Eric Maisel Ph.D. (author of Redesign Your Mind) reassures us that we can redirect our thoughts and chase away negative beliefs.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if you were able to help clients make real, significant, lasting changes right on the spot, just by providing them with a certain frame and by inviting them to do a little on-the-spot visualizing? I have. You can.
Philosophers from Marcus Aurelius to the Buddha concerned themselves with the idea that “you are what you think.” Nowadays, this age-old notion is typically explored using ideas and techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy. These ideas have resonated for many of my clients and have been quite useful in our therapeutic work. But there is an important next step to take.
By providing clients with the metaphor of “the room that is your mind,” I have helped them visualize “the place where they think”—really, “the place where they live”—and help them instantly change and upgrade that “place.” This simple metaphoric frame has created powerful, on-the-spot results.
In a very few words, I explain to my client that it is in their power to redesign and redecorate the room that is their mind. Then I move right onto giving some examples of what that redesigning might look like: adding windows so that a breeze can blow through, reducing inner claustrophobia; adding a calmness switch, producing immediate calm; adding an exit door, out of which repetitive, obsessive thoughts can be scooted; or repainting the walls a bright color, so as to reduce the experience of sadness.
What is rather amazing is that my clients “get” this idea instantly. They have often said that no one had ever invited them to picture their mind room before and that, without knowing it, they had been waiting for this invitation.
I was recently chatting with an interviewer about my forthcoming book, Redesign Your Mind, in which this technique is described. Even as we were speaking—even as he was asking me questions and I was answering them—he was doing this redesign work. I could tell. Then, suddenly, he smiled and said, “I’ve just repainted the walls in my mind room and I can feel the difference.” The brain is brilliant at this sort of thing, if it is presented with the invitation and offered even just the briefest of explanations.
A few days later I wrote to the interviewer, whom we’ll call John, and asked him to share his experience. What had that felt like, spontaneously doing that work right on the spot? How was it that he had done that work without my hinting or suggesting that he do it—had his own brain instantly “decided” that it was imperative that he try out the idea and paint those walls a new, bright color? Did the change that occurred feel real and significant, even fundamental? Had the change lasted?
“The effects I experienced when you began to explain this to me were quite profound and instantaneous. It was straightforward. You told me I could put anything into the ‘room that is my mind’ such as a ‘calmness switch’ that could be flipped whenever I needed it. I pictured a red light switch, and when I flipped it, I immediately became calm, and felt it both mentally and in my body.
“You helped me construct my ideal living room, and when I painted the walls, I immediately began to experience pleasure in the color. I put large, clean windows in the room, some open so that the breeze from the beach made the flowing white curtains dance. I felt calm and joy and peace in my body, as well as my mind. And it’s not just about calm. There’s a breastplate in the corner that I can don to immediately feel courageous and ready to take on the tasks I need to.
“There’s also a free speech platform I can mount when I want to privately engage in any thought exercise. And there’s a back door to exit the room. As a person diagnosed with PTSD, I can utilize this to help reframe my perceptions of past events, heal, and press on with the tasks associated with my goals in life. Thank you. Thank you.”
Clients immediately brighten up when I discuss this with them. There is something amazingly invigorating about the idea of redesigning one’s mind. Maybe it puts folks in mind of magazine ads of beautiful rooms that have stirred them and moved them. Maybe the metaphor strikes them as achingly right. Maybe their “inner architect” or “inner designer” is suddenly engaged. Or maybe it simply matches their felt experience, that there is a place where they go and that they can change the look of that place—and their experience of that place.
Rather than having to arm-wrestle negative thoughts to the ground, dream up thought substitutes, or do any of the blocking, disputing, reframing, substituting, or other heavy lifting techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy, a client gets to smile a little and laugh a little as she zips right off to her mind room. There she can change the furniture, replace her usual bed of nails with an easy chair, install a pressure release valve for immediate stress relief, or do something else quick, brilliant, and useful.
I have found this “redesign your mind” technique very helpful in addressing many challenges clients bring to our work. For the client who lacks confidence and who is having trouble speaking up, she can be invited to create a Speaker’s Corner (like the famous one in Hyde Park in London) where she can practice saying important, dangerous-feeling things in complete safety. Whether the issue is depression, anxiety, addiction, procrastination, healing from trauma, or loneliness—whatever the issue may be—there is bound to be some simple subtraction or addition she can make to her mind room that will immediately change the thoughts she thinks and her experience of life.
I invite you to look into this technique, and perhaps into your own mind room, and even, perhaps, the one you inhabit with your clients.
The Breakthrough Program for Real Cognitive Change
Your mind is yours to redesign, redecorate and create! The idea that you are what you think has concerned philosophers from Marcus Aurelius to the Buddha. Today, this age-old message is delivered via cognitive-behavioral therapy and CBT techniques. Dr. Maisel moves cognitive change a giant step forward by describing the room that is your mind and how human consciousness is experienced there. Packed with visualization exercises, this accessible guide makes redesigning your mind and changing what you think easy and simple, an upgrade to the CBT method.
Visualization exercises for easy assembly. That room that is your mind is a space that you can decorate, air out, furnish, and turn into a truly congenial place. By practicing these easy-to-understand visualization exercises, you can redesign your mind and change not only what you think but how you think. Each of these techniques address major challenges like depression, anxiety, addiction, procrastination, and loneliness and promote cognitive growth, trauma healing, and fundamental change.