“The Pain Pill”

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Personal Development

PAIN. Who likes pain? Do you? You might be thinking I’m out of my mind to even suggest this! But, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Do I like pain?” OK, what kind of pain are we talking about? Well, Neuro Semantic and Neuro Linguistic pain, the pain of distorted meanings that we create, maintain and spread around generously; the kind that can remain with us like a bad habit, the “pain pill” we unconsciously take every day. Have no doubt, such pain can and will be felt in your body.  


The “pain pill” is not about the content of our thoughts, the “meaning content”, but is about how we choose to think, our thinking patterns. Patterns of thinking that lay outside of our awareness, above content, that causes us pain and discomfort. Like a “wound” or “hurt” that won’t heal or a memory that won’t go away, we call these thinking patterns cognitive distortions. Cognition means perceiving, it is the perception and understanding of reality. Distortion or to distort means to twist out of shape or out of true position: crookedness; perversion. Thus Cognitive Distortion is the misperception or filtering of reality, what I call; the metaphorical “pain pill”!    


“Brains aren’t designed to get results; they go in directions. If you know how the brain works you can set your own directions. If you don’t, then someone else will.”

- Richard Bandler


Do you experience habitual negative thoughts and doubts about yourself, your potential, your capability and future? Do you experience perpetual stress at work, in college or when carrying out a particular activity, job or task? Do you experience perpetual anger and dislike whenever you meet or think of a friend, a relative or co worker? Does a negative event (or events) in the past still trouble you, causing you to feel angry, depressed and paranoid? If or when you experience these, do you blame yourself, others, feel angry, frustrated and helplessly, “yo-yoing” between feeling like a victim and a righteous rebel? If you do, like I do at times, then you may be on a regular dose of “pain pills”!   


Six years ago, a series of events took place that caused me severe emotional pain! In fact, pain in “avalanche proportions” that snow balled into “personal tragedy”! Not wanting to get down to the content of these events, it is suffice to say that they involved a combination of broken promises, betrayals and abandonment by loved ones, persons who I was committed to, who I had given my trust and loyalty. They left me brokenhearted, crushed and feeling all alone, isolated as it were and cut off from the very relationships that used to gave me a sense of security and certainty!     


Though these events were emotionally impactful, what caused severe and long term pain was the distorted patterns of thinking (cognitive distortions) that I had unconsciously formed, thinking patterns that kept me in “a dark place” for long periods of time. I kept playing the memory of these events in my head over and over again, each time editing, amplifying, awful zing, generalizing details and jumping to conclusions about the persons involved, myself, the world, others, my value, their intentions, the future and even God,  emotionalizing and personalizing them in toxic frames of meaning! All the while being unaware of how these distorted patterns of thinking were slowly becoming habitual and soon my “pain pill” addiction was formed! Of course until I discovered Neuro Linguistic Programming and Neuro Semantics, I figured that these patterns of thinking were absolutely normal and sane!     


What got me out of pain and off the addiction to the “pain pill”? First it was a decision to forgive (more about this topic in the future), “letting go” (which is for me a metaphor for a process of mending oneself, perhaps more on this too in the future) and the restructuring of my thinking patterns, which is a life long commitment to self! What I would like to offer you in this blog are some of the key cognitive distortions that can or may already be causing you pain. Interested? Well, read on…..      


“The thinking that we are has brought us to where we have already been. In order to go somewhere else, we must think in a different way.”

-Albert Einstein


To begin with, we first need to have, keep, personalize and even daily ritualize these three Neuro Semantic realizations into our neurology:

It is not the event outside that hurts us, but how we pattern their meaning by our thinking patterns. It is the meaning that we make inside, our reality maps that can either heal or harm us. “We all respond to our map of reality, not reality!”

If we think of something often enough, we begin to believe it is true and our feeling will match what we are thinking. Energy flows where attention goes as directed by intention.”

Once we have done so, we will perform these meanings in our neuro – physiology! In short, we will behave them and consequently reinforce the “meaning – performance” Neuro Semantic loop, and the addiction to the “pain pill” begins. Mind – body is part of the same system and influences each other in a circular way.”       

Here is an interesting quote by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck who developed cognitive therapy:

“A person who is trained to track his thoughts. . . can observe repeatedly that his interpretation of a situation precedes his emotional response to it. For example, he sees a car heading toward him; then, he thinks, “It is going to hit me,” and feels anxious. Furthermore, when a person changes his appraisal of a situation, his emotional reaction changes. A young woman believed that a friend passed by her without saying hello. She thought, “He’s snubbing me,” and felt sad. After a second glance, she realized that it wasn’t her friend at all and her hurt feelings disappeared.” 


I believe that this quote succinctly illustrates and explains the importance of the three Neuro Semantic realizations or presuppositions above!  If we ignore them, we are well on our way to purchasing a permanent residence in “pain city” and a life long addiction to the “pain pill”!

“It’s not only imagination; it’s the distortion of the vision. You suddenly think, this person is idealistic, this person is strong, this person has dreams, when you know better most of the time. You put what you want to see on people.
- Oliver Martinez


Now, for those cognitive distortions or patterns of thinking…..

