Thinking isn’t just about making pictures in your mind, although working with visual thinking is quite often sufficient information for the treatment of bulimia.
However, I always, in addition, train them to begin to take control of auditory thinking , ie the way that they talk to themselves. Because it’s not what you say to others, or to yourself that creates the feelings, it’s the way that you say it.
For example you can say the words ‘I love you’ in a thousand different ways, and each will have a different ‘meaning’. You can spit the word out in a disgusted manner, you can say it with a derisive sneer, you can make it sound like a question, and, of course, you can say it with a loving tone. If I am doing hypnosis with someone, then ‘relax’ is a useful word – but not if I scream it at the top of my voice!
All of us sometimes whinge to ourselves, grumble to ourselves talk to ourselves anxiously, or in an irritated way etc, from time to time. And it is the internal ‘tone’ – the way you talk to yourself – that influences the way that you feel. If you whinge on and on inside your mind you are not going to light up your neurology with joy.
Someone who does bulimia tends to suffer from a whole range of thoughts and feelings ‘about’ the bulimia. Typically they will regularly be depressed about it, and anxious about it, and guilty about it, and angry about it. As they go through these states of consciousness, not only are they continuing to think about doing bulimia, but they are using a range of ‘unpleasant’ styles of thinking, and internal dialogue, to do so.
Together with the ‘visual’ thinking (imagination and memory), the internal dialogue is what creates a ‘loop’ inside someone’s head. For example, someone will remember being anxious, talk to themselves in an anxious internal voice, and, lo and behold, they feel anxious. The unconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between what’s real and what’s imaginary in this respect, it gives you the feelings anyway. If you vividly imagine walking down a dark alley at night, hear the sound of footsteps rushing up behind you, someone snarling your name aggressively etc, it is likely that your body will produce adrenalin and create an ‘anxiety’ feeling. And the more vividly you imagine it, the more feeling you get. At the cinema all you are looking at is a series of projected images, made out of dots. However, though it’s not real, a good comedy will make you laugh, a good horror film will scare you and a well made erotic film…etc.
How to Change Internal Dialogue
It’s really useful to learn to interrupt these loops and there are a number of ways of doing so. One of my favourites is to give people a simple mantra. A mantra, (information for those who don’t know), is a repeated set of syllables, a chant, if you like, usually used in meditation with the aim of shifting your consciousness (a mantra is not, as some people seem to believe, a big flat fish).
I say to people that whenever they catch themselves talking to themselves in any tone of voice they don’t like (angry, sad, critical etc), they are to immediately to repeat the following thing over and over in their head. It’s quite easy and it is in two parts. The first is simply the word ‘STOP’. All this does, is briefly pause your internal dialogue, giving you a little space inside your mind inside which you can then chant the following magical set of syllables over and over, and these syllables are – ‘Shut The F*!* Up! But only do this on the inside of your mind, or you may upset your relatives.
Then, I get them to go back and repeat whatever they were doing in their head before they interrupted themselves, but, crucially, I get them to change the tone of their internal voice completely to a voice they would find amusing, Billy Connolly, Sylvester the cat, Bugs Bunny etc. Typically, even if this doesn’t make the person smile, it will tend to lever them out of their previous state of mind. It’s difficult to maintain internal anger whilst talking to yourself like Daffy Duck.
Then, I get them to take the thought they were having (let’s assume they were reliving an argument with their partner), and I get them to send the thought (image) of the argument to the horizon in their mind, and to do that at very fast, at cartoon-like speed. Then, in this case, I would get them to remember the moment the fell in love (if this is appropriate), to bring that memory closer and make it larger and life. This can be quite magical, although its easier to experience than read about.
Now obviously it’s pretty silly to talk to yourself in the voice of Sylvester The Cat, Peter Kay or whoever, but I don’t think it’s as silly as being lost inside your mind in loops of anger, fear, frustration etc. Just like rubbing your head and patting your tummy, interrupting ‘bad’ thoughts and redirecting your mind gets easier and easier with practice
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