Change The Way You Think To Maximize Your Confidence
So much of our anxiety can come from our thinking. We can scare ourselves senseless by imagining all sorts of bad outcomes and negative scenarios, most of which never acutally occur!
Join Dr. Aziz in the 2nd half of his interview with NLP expert and author, Brad Pendergraft as he talks about the physiology of excitement and anxiety, and how to transform your feelings in an instant.
Click below to hear this episode!
Learn more about our Guest Expert – Brad Pendergraft! Check out his website below to find out about his forthcoming book, workshops, and much more – click here!
Thinking Errors That Lead To Social Anxiety
Today is going to be a part two in changing the way you think. You might already have a sense that if you could just change the way you think about something, that you would feel entirely different about it…
If you didn’t think that those people were judging you, that you would feel better.
If you didn’t think that you couldn’t do something and you weren’t good enough, then maybe you could just do it find out that everything would go smoothly.
So, you might already have an inkling that the way you’re thinking is strongly contributing to your difficulty and social fear and inhibition and not being able to take action in the way that you want.
And you might also have the experience of – yeah, but I don’t know how to change the way I think. That’s just how it is. That’s just how I think. It just happens to me.
That’s what we’re going to be getting into more in this episode, An Interview with Brad, and then future episodes as – that’s the first step. It’s acknowledging that the way I think and believe strongly affects how I feel and what I do.
And the next step is how do I develop the skill set to be able to radically change the way I think and my psychology so I can take more effective action in the world. And that is something that you learn over time. It’s a practice. It’s a discipline.
So, to that end, I want to share some information that can help you in that practice and this comes from the field of cognitive therapy which was developed way back when — 50’s, 60’s, I should know that from my graduate training but there’s a fellow named Aaron Beck one of the founders.
Although the concepts that this is based on have been around for thousands of years and the Greeks were talking about that sort of thing but the idea is that the way we think influences how we feel and what we do. And the reason that Beck kind of moved the field forward is that in his work with people, he found that there were patterns of thought that were particularly debilitating, patterns of thought that when people engaged in this, the tended to be depressed or anxious and he came up with a list and he called them Cognitive Distortions.
Cognitive Distortions That Cause Social Anxiety
If you think about the distortion of an image or if you look at a fun house mirror or you look at someone through a glass of water, the image is distorted. So, you’re perceiving reality sort of but not clearly, not directly. And so, there’s a whole list and he came up with 10, some people expand it to 15 and sometimes your final list is as long as 20 but I pick the top 3 to share with you today that are the most strongly related to social fear, shyness, social anxiety, inhibition and self-doubt and all that sort of thing.
So, these three are strongly contributing to your anxiety, when you’re feeling nervous around others. And the first is Mind Reading.
So, when you’re around someone and you have that sense, you have that idea, you have that feeling deep down in your core that you know what they’re thinking about you. You know what they’re thinking about you and you know it’s negative. It usually comes in the form of they think I’m a loser. They think I’m ridiculous. They think I don’t know what I’m talking about. They think I’m boring. And we have that absolute certainty that that’s what’s happening infact we can be so certain about this that – have you ever had a mind reading experience and then someone tries to talk you out of it? What happens?
Oh, if you’re anything like me, I’ve noticed I won’t resist it. I mean, like no, no, stop trying to tell me otherwise. I know what they’re thinking. They think I’m a loser. So, this is in the last episode. You have to start being willing to question that question you’re thinking.
And the reality is we honestly don’t know what someone is thinking about us. You might be right, sometimes they might be thinking you’re a loser and then you got to work on a different skill which is rejection, tolerance or being strong enough in your own core and your own self-esteem that you could handle that but often times, we literally don’t know.
We imagine and we do this thing that psychologists call projecting which means you have the thought in your own mind, man I sound boring. I’m kind of a loser. I’m not that interesting in my life. You believe that about yourself. And then when you’re talking to someone, you project that into them and you think it’s coming from them. So, that’s what mind reading usually is. It’s a lot of projection.
The second distortion that is incredibly common especially in social anxiety is Fortune Telling. Fortune telling is when you know with absolute certainty how something’s going to turn out. And you usually predict it negatively. I mean, I guess someone could fortune tell in the positive direction. Usually that’s not problematic.
That might actually give them hope and inspiration. I suppose it’s problematic if they’re fortune telling like the end is near. I heard it on AM radio and so now I’m going to sell all my possessions and I’m going to get rid of my healthcare, I’m going to quit my job and the Lord with provide for me and my family.
You know, maybe there’s some danger there of repercussions but for the most part, fortune telling goes in the negative direction, right?
