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FILE: Psychology

Self-therapy Manual

Leopold the Leopard means that we all can benefit from regular therapy. It doesn't have to cost more than a notebook and some of your time, because the therapist is you. This is Leopold’s notes about how he does self-therapy, or his Self-Therapy Manual. Everyone in the Happy Club must try this!

Do you expect your physical health to remain perfect throughout life without taking care of your body?

Do you think that a broken leg will heal all by itself without proper medical care?

Do you believe that a hole in a tooth will magically disappear without seeing a dentist?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, I´m sure that you’re just kidding me or that you’re in denial or stupid! / Little-Bite was here!

Most of us understand and accept (to a varying degree) that we need to take care of our physical health in order to have a good life.

But how many think the same about psychological health and well-being? Do you have the same attitude towards that?
Betty the Hippo could use a Self-therapy Manual

Many expect good mental health and well-being to remain the same throughout life without any special activities to maintain it.

Many expect psychological wounds to heal all by themselves with time.

Is that really the truth?

I think that we all can benefit tremendously from some kind of regular psychological healthcare.

And it does not have to be with an expensive professional (although that's sometimes needed).

I have practiced self-therapy on a regular basis for many years and find it totally invaluable.

- Yeah, so that´s what you call it when you sit in your library eating cookies all night, Leopold…

- And that’s your excuse for buying all those fancy notebooks…

- Oh, you shut up! I mean, can you be quiet please. This is important!

I have tried many different methods and techniques over the years but this is what I do most of the time.


Self-Therapy Manual

Notes by Leopold the Leopard

1. Write

2. Do it!

3. Focus on a situation

4. What am I feeling?

5. What am I thinking?

6. Is the thought valid?

7. What can I think instead?

1. Write

For me self-therapy is really simple: I write.

Everyday.

Period.

I sit down in a relatively quiet place for a while every day and write.

Sometimes I write to let off steam or get rid of my anger (some argue that physical activity is good for this too, but I find that hard to believe.).

Sometimes I write to find out what I really feel or what I really want.

Sometimes I write to figure out what I’m going to do about a problem.

But most of the time I do a more structured therapeutic exercise (described below).

Writing is self-therapy

Basically I FART. Self-therapy in practice

So go out and buy yourself a notebook or use one that you already have. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

I don’t save my notebooks like diaries or journals. They are just tools for my self-therapy and I normally throw them away when they’re done.

2. Do it!

The most difficult part of self-therapy is to actually sit down (or lie down or stand or jump) and DO IT!

For many years I used to do therapy on occasion, but oddly enough that meant I seldom did it when I really needed it. It seemed like the more I needed therapy the bigger my resistance grew.

It all became better when I decided to do it for at least five minutes each day.

You need to make a habit out of it.

One of the best resources online about forming habits is http://www.zenhabits.net. Check out this cool post: The Tiny Guide to Creating the Flossing Habit.

3. Focus on a situation

I start the sessiob by focusing on a certain situation.

A problematic situation, recent, in the past or in the future, that makes me experience negative feelings.

I think about what troubles me the most right now or what occupies my mind.

If I become aware of such situations during the day I sometimes make a note to myself to use it during therapy.

I start by jotting down a sentence to shortly describe the situation. Oh, and I always date my entries – don’t know why but it feels right.

Monday 24th of April - evening

Situation: (or just S:) Presentation of project for boss and colleagues tomorrow.

4. What am I feeling?

Sometimes I continue the session by trying to find out how the situation makes me feel.

I imagine and think about the situation, maybe while closing my eyes and trying to picture it.

As I experience feelings I jot them down.

Feelings: (or F:) Nervous, defensive, scared of being criticized…

The purpose of this step is not so much to find out what I am feeling (although that can be very enlightening at times) as it is to further get into the situation.

If thoughts start coming as soon as I imagine the situation I usually skip the feelings step.

Note: In Cognitive Therapy it is common to put a number on how strongly you experience each feeling – normally as a percentage (1-100%). Then after the session you go back and rate the feelings again – hopefully the numbers of the negative feelings have gone down. This has never really done anything for me so I don’t, but feel free to try it yourself!

5. What am I thinking?

The next step is to write down the thoughts that automatically run through my head when I think about the situation. This will take some training but you will get the hang of it.

I put a number in front of each thought so that it’s easier to process them later.

Thoughts: (or T:) 1. They are going to criticize me. 2. They are going to think that I have done a bad job. 3. They will think that I am a pompous ass. 4. …

Sometimes I write down everything that goes through my mind.

At other times I just write down what I believe are the problematic thoughts. I focus on negative and judgmental thoughts, thoughts that immediately make me feel bad and thoughts with cognitive distortions (irrational thinking) in them.

I seldom write down more than five to ten sentences – that is usually enough to proceed. I can always continue to add more thought later on.

When I´m finished I go through the list and continue to work with each thought.

6. Is the thought valid?

For each thought I try to determine whether it is accurate, positive, constructive and filled with love, care and respect for me or if it is negative and destructive.

If I have written down everything in my head some thoughts will be positive or neutral. Those I just cross over.

I ask myself if the thought is valid and write down arguments against it.

Process: (or P: ) 1. They might criticize parts of my work. That's kind of the point of the meeting and I should be thankful for any constructive criticism and feedback. But that's about my work. Not me.

I might look specifically for cognitive distortions. In the beginning I focused on just one irrational thinking pattern at a time – for instance during a week or a month – so that I would learn them by heart.

Process: (or P: ) 2. “Mindreading” – I don’t know what they will think.

I can also ask myself what evidence there is – if any – that the thought is true or accurate. I write down the result.

Process: (or P: ) 3. There is no evidence or support that anyone thinks that, except maybe for the bitter and aggressive “hedgehog”.

7. What can I think instead?

In the last step I write down new, alternative thoughts to each and every one of my negative and irrational ones.

The new thought should be realistic, balanced, optimistic and positive.

Alternative thoughts: (or AT:)

1. The presentation is just a matter of showing the others what I have done and get some input and feedback on it. I am pretty proud and glad of what I have done and that is the important part. Just be yourself!

2. None of the others could have done this so I should be damned proud of what I have done.

3. I cannot control what other people think and whatever my colleagues think will probably have more to do with them than me. I care about what my loved ones think and with them I can communicate.

4. …

Nowadays, I usually do this step in conjunction with step 6. Is the thought valid? I first argue against and question the thought and then replace it with a better alternative. Experiment with what fits you the best.

# 1. (number of the thought) Process: (or P: ) Here I write down agruments about the thought...

Alternative thoughts: (or AT:) Here I write down alternative thoughts...

TRY MY SELF-THERAPY MANUAL YOURSELF!

Art the Blackbear tries Leopolds self-therapy manual

For the next week, find at least three times when you are going to try my self-therapy manual. Put them in your schedule right away, I guess they will take around 30 minutes each time.

Make sure to find a place to do it where you can be on your own without distractions. That is almost a requirement to begin with although you might be able to do this anywhere with practice.

If nothing else is available – use the bathroom.

Experiment and work out a method that fits you and your personality. Maybe a short session of free writing gives you the most or maybe it's a deeper digging into your feelings. There is no universal right or wrong here. Develop your own Self-Therapy Manual – or use mine.

But whatever you do, Just Do It!

Good Luck!

More on: Psychology

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