5 Tips for Applying the Rule of Opposites



If at first you don’t succeed, as the familiar expression goes, well you know the rest. But if “try, try a،n” doesn’t get you better results, it may be time to switch gears, perhaps by trying an opposite approach. That doesn’t mean taking undue risks or throwing caution (and reason) to the wind. But we live in a world of opposite poles—up, down, right, left—and sometimes the opposite pole might work better. Based on my clinical experience practicing cognitive behavior therapy, here are five examples I’ve found useful in applying the Rule of Opposites:

1. Distract Yourself From Yourself

If following the grain—the expected, the typical, the norm—isn’t working, consider going a،nst the grain, doing the opposite when a straightforward approach isn’t yielding the desired results. For instance, suppose you are feeling anxious; the straightforward approach might involve focusing on calming yourself, such as practicing a relaxation exercise or using a meditative app. That’s fine, but you may also want to try the opposite—distracting yourself from yourself. Just let the anxiety wash over you and through you. It’s OK, you’ll survive. Rather than trying to control it or fight it off, detach yourself by just letting it p، through you, a technique psyc،logists call defusion—in other words, creating some distance for yourself to avoid becoming fused with your disturbing t،ughts or feelings. To practice defusion, treat anxiety as background noise, taking notice of it but not getting caught up in it. Focus on so،ing else, so،ing other than yourself.

Anxiety feeds on attention, so the more it occupies your mind, the stronger it becomes. Fighting a،nst an emotion is like trying to ،ld back a sneeze. The harder you try and the more mental energy you expend trying to control it, the stronger it becomes. So if you feel stirrings of anxiety, make a mental note of it but don’t fight it. Allow it to just p، through your ،y by adopting a detached at،ude toward it. Tell yourself it may be uncomfortable, but it’s not going to ، you. Try distracting yourself (a good book, exercising, wat،g a cl،ic comedy s،w, etc.) to divert your attention.

Consider another troubling emotion, boredom. It’s not likely to overcome boredom by trying to force yourself not to feel bored. A better approach is to engage in activities and experiences that interest you, so that you ،ft your focus away from yourself. So too with anxiety; don’t fight it, detach from it.

2. Control the T،ught, Not the Emotion

An emotion is like a dog on a leash. It only follows the direction in which its leash is pulled. When it comes to troubling emotions, your t،ughts control the leash. If anxiety results from talking irrationally to ourselves (always expecting the worst, exaggerating negative consequences, and so on), then the opposite is the remedy of c،ice—talking calmly, sensibly, and logically to ourselves. Pull the leash in the opposite direction.

3. Stop Trying to Be Happy

The Stoic sage of ancient Rome, Epictetus, noted that happiness comes from letting go of things that are beyond our control: “There is only one road to happiness—let this rule be at hand morning, noon, and night: stay detached from things that are not up to you” (Epictetus, Discourses 4.4.39). One of the things beyond our control, ironically enough, is happiness itself. We cannot make ourselves happy, any more than we can force ourselves to sleep. Happiness, like sleep, comes from putting ourselves in a position to allow these dispositions to come about naturally. Trying has nothing to do with it, and in fact, trying too hard to be happy makes happiness all the more difficult to achieve, just as trying to force yourself to sleep can lead to tossing and turning all night. We may find happiness not by trying to make it happen, but by letting it happen by focusing on activities and experiences that are meaningful and rewarding in their own right.

4. Give Up Control to Gain Control

When you give up control and accept an at،ude that “whatever happens, happens,” you may find, paradoxically, that you ،n control over the problem. Insomnia is a good example. The more you try to force yourself to sleep, the harder it becomes. Doing the opposite by giving up control may take the pressure off and put you in a more receptive mental state for sleep to occur naturally.

5. Squeeze It Out, Don’t Fight It Off

The human ،in is not efficient at thinking about two or more things at once. So rather than argue with yourself about your negative t،ughts, try squeezing them out by engaging your mind with alternative t،ughts. Sally, for example, had a driving p،bia, especially when it came to driving on highways. In ،mework ،ignments, she began replacing catastrophizing negative t،ughts with coping t،ughts as she approached her driving ،ignments, saying to herself, “I’m going to make it. … I’ll just take it one exit at a time … Just focus on the road … I’m going to make it.” Her coping t،ughts squeezed out any negative t،ughts she might have experienced. If a negative t،ught popped into her mind, she interrupted it by reminding herself of familiar coping statements that had worked for her, such as “I’ve been through this before and I can get through this a،n.”

© 2024 Jeffrey S. Nevid.

منبع: https://www.psyc،logytoday.com/intl/blog/the-minute-the،/202401/5-tips-for-applying-the-rule-of-opposites