and brushes. It’s fun and freeing, playing with color and texture. There’s just so much to do at any given time. So much, so much.
It’s so lovely out as well.
This is actually something I worry about being on mood stabilizers. They stabilize from the bottom up so you don’t feel so depressed, but they also stability from the top down, dampening the good. I don’t have so much good that I want to squash that side of it. Especially since I’m starting to see someone new. I want to feel the highs that could come of it. Seem to be coming of it. I don’t want my moods to be mottled by medicine when I see an ok place.  I want to be receptive to all the good! I want to throw myself in and ride the wave of newness and excitement. I want, I want.
Lots to want. Lots to do. Lots to hope for.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy


Yesterday was stress beyond reason; read to quit my job, quit engineering, become a librarian, or a personal trainer, open a yoga studio, ANYTHING, that was not the pressure I have at work.  I looked into certification programs and e-mail department heads about enrollment. I couldn’t see the point of continuing on. Everything I’ve done until now, pointless, useless, futile. My LIFE is pointless. Not worth living or having if I can’t do this {one} thing right. I grabbed at options, ideas. Even as I did so I realized just how much is required to achieve those and I know just how I’ll be able to do it all but it all seems to big, too overwhelming. I see all the obstacles, I have no sense of time…I can see how long it will take, but the dread and anxiety of not having it achieved, the uncertainty, is paralyzing. I don’t have it done now so it feels futile. Like I’ll never get there before I even begin. Fortunately I’m not so out of control that I quit things on the spot.
I can’t say I’m not still thinking about finding a new profession, but I’m less stressed out today.
Let’s go back shall we. The focus of yesterday’s therapy session was my anxiety attacking about work. I am the newest engineer on my team. Everyone else has been here for years. I hired in a couple years after the project began. Everyone knows more about this project than I do. I feel incredibly behind in my knowledge. I’m afraid that I won’t measure up to the demands that are required of me because I don’t know everything already. I’m afraid this will reflect poorly on my ability and on my intelligence… because somehow I have not jacked in and assimilated all prior knowledge generated on this project. This fear paralyzes me. I can’t move forward. I’m mired down in the belief that I’ll never be good enough because everyone else will always know more, have accumulated more, knowledge. I don’t have the history of collection to be of a standard proficiency for what I perceive is my position.  
Once I’m stuck, I beat myself down harder into the muck. I’m afraid to even open drawings and my design programs for fear that I will look at it and have no idea what is required of me. Like suddenly everything will have changed and become completely foreign; every e-mail will be a judgment or termination.
I want to flee from the potential failure into something I won’t be so open to criticism with.
Therapist brought me around to things I might enjoy doing. Her immediate suggestion was to pursue costume design. Find a theater company and hire on to create costuming. I immediately slammed my foot down on this. I’m not a professional seamstress. I’ve never had schooling for fashion. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to live in the city.
Why didn’t I go to culinary school… b/c I’d have to do this, and it would make me hate that, and I wouldn’t have the freedom to do what I really love about cooking in the first place,…  
I mire myself in all the details. Bombard myself with the ‘why nots’.  I see the end before anything has a chance to even begin. I psych myself out of ever beginning. If I don’t start, I can’t fail. Can’t let anyone down.
Therapist asks who I’m afraid I’ll let down if I don’t succeed? If I were to choose a different career?
Myself. My father. My friends.
Everyone jokes around about my genius; they introduce me to new people as Haven the rocket scientist, etc etc. I hate it. It just feels like more pressure to be something I don’t believe I’ve earned. Don’t believe I’ve earned <~~~ is a problem all of it’s own. I have multiple engineering degrees, was the sole female graduate in my Master’s program… and yet, I still don’t believe what I do is good enough. More specifically it’s my father. I’ve mentioned before how critical my father is, even though he was not actually discouraging. He never said anything like ‘you suck, you can’t do that, you’re not good enough”. It was always, everything I did could be better. Nothing was ever perfect, or just good on it’s own, or good enough. It was “that’s good, but here’s what you can do now, or should do next, or how it can be improved, how it can be better”… how you can be better. I don’t believe I’m good enough at anything. Everything about me is flawed. As a result everything I do is somehow deficient. I enter into everything believing that I won’t be able to do it good enough, that I won’t be good enough.
Trigger. Therapist made a point of recognizing that this is something that triggers me severely. Specifically my Unrelenting Standards schema.
Unrelenting Standards Schema: The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized standards of behavior and performance, usually to avoid criticism. Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and in hyper-criticalness toward oneself and others.  Must involve significant impairment in:  pleasure, relaxation, health, self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, or satisfying relationships.
Unrelenting standards typically present as:  (a) perfectionism, inordinate attention to detail, or an underestimate of how good one's own performance is relative to the norm;  (b) rigid rules and “shoulds” in many areas of life, including unrealistically high moral, ethical, cultural, or religious precepts; or (c) preoccupation with time and efficiency, so that more can be accomplished.

