ACCELERATED-STATE CONDITIONING (tm)
by Neal Engelking
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"I don't know what to do!" cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings. "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!"
(From A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.)
WARNING; THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT A POWERFUL MOOD-ELEVATING EXERCISE THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO INDUCE A MANIC AND EVEN PSYCHOTIC STATE! THE AUTHOR SUGGESTS YOU CONSULT WITH A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO USE THIS HIGHLY EXPERIMENTAL AND LARGELY UNPROVEN ROUTINE!
Congratulations; you made it to the third paragraph without tossing this article aside! You're either awfully curious or perhaps in a great deal of pain. In any event, if you take the time to read this article, you're going to read about something pretty darn fantastic. (Yes, like Scrooge above, I get a little excited when writing about my favorite subject)!
Let's day dream for a minute. Your favorite magician offers you a free pill, telling you that it has the power to take you from a bad mood to a good mood in 15 or 20 minutes. And furthermore, if you wish real hard while swallowing, it will elim-inate those bad habits you've struggled with for years! Well, your not dreaming, your reading, so don't stop!
So, what's the magic; it's Accelerated-State Conditioning (tm)! In 1976 I discovered, quite by accident, an idea for what has proved to be for me, an extremely powerful tool for dramatically elevating my mood when needed, and changing unwanted habits and compulsions. A technique so powerful, that I can usually get from depression to euphoria within a few minutes! And, even more importantly, after the routine, I usually stay in a good mood for long periods of time. And, as if this wonderful revelation wasn't enough, I quickly learned, I was actually beginning to permanently eliminate my unwanted behaviors (habits) and virtually changing my personality as well!
We all know what a "RUSH" is. The skin gets goosebumps, the heartbeat ele-vates, we have a tremendous feeling of joy and elation. Well, with Accelerated-State Conditioning, I have learned that I have the ability to create a Rush every 30-60 seconds for 15-20 minutes straight! In other words, I can deliberately induce a surge of endorphins, adrenalin and many other mood-elevating neuro-transmitters (brain chemicals), etc. every few seconds during this exercise and,
Voila! Good-bye chemical mood-elevators (alcohol, caffine, street drugs, 10 mile runs, psychiatric medication)! Good-bye mind-numbing, brain-scrambling, toxic side-effects!
Now I can hear you thinking (and boy is it loud)! If this fellow has discovered something this powerful why haven't I heard of it? Right? And that's certainly a ligitimate question. Well, it gets a little complicated, but one of the reasons has to do with my former fears! You just read the WARNING ; well, I speak from first hand knowledge of the potential problems with using what I chose to call Acc-elerate-State Conditioning (here-in-after, also refered to as ASC).
First, let me explain (if you haven't guessed), that I have a chronic mental (or behavioral) illness known as Bipolar Disorder, (better known as Manic-Depression). The way I found out I had this illness (other than knowing I was moody and prone to depression), was by accidently performing some behaviors similar to the ASC exercise you're about to read about and ending up three days later voluntarily admitting myself to a psychiatric hospital for a few days with a manic episode.
Fortunately, I didn't have a psychotic break, but it sure scared me and made me realize that, even with my undergraduate degree in psychology, I had failed to recognize that I had allowed myself to work myself up over a period of several days into an actual manic episode. In otherwords, if I had realized the potential of the routine, and stopped using it when I didn't sleep the first night I may have never triggered the episode. Because, from what I read, it takes a lot of stim-3ulation to actually get to the point of mania for most people (except perhaps with others like myself with Bipolar Disorder).
But, because of that initial manic episode, and three other manic episodes since 1976 (which did not appear to be precipitated by an ASC routine), naturally, I have had an intense fear of inducing a manic state as a result of using this exercise.or promoting it to others.
I also need to also explain, that except for those few days during an episode, I do not take psychiatric medication. Therefore, it has taken a lot of years to learn for myself, other ways of dealing with this illness since Accelerated-State Condition-ing, in and of itself, is not a "cure" for depression or other forms of mental or behavioral illness.
These days, long before letting myself become too manic, I just stop doing the ASC routine. And, if I'm still too "high", I have learned other methods for slowing my thoughts, etc. which I will explain shortly. Also, it is not necessary to do the routine all at one time. Sometimes, I just do it for 5 minutes at a time, several times a day if I feel I'm a little too high.
So why do I now want to share the routine to others? Basically, it's because, the routine so powerfully controls my depression and helps me change behavior! And now, hopefully, I've learned to recognize the symtoms and signs of mania well enough to prevent further episodes regardless of what the trigger might be. And, I feel that, when given enough information and supervision, that most people will never need to get close to mania while using the ASC exercise.
Even though I've had other manic episodes, don't get me wrong, I have used ASC a great deal over the years. And I have also promoted it to others upon occassion. For example, in 1983 I was working as a psychiatric nursing assistant at St. Luke's Behavioral Health Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. For a few weeks, they allowed me to run an experimental program teaching the routine to patients suffering from depression. And, I was fortunate enough to get some good results. In fact, the great majority of the patients participating, wrote testimonial letters stating they felt it was the most helpful of all the types of therapy on the unit!