 1. Overgeneralization

It is to come to or from a single Meta Conclusion based on a singular event, experience or piece of evidence and then, use it to color all our cognition. If something bad with happens once, we expect it to happen repeatedly in the future. Thus we neuro – linguistically entrap ourselves in a never ending defeatist way of thinking with words like “always”, “never”, “everybody”, etc. I remember this “pain pill” very well, I used to repeatedly say to myself and others, “People can never be trusted; they are always going to betray your trust and let you down.” Imagine the perpetual pain and paranoia one can suffer about oneself, others, relationships, the world, the future or even God with this distorted thinking pattern!    


2. Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization

This distortion works in two ways; it causes you to magnify negativity in Godzilla like proportions while discounting and radically minimizing the positives! Just imagine having a binocular, if you view a person from its proper end, everything is magnified. View the same person from the rear end and everything is now minimized!

When we get emotionally impacted, we often magnify the transgression and minimize any good that was present. Once we have done so, we return the favor to our very selves; we magnify our vices, weaknesses and failings, ruthlessly judging and condemning ourselves   while minimizing our virtue, goodness or accomplishments. Do remember this “pain pill”? Perfectionists are highly addicted to them. This “pain pill” is highly destructive and can destroying relationships, careers, creativity, innovation, initiative, etc. It has a nasty cousin too, the cognitive distortion of “awfulizing”, where we semantically load an event, a word, a gesture, etc. morbidly/ negatively! The funny thing about our experiences of hurt and disappointments is that it can seduce us into this pattern of thinking leading us to depressing feelings, anxiety and worry, perpetually assuming the worst!  


“Disappointment requires adequate planning”

-Richard Bandler


3. Personalization and Blame

 Personalizing occurs when we hold ourselves personally responsible for an event, a situation or experience that is not entirely under our control or are responsible for. Hurts, disappointments or “let downs” can work on us in funny ways. On one hand we can personalize it and think that we are responsible, leading to the toxic emotions of guilt, shame and inadequacy. On the other hand, we can blaming and scapegoat others, negating responsibility! Both leads to a sense of victimhood and over time “learned helplessness” that is paralyzing-ly painful and limiting!  

We do this in other areas of life to. We can personalize work to a degree that criticism of our “work content” is viewed like a personal attack. Then we can go on to blame, thinking that others are responsible for causing us the pain of the criticism and that it’s their fault. In any event, you can imagine the pain this “pain pill” can inflict on oneself and others…turning one into the proverbial sensitive “touch me not”!           


4. Fortune Telling

It is an extreme form of jumping to conclusion where we assume we know what is going to happen in the future! When we experience a set back, a hurt or a disappointment, we may overgeneralize, magnify and minimize, personalize, awfulize and blame; then conclude that the future is and will be bleak. We anticipate that things will turn out badly and are convinced that our predictions are an established fact!

Fortune telling is a potentially destructive cognitive distortion because it acts as a self- fulfilling prophecy, acting much like the “law of attraction”! Because we expect to be disappointed, let down or “cheated upon”, we tend to attract and interpret events in that way!  Viewed in another way, fortune telling is a process of setting negative goals for ourselves and then unconsciously “living down” to realize them! Again, stop for a while and imagine the pain, disappointment and helplessness this “pain pill” can bring.


“Remember, it’s your own body, your own brain. You’re not a victim of the universe….”

- Richard Bandler


5. Mental Filter

Here you pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively with a laser sharp focus that it eventually occupy’s your entire world view, emotional landscape and meaning horizons! It permeates and darkens your reality much like a drop of ink does when it is dropped in a glass of clear, fresh water…everything turns dark and cloudy!  

We develop a “tunnel vision” that filters out other positive aspects and dimensions, we become seduced by it singularly, entranced and hypnotized, closed to the wider dimensions of reality, to life, to possibility, to growth, healing and newness! Remember how I described the “dark place” my “distorted thinking” lead me to and kept me trapped in? It was classic mental filtering and it’s a “pain pill” that hurts, big time, believe me!       

These cognitive distortions operate in all areas of our lives, not just in our experiences of hurts and disappointments. They can affect the way we view ourselves, our value and potential, others, the world, our Higher Power or God, our past, present and future, our meanings and intentions!  We are all infected by them, student, and adult, senior citizen, male or female.  


“A change in bad habits leads to a change in life”.
- Jenny Craig


Do you still remember my opening question, “Who likes pain? Do you?” Well, many of us have accepted pain as part of our “normal reality”. Much of our “pain pill” addiction is unconscious. We may be seduced by the contents of our thoughts, stories or narratives but are unaware of the thinking patterns behind them. They determine our sanity, our emotional well being, our performance and the actualization of our true potential. The best gift we can give ourselves is the gift of awareness and the commitment of challenging our cognitive distortions! We can kick our addiction to the “pain pill”, live free, heal and actualizing our highest and best intentions!


Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them”.

- Epictetus


In my coming blog, I will explore the steps we can take to wean ourselves off these “pain pills”, the “Pain -aholic Anonymous Steps To Recovery”!   

Stay committed to transcending, transforming and transferring value back to your world!

Conrad Rozario is the founder of Alchemy Resources, a cutting edge human potential and peak performance development company. He has more than 15 years experience in people development from the diverse fields of Sales, Marketing, Customer Engagement and Service, Business Management and Talent Development. He is a Certified & Licensed Neuro Semantics and Neuro-Linguistics Programming (NLP) Trainer from the International Society of Neuro – Semantics, USA, a Master Practitioner in Neuro Semantics and NLP (ISNS, USA) and a Language and Behavior Profiling for Coaching Practitioner. He holds a MBA from Gordon University, Illinois, USA.

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