When I’m met with any kind of criticism or something I perceive as criticism I freeze. I set my standards so high, put so much pressure on myself, that when anyone presents me with any though/critique/opinion in opposition or enhancement to what I’ve done, it feels like an attack on the rigid standard I’ve set for myself. I destroy myself, debase my accomplishments, and my immediate response is “I’ll never be good enough, I should quit now before everyone sees how incompetent I am.” When in reality this is not true. My Punitive Parent kicks in and I mentally and emotionally punish myself.
Punitive Parent - The Punitive Parent schema mode is identified by beliefs of a patient that they should be harshly punished perhaps due to feeling "defective", or making a simple mistake. They may feel that they should be punished for even existing when "punitive parent" takes over the psyche. Sadness, anger, impatience, and judgmental natures come out in "punitive parent" and are directed to the patient and from the patient. Even a small and solvable issue or unrealistic perfectionist expectations and "black and white thinking" all bring forth the "punitive parent." The "punitive parent" has great difficulty in forgiving oneself even under average circumstances in which anyone could fall short of their standards. The "Punitive Parent" does not wish to allow for human error or imperfection, thus punishment is what this mode seeks and what it desires.

Lesson: Recognize triggers!
I was ready to quit my job, sink to devastation about disappointing everyone in my life, lose hope and hold on my life completely. Recognizing the things that trigger me is so crucial in order to gain control of them. In recognizing them I can work to prevent their reoccurrence. Even when I can’t prevent them entirely I can work to form strategies for dealing with them. Therapist wants me to make sure I don’t let the Punitive Parent reign. I need to take a step back and remind myself of all the things I have accomplished, that I am good at, that I am skilled with. I’m the only one that sets my limits. In second guessing myself, berating myself… I, I, am the one that holds me back and keeps me down. No one else believes these things of me. Hell, most everyone else probably has a clearer picture and better appreciation of my skills than I do. They don’t limit me. They aren’t keeping me down. I am.
Homework: Work on silencing the inner punitive voice that constantly demeans me. Counter the self-doubts with positive affirmations. This! This, is not a quick process. This is in fact, one of the major overarching goals of therapy for BPD. It’s good to know your goals though =)

...but beautiful.

For the record. This morning I kicked myself in the ass. Opened up my software and had the first analysis model done within an hour. The second I will have completed by the end of the day. I have no one else to remind me that I’m competent. No, I don’t know everything. It is impossible for me to know everything. In fact, no one expects me to know everything. Not even everything about all the things I’m assisting in. I put this pressure on myself. Life is a learning process.
Note: Sleep on it. I was much more rational in the morning.

And as a more pleasant aside. Went on a date with my new Lady Friend last Saturday. She bought me a book – a mix of Sci-Fi, humor, and Eastern Wisdom. I’m seeing her again this weekend =) It was a really, really nice night. I was all butterflies and nervous. The hostess thought we were the most adorable things ever.
I’m seeing Psychiatrist next Tuesday =P

Monday, May 23, 2011

It’s a catastrophy! No, it’s - Catastrophizing

Look over your shoulder to see the little devil riding there. Whispering in your ear.

Catastrophizing - is the habit of automatically assuming a "worst case scenario" and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

Most people see catastrophizing as simply "over-reacting", but it’s more. Catastrophizing, is, in essence, the habit of characterizing situations as worse than they are, or the tendency to automatically assume the "worst case scenario" in everyday situations”.
“…Catastrophizing is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing can generally take two forms:

The first of these is making a catastrophe out of a situation. For example it’s believing that if you make one small mistake at your job, you may get fired. This kind of Catastrophizing takes a current situation and gives it a truly negative “spin.”