It’s like that I could try that but it’s going to go terribly. If I put myself out there, I’m going to get rejected. If I go to that party alone, it’s going to be terrible and I’m not going to have a good time and I’m not going to meet anyone there and you’re absolutely certain that that is what’s going to happen.
You know, the worst part about this is A, I mean, I think we can agree on the fact that we literally cannot know what’s going to happen in the future. We kind of have a pretty good guess but we don’t know. And here’s the thing about fortune telling. It’s – in our need to be right and be consistent with ourselves, we will make it happen in a lot of instances and then we can be like, see, I told you, I had a bad time at that party.
I knew those people won’t like me. So, you got to become really sceptical of that fortune telling. And I found that sometimes, just having these labels, these words can be really helpful. So, when you’re doing it, you can say, oh, it’s mind reading again or, oh, okay, I’m fortune telling. Now, you might still feel, you might still – you feel anxious like oh, it’s going to happen but you can really start to chip away out and say, okay, I’m anxious but I am fortune telling. I really can’t know what’s going to happen.
The third top distortion that really contributes to a lot of pain and suffering around shyness is all or nothing thinking. So, all or nothing thinking is when you are – you perceive something as an absolute, as completely this or completely that. So, that means you have a conversation with someone and it’s of – I don’t know, a 10 minute conversation then it goes, you know, talk about several different things and then at the end of the conversation.
Perhaps you say something and they give you kind of a strange look or maybe you asked them if they want to get some coffee sometime and they don’t want to or there are some piece of the conversation that doesn’t go how you want it to go and then you leave and you say two things often, man, that was a total failure, I hope – I’m such – what an embarrassing, awful conversation that was and I am a total loser.
So, those instances, you’re doing all – it’s complete, all or nothing thinking. Sometimes it’s called binary thinking or black and white thinking. It’s just this is how it is. I am a total loser. That conversation was entirely bad and it totally discounts the reality that the conversation was many things. It was a flowing, moving experience that you are many things, that you can’t be black into this, this complete one singular thing but our mind wants to do that.
Our mind wants to put things in little clear boxes like that was a success, that was a failure. And so you got to start really questioning that and the great thing to do there is say, hey, it’s not black and it’s not white. It’s grey. There are shades of grey here. Let me find what the deeper truth is. And we’re to get more into future episodes when we have more time about how to – once you identify distortions, how to work with them. In fact, in the upcoming episode, we’re going to go deeper into the whole principle of Cognitive Therapy and how to work with it but in the spirit of learning to change how you think, I wanted to offer this to you today to start to label those distortions when you notice them and that can have a powerful effect on how you feel.
Now, we’re going to get into that second part of the Interview with Brad and you’re going to learn even more about how to shift your focus and change your perception of your experience so that you feel more confident, feel less anxious.
Expert Interview With Brad Pendergraft
Dr. Aziz: And what’s an example of how someone might take control of that focus? Let’s say, they’re in a social situation and they’re – say, just have introduced themselves or just started a conversation with someone and then all of a sudden they’re focused on the other person and perhaps interpreting the other person as being disapproving or judging them.
Brad: Absolutely. So, let me ask you, think from a – how would somebody change what they were focusing on in the moment? How would they change that? Well, yeah, how is it that earlier today you were focusing on one thing and then – and another so maybe at lunch time.
As you think about lunch time for a moment and you sat down and you were thinking about one thing and then you bit into your food and you had all these sensations and you were thinking about something else. Okay. So, what I just do, just illustrated, the two most powerful ways to affect your focus and the first one is questions because the questions we ask are questions basically a request to the brain to pay attention, to focus the attention on certain ways.
So, if you ask yourself a question of how can I really enjoy this party today? What’s the – the first thing that I can do that this actually going to make this party (an instant) great party, maybe I can enjoy it more than the last party, what would I do? That question if I’m standing outside of a door, for example going to a party, asking myself that question is really different than allowing in my brain to run a practiced question which is probably like how many people are going to be here today? And are there going to be so many people? Am I going to freak out? Are there going to be so many people here I’m going to freak out today?
Dr. Aziz: Get out of my head, Brad!
Brad: So, that – just – those are the questions. That’s an example. So, questions are the first and then directing it conversationally. It continues the same way, right? I asked the questions and then I started talking to details and so affecting my own focus would be I’d answer that question, the first question.
The first question of – what could I – How am I going to – maybe enjoy this the best today and I’d say, well, you know, if I present in conversations and maybe like the first couple of people I see, maybe I can really be curious. I can really be curious and how will that work the last time? What was something that really helped me in the last party? And actually, I notice myself that when I’m doing it internally as opposed to affecting somebody else’s focus, it’s almost all questions.
