or “We’ll never make it“…
“It’s going to go wrong“…
“I’m going to be terrible“…
It’s often that we anticipate the worst with no benefit apart from added worries. According to recent research women would suffer most from it.
But here are 3 fun and easy techniques to stop negative anticipation. They’re based on visualization and work on our sub-conscious mind with amazingly fast results.
He Who Suffers Before It’s Necessary Suffers More Than Necessary (Seneca)
Positive anticipation is what makes us look forward to something. We’re filled with excitement and can’t wait to be there.
Negative anticipation is a different kind of fish… we imagine the worst outcome and worry. Sadly, it’s often that we anticipate failure.
We doubt others’ or our own abilities to achieve or deliver something whether it’s a speech, an exam result, a promise to fulfill.
Sometimes, negative anticipations aren’t so bad. They can push us to act, take responsibility, prepare ourselves and work harder so we prevent the negative consequences we can foresee. More often, it’s just counter productive because it’s either too late to act (the exam is already taken for instance) or it makes us doubt so much that we end up doing nothing at all in order to avoid all risks and we fall into procrastination.
You could think that worrying helps soften the blow if eventually we do get the bad result we were dreading.
We end up feeling as bad when we get the result as if we hadn’t worried beforehand… with the added pointless worry beforehand.
Why Is It Worse For Women?
Because women seem to have a heightened neural response to negative anticipation that makes them create strong memories and remember the negative emotions even more.
In this UCL research, women and men were shown images with a visual cue beforehand as to whether the image would be positive, neutral or very unpleasant. Every time a very unpleasant cue appeared, there was high brain activity in women, but not in men. This high brain activity also correlated to the images the women remembered the most when tested 20 minutes later.
It’s also been found that women are more likely to suffer anxiety than men because women tend to internalize their emotions more than men. Internalizing emotions rather than actively seeking to solve the problem leads to withdrawal, anxiety, depression and ‘rumination’.
So… what can be done to stop all this?
Here are 3 techniques that are particularly interesting because they work directly on our sub-conscious mind. They’re based on visualization and recreating new associations in your mind. They’re also very easy and fun to try and most importantly incredibly effective.
Technique #1: NLP Anchoring
This NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) technique teaches you how to create a strong positive diversion in your mind, an image so powerful that when you recall it you’ll feel instant relief.
1. Start with remembering an experience when you felt extremely happy and confident. It might be a success at work or a family moment with your loved one, your parents, your children or your friends.
2. Visualize it using all your senses… remember where you were, what you saw, the smells and sounds around you, what you were touching and also how you were feeling and the emotions you went through.
3. When you’re starting to feel as happy and confident as you were then, press firmly your thumb and middle finger together and hold them together as the image grows and becomes strong and vivid. Then release the pressure as the image fades away. Pressing your thumb and middle finger is going to be the trigger that from now on you can use to recall on demand this overwhelmingly positive feeling. Repeat this step several time to make the anchor stronger and more effective.
Now test it. Next time you worry in anguish about something you cannot do anything about, press your thumb and middle finger and feel the positive emotions of happiness and confidence coming through.
Repeat it as often as necessary. The more you do it, the more your subconscious mind will divert from the negative feelings you harbour.
Technique #2: The Slap
Technique #3: Altering The Shape And Color Of Unwanted Feelings
Here is another visual way in which you can turn whatever you fear into a more positive and acceptable feeling.
- Think about what it is that you fear. Now notice how this thought makes you feel and concentrate on this feeling: where do you feel it in your body? If you had to give it a colour, what would it be? If you had to give it a shape, what would it be? If you had to give it a texture, what would it be?
- Now gently take out of your body that feeling you have given shape, texture and color to, hold it in your hands and look at it.
- Then send it to the far corner of the room and start making it grow very large and then very tiny.
Next change it to a color you like. Really see it as the new color.
Change its shape to one you like too and again make sure that you really do see this.
Change its texture to one you like too and again make sure that you really do see this.
Continue making changes you feel are appropriate. You may want to make the object bright or dim, shiny or matt, loud or soft, anything to contrast it with the original description.
Make changes until you’re happy with the image.
- Now gently replace the object in your body, but into a different place from the one it came from.
When you’ve done this, try to retrieve the original feeling. You will probably be unable to but if you can, repeat the whole process until the feeling goes away completely.
There are other techniques that can help you and in particular Mindfulness (we’ve written quite a lot about it).
Also, how about trying to have more positive anticipation in your life. Having things to look forward to is a wonderful way to add spice in your life and fight off stress and worries.