The second kind of Catastrophizing is closely linked to the first, but it is more mental and more future oriented. This kind of Catastrophizing occurs when we look to the future and anticipate all the things that are going to go wrong. We then create a reality around those thoughts (e.g. “It’s bound to all go wrong for me…”). Because we believe something will go wrong, we make it go wrong.

Falling prey to Catastrophizing is like striking out in your mind before you even get to the plate. Both of these types of Catastrophizing limit your opportunities in life, work, relationships and more. It can affect our entire outlook in life, and create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, disappointment and underachievement.

Both may lead you to self-pity, to an irrational, negative belief about the situation, and to a feeling of hopelessness about your future prospects. Further, both of these types of Catastrophizing will define either the presence or absence of alternative possibilities, and possibly paralyze you from going further with efforts toward your goals in life…”
From my experience there is a distinct difference in how this manifests between High Functioning and Low Functioning Borderlines (though this kind of behavior is not limited to BPD and is in fact quite common in all Cluster ‘B’ Personality Disorders). Low Functioning Borderlines will often lose control of this kind of though and outwardly project their fears. They may have a very difficult, if not impossible, time realizing that these feelings aren’t rational. While a High Functioning Borderline may not be able to stop these thoughts and feelings, there is an awareness that this kind of thinking is out of proportion and there is a greater possibility that we can keep these thoughts internal.

That awareness does not make it ok though. It doesn’t diminish the sensation of it. I know these thoughts are out of proportion. It still feels like the world is going to end. Everything I say can be second guessed; could be wrong, could make someone upset, or so exacerbated, or annoyed that they simply give up and go away. On the one hand I don’t really care what people think about me, but on the other hand I don’t want to drive people away. Everything I say or do, could lead to it though. If I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll be judged as incompetent and fired. If I need help for something, I’m just a burden and worthless. If I don’t know everything, can’t be happy, can’t do this, or that, what’s the point in having me around? What do I have to offer if I can’t offer everything?

Then I try to hide my ‘failings’ or ‘flaws’. Which only increases the paranoia another degree. I know it’s there, so now I’m waiting for someone else to discover it. Waiting, holding that secret, hiding that secret, increases the anxiety as time goes by. The longer you hold onto something the less likely that it will go unnoticed. There is statistically less time that it can remain hidden. It’s only a matter of time before it’s unburdened, whether you want it to be or not. Then that one little thing will make it all crash and burn.

It spirals. It spirals up. It spirals out. Until my head is so spun I can no longer see straight.

I do this a lot. I do this so much it’s beyond unreasonable. I try not to externalize this, I rarely verbalize this… I’m positive if I did people would think I was paranoid and look at me like I’m crazy. And maybe that’s what a lot of this is. It’s a constant low-grade paranoia driven fear.

It may start off small, but it ends up paralyzing.

So what can you do about it? Being aware that you’re doing it at all is certainly the first step. I’m honestly not very good at following these sort of multi-step processes for long, but hey, maybe you have a longer attention span than I do, hah.

Dr. Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. suggests 3-steps to breaking this cycle.

1.)    Acknowledge Catastrophizing - The first step to doing anything is awareness of what is happening. We must first notice and acknowledge when our mind is spinning with worry about the future. Then label it catastrophizing or worrying, whichever word works best for you. The trick is not to get caught up in the content; we'll get to that later.

2.)    Anchor the present moment - There are a myriad of ways to do this. Many people like to use the breath as an anchor because it is always with us and keeps us alive. So you can bring your attention to this and just saying to yourself, "in" as your breath comes in, and "out" as your breath goes out. If this is too difficult, you can bring attention to the bottom or your feet (farthest place from your worrying mind) and just notice factual sensations. You can even just choose to close your eyes and listen to sounds, noticing the pitches and tones rising and falling.

3.)    Intentionally play the what if's game - This is very different than the mind spinning about this. Actually ask yourself, "what if this happened?" Think about it and then provide and answer. With that answer, you may have another "what if" question, and intentionally ask and answer that one. Go ahead and do this until there are no more questions. It often helps to write this down.
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