Dr. Aziz: Okay, that’s good to know.
Brad: Yes. So, I would recommend people’s (affected) – question first thing and foremost. So, we got questions, we’ve got the inner voice, we’ve got what people picture, what do they pay attention, what are they – are they picturing the last party, in this of course ties together because if actually have a question here right now, what was the best thing that happened at the last party and that’s what you’re picturing as you step in whereas if you would ask yourself the previous question of – or are there going to be so many people here that I’m freaking out, then you’re almost certainly picturing some past time when you were freaking out. So, you can see how these processes relate to each other.
And so, the third one that I want to jump to here is the one that particularly comes up a lot around shyness and social anxiety, that’s the interpretation of physical sensations. So, internally, how do we communicate with our emotions? Well, we’re making pictures, we’re talking to ourselves and then we’re experiencing our body and we’re labelling that. So, it’s not just that – somebody says to you – well, somebody says to me I feel anxious, I will say, well, how do you know?
What does that mean? I suppose I don’t speak English and I’m not quite sure what that word is, what do you mean? And I’ll say, well, this anxious feeling in my stomach. I said, oh, okay, well, how do you know? What does that mean? What – can you describe this to me without using the word anxious?
So, I’m driving them down to the actual sensations and they’ll say, well, you know, I – and then actually, most people stumble there for a moment because they’re stopped paying attention to the sensations and they’ve started paying attention to the label and this is like the transition as a kid from saying, hey, wow, look outside, there’s this tall thing and it’s got all these parts sticking out and then that just — all these really colourful things on it, some of them are orange and some of them are red and the dad says, oh, yeah, that’s a tree and those are the leaves.
And then from there on the kid says, oh, look, there are leaves out there. And there’s much less engagement and actual ability to shift the experience of it when you’re at the label level. So, I push people to actually – that are telling me what’s happening in their body and what are they – then we can move to the interpretation of it. And so, I don’t know if we have time for a quick story about that.
So, it’s actually a pretty well-known story. I’ve been told by a number of different people and I actually went back took a look at it to confirm the basic facts of it and they’re absolutely true even though people tell some of the details that they don’t – can’t know. It’s a little bit differently but it’s a story about two well-known musicians. One of them is Bruce Springsteen. Almost everybody has heard of the boss, fabulous – you’ve heard of Bruce Springsteen, right?
Dr. Aziz: Bruce who? No, I used to – my dad had – he’s had a handful of CD’s when I was a kid and one of them – I didn’t know the CD but I remember the song, it was Born in the U.S.A. and I would just like tramp around the house as a little kid, singing out of the top of my lungs. So, I know at least one Bruce Springsteen’s song.
Brad: Absolutely. Well, given that you’re claiming to have been a kid at the time of the Born in the U.S.A., the CD came out and you may not have heard of another older folks singer by the name of Carly Simon and …
Dr. Aziz: No.
Brad: Carly Simon was a really well-known folk singer in the 60’s, early 70’s along with James Taylor and – great singer but one of – the reason I tell the story is that it turns out that – for a number of years, Carly Simon didn’t tour because she was having what she was calling panic attack. She was having a form of stage fright that was so intense that she didn’t tour. And so, it’s kind of a big issue. It’s kind of a – well-known at the time and so a journalist went to interview her from some magazine and he said to Carly, tell me about what’s happening and she says, well, look, I wish I could do the concerts. I hate cancelling this.
I keep thinking I’m going to be able to do it but what happens is everytime I — about 30 minutes before the show, I start getting this flattery feeling in my gut and I start thinking, “Oh, no not this time.”
And I think I can hold it together but in about 15 minutes my heart starts to raise and then right after that my palm starts to sweat and I’m just, you know, I’m falling into a complete panic and I just can’t go on.
That’s really terrible and so as the story goes and number of years later actually in 1984, I believe the born in the USA tour of Bruce Springsteen I happened to be at the coliseum in L.A. I saw about 100,000 people you probably know that Springsteen is famous for having this huge fabulous concert and it’s just crazy on stage.
You can be engaging all the way, there are people out in the trees, you know, in the cheap seats out on the other side of this big venue. And so the same journalist was sent to interview Springsteen and said Bruce, you know, you’re the boss.
How is it that you’re just so amazing on stage? And Springsteen says, “Well, you know, what I’d love to take credit for it but it’s just the passion. I just born with this passion and I just got this incredible passion and it just overtakes me everytime there’s this concert why I love doing concerts so much.
I say, “Well tell me more about that,” and Springsteen says, “Well, you know, everytime happens the same way about 30 minutes before the show, I started getting this kind of flattery feeling in my gut and I’ve started thinking it, “Oh yeah,” and then about 15 minutes later, my heart starts to raise and (anywhere) for that, my palm starts to sweat and I’m just overcome with the passion and the excitement and I rushed to stage and that’s the concert.
And the two stories the descriptions of what Carly Simon was experiencing his panic attacks and what Springsteen was experiencing his passion and excitement, the descriptions and sensations was almost down to the word but the experiences were completely different.
So the interpretation of sensations drives the brain so you see how this process now start to feed each other because how — Simon was interpreting her sensations drove her focus what she was paying attention to.
It also drove her into her dialogue what you’re saying to yourself and what she was picturing in terms of what had happened in the past. (Whereas) Bruce Springsteen the same physical sensations doing anything do with the anxiety, they were passion and they were — his focus on a complete different way and that’s why I say to people, due social anxiety or due passion and due excitement.
Springsteen feel like it happened to him, I would argue from a brain map that he had trained himself and created and a neuro network that connected these physical sensations with his memories, with the inner voice with the pictures and all together they created this experience that for him was excitement.
Dr. Aziz: I mean there’s so much good stuff on why you shared the people listening can actually use on their own starting with asking yourself a better question before or even during an experience something that guide your focus as a result of the question towards something that’s going to help you be more engage with those curiosity or how to have the same experience at this party as you did a good experience party.
I’m also that’s a great tip you shared about shifting the speed of the inner voice so I think a lot of people don’t realize that we actually do have influence and I think that’s one of the main takeaways from what you shared today is that we have more influence than we could even realize on a lot of processes in our body, in our emotions and even in how we interpret those feelings.
And I want to ask you one last question about that and then go wrap up with just a few questions about how people can learn more about some of the stuff that you’re sharing but the last question just to really tie this together is — so using that example and or that story of the boss is someone is, you know, feeling is that nervous, is that crawling feeling on their skin about, you know, start your conversation with a woman or doing something that really makes them feel shy and anxious.
How might they reinterpret or re-label their sensations? How could they see it?
Brad: That’s a great question and I’ll tell you one of the funniest, simplest techniques that I’ve tap people and they have had fabulous results with and it again has — the way — the reason it works is because of the way the it taps into a different neuro network, it taps into different associations for people and that’s to say.
So what if I stepped away from my labels of this and I just said to myself, “Huh,” just like you said, I’m having sensations. So (other more) in particular you first start be saying, “Look, I’m having sensations.”
In fact right now I’m having lots of sensations and then here’s the kind of, it’s a little bit of playful trick and I said, “Well, what do you call somebody who’s having lots and lots and lots of sensations?
Well I call them “Sensational” and as soon as you do that, if you say to yourself, if you can get yourself to laughing that moment and you say, “Hey, I’m feeling really sensational right now,” then that lights up different parts of the brain, lights up different experience, different emotions and then that experience feels different.
And then get you to laugh from a moment and get that feeling of being sensational and that’s — then you step into that conversation with a new focus, focus on — after the playfulness and then the last thing occurs one of the best ways to change this in a social situation is to go to take that focus and put it on another person and when you’re focusing to other person and purely on being curious and fascinated by them then the playfulness and the feeling of reinterpreting the sensations they all work together to create a very different experience.
Dr. Aziz: And as added benefit if you want to start a conversation say with a person you find attractive and you’re struggling to find out exactly how to do that, you can just approach them with a question, you know, what do you call someone who has a lot of sensations and then you’re in, you no need to be anxious that…
Dr. Aziz: I was just in so much good stuff that you’ve shared, Brad and I want to ask one general question and one more specifically about what you’re doing and how people can follow some of your work but in general if someone has never heard of NLP or just, you know, vaguely come across it and they’re curious to learn more, you know, and just as an average person not necessarily a therapist or some — do you have a resource, a book or something that you’d recommend someone could start with?
Brad: Absolutely. The one of the best things to do, I believe in November of 2013, Anthony Robbins rereleased his fabulous book Awaken the Giant Within and it’s now available, I think in (Newport) maybe he was making it available in different format.
I know that Robbins was making sure that people had the availability to that and that’s one of the most accessible books about the practical application. If you want to going to actually learn about the basics of NLP, Robbins is actually a great candidate for that one too.
His very first book unlimited power was the is a great description of a lot of those tools but Awaken the Giant Within is a way to actually get the application to get the useful strategies right from the behind.
Dr. Aziz: That’s great. I have so many positive things to say about Anthony Robbins so I think it’s a great resource for someone to get started with and very easily accessible, approachable and just maybe for a moment you could share, I know you have a new book coming out and you could share a little bit about that and also what you do in your company lifetime optimization and some of the brain coaching I think you do just in case I would like to follow your work.
Brad: Absolutely. My upcoming book is Your Entrepreneurial Brain: 17 Brain Tips for Business Success. It’s coming from my work on the Brains of Entrepreneurs looking at the way that Entrepreneur’s Brains actually have now been wired to be different than they do Entrepreneurship in this way we’re talking about doing social anxiety that they’re doing the experience and they built habits and beliefs that have measurably affected their brains and anybody can do that, that’s one of my beliefs coming out of practical neuroscience that the things that you focused on and that the way you do some of these processes actually change your brain.
And so the — in my book it’s all about practical pieces of teaching people entrepreneurs people who would like to be more entrepreneurial and Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, are used to — everybody used to being entrepreneur and a new side that even inside corporations after be able to be entrepreneurial in their own work and that’s the before I take to this about giving brain tips for the things like how to build work habits to actually stick from a brain perspective, how to pay attention to your language, your influence in people doing sales, how to know what kind of language actually sabotages sales and interferes with it.
How to stop beating on yourself and be able to take action, teach people how to be brand new when they beat themselves, they actually increase the likelihood that’ll make that same mistake again and I teach actually how that happens and what to do instead, that’s some things in that book.
I encourage people to follow me as Brain Coach Brad on Twitter and at lifetime optimization, my brain health in coaching clinic. I work with people locally with neuro feedback to help people with sleep and anxiety and attention deficit issues and then all across the country I work with people is as a brain coach working on entrepreneurs in particular teaching them as I say how to build or what I call your entrepreneurial brand.
Dr. Aziz: Yes. I think we have just scratched a nail of the surface of what you have to offer in that arena around entrepreneurship and working with our own internal states and I really appreciate you sharing that Brad and I strongly encourage anyone who is their interest peak is to check Brad online because he’s fantastic, storyteller and perhaps it comes from his clinical hypnotherapy training but everytime I talk to Brad I feel like I get sucked into a trance.
So I imagine your book is going to be the same way and I can’t wait to read that, Brad and thank you so much for taking the time to join us and share all of these incredible tips with everyone listening.
Brad: Well it’s a lot of fun, I love talking about it and like to say, we all are using our brain so tonight use your brain for good.
Dr. Aziz: Fantastic. Thanks, Brad. That is the end of our interview with Brad in the last few minutes that we have here today, we’re going to get into the final part — the always final part of the show which is your Action Step.
Time For Action
Today’s Action Step you’ll be using it when you’ve just learned because I believe that you can take something to learn and apply it immediately, you can have tremendous results it’s called speed of implementation in business.
If you can learn something and implement immediately, then you can have a tremendous edge in the business world but I think it applies to your social life as well and your personal life. If you can learn something integrated and apply it, then you can learn more rapidly. You can grow more rapidly.
So let’s take something you just learned from this interview and apply it in your Action Step. And the first thing is to discover what questions you’re asking yourself. Brad talked a lot about the questions that we asked ourselves and how it guides our focus so what question are you asking yourself?
You know one client I work with asked himself all the time in his head what other people expect of me?
What’s expected of me in this situation? What kind of results do you think you get with that question?
He feel anxious. He felt guilty. He felt trapped obligated. So, you know, identify what other questions that I’m asking myself especially in social situations and then experiment with coming up with a more empowering question.
The question that gives you freedom of choice and options, things like what do I want? How can I enjoy myself in this interaction? How can I make this a fun experience? How can I really connect with this people here? How can I be more of myself?
If I was being more authentic right now, what would I do? These are just a few questions and we’re going to more in depth into this in questions in the future episodes. In fact if you want to really go into questions deeply I would suggest checking out my book The Solution to Social Anxiety which you can find in Amazon.com and it has a whole section on the kinds of questions you ask yourself.
How to construct more powerful questions and how that can shift your experience but for now, pick one of the major questions you ask yourself into this empowering, identify it and then come up with a more empowering question and then ask yourself that question regularly.
It’s not going to be your natural questions. It’s not a normal to you right now so you have to condition yourself and that means asking yourself that question like a mantra. You just gently repeat it in your mind. Expecting an answer and answers will come if you listen.
Thanks for listening to the show and I’ll talk to you in the next episode until we do know that you’re awesome.