Unfortunately, (or so I felt at the time), the unit told me they didn't have the budget to continue the experiment. We were working with patients on an acute ward where the average stay was only seven days. And, I have since realized that I wasn't even touching on the full power of ASC at that time. I also believe now, it takes more like three weeks, rather than seven days, to really get the "hang of it", when it comes to inducing the amount of euphoria I can during an ASC exercise and seeing some permanent changes in compulsive behavior.
When Saint Lukes hospital ran out of funding for my work, I took it personally, and became discouraged and then scared once again. (Or depressed. When I got scared and stop using the routine, I used to go into long periods of dep-ression).
I guess I'm putting a lot of negatives at the beginning of this article rather than the end, but understand; I don't want to influence or persuade people to attempt this exercise without being prepared and under professional supervision. On the other hand, Accelerate-State Conditioning possibly has the potential to change millions of lives in the future! (Whoops, that darn grandiosity just won't stay put)!
And, of course to me, there in just no question that ASC works. In twenty years of known illness, aside from four brief voluntary admissions for manic episodes, (which by the way were a lot of fun, and full of enourmous insight, but that's another story), each episode getting shorter, the last one involving just a five hour visit to an emergency room, I have lived a pretty normal life, free of medication. And, had I known then, about how to recognize and deal with the mania, I doubt I would have ever let myself continue with the highs so long as to need to hospital-ize myself at all! And, from everything I read, coping with BiPolar Disorder, with-out medication is pretty rare in the U.S.. Wouldn't you want to share this know-ledge?
Ok, on with the task at hand, to describe and explain the routine itself. There are four primary features about ASC that make it entirely unique from any type of self-help therapy or exercise being widely used. First; this is the only daily mental exercise specifically designed and able to create a tempory state of intense euphoria (we're talking HAPPY here folks)! Thus, the first part of routine's name, Accelerated-State. A "natural high" if you will. Technically, a state of conscious-ness known as "hypomania").
Accelerated-State Conditioning is based on an incredibly simple procedure that is extremely difficult to get right. An idea so simple it has been overlooked by the mental health community somehow. The basic behavior involved is simply one of repeating, outloud, (the louder the better), key words and phrases while smiling and looking into a mirror and then doing the same thing while looking at pictures of smiling faces (I cut them out of newspapers and magazines), an artificial audience if you will!
The second unique concept and feature of Accelerated-State Conditioning is, in my opinion, that the learning ( conditioning, & reprogramming), that takes place during the ASC routine, while intensely excited (euphoric) is much more effective and permanent than learning that occurs while repeating affirmations while in a calm or relaxed mood! Just think back over the memories you have that are the strongest and you will probably recall that you were excited at the time the memorable activity took place!
During the routine I am actually alternating my attention back and forth every few minutes between the mirror (my smiling face) and the "audience". And, I make sure I'm alone because I want to feel free to say anything and I feel I need ab-solute privacy to have that feeling of anything goes. As stated, the euphoria generated during this routine I'm describing is intense. What I have developed with ASC, is the ability to open the chemical flood-gates of the mind and create a Rush at the end of EVERY SINGLE POSITIVE AFFIRMATION SENTENCE I'veREPEATED OUTLOUD during the exercise!
Actually, until recently, this was one of the major stumbling blocks for me with ASC. That is, finding a suitable environment for feeling free enough to verbally act out. I'd even gone so far as to drive to an empty supermarket parking lot to do the exercise when the house was full of company! Now though, I've come to discover that I have the ability to create pretty much the same effect under my breath. But, outloud is still best because you stimulate "muscle memory" of what a rush feels like (those memories are usually associated with movement and loud verbal outbursts, etc.). But of course, for those who can afford it, a sound-proof library, music room etc. is ideal.
There is a lot of fantacy that goes into generating mood. I am continually visuaL-izing myself talking to vast audiences while doing the routine. I also pretend to be talking to important people; what ever seems to be stimulating to me at the time. Everything has to be customized to your current place and time. Some days one person is important to you, some days another. Think back over recent sucesses during the exercise and "link" those memories with your current affirmations!
But creating a temporary state of euphoria (hypomania) is not that easy. There's a lot to it. Just like meditating, or using biofeedback to control your blood pressure takes skill and practice, so does this exercise. The first time you try it, you may need to do it for an hour or so, for several days, before you really start getting some significant elevation of mood. Some people don't like looking in a mirror, so it will take a while to reprogram that association. Others will jump right into it. Bipolars (manic-depressives), watch out. If you're like me, you like getting high too much and you need to remember this is a temporary mood you're looking for, not a way of life!!
Now we all know about the value of repeating positive affirmations to overcome negative conditioning, and many of us have practiced saying a few positive words to ourselves while looking into a mirror, but if it was that easy, the Accelerated-State Conditioning technique would have been discovered and become popular years ago! Thus, the third unique concept of AState C is as follows: I believe that the well established practice of repeating positive affirmations works best (for both elevating mood and changing behavior long term) when the repeated affirmations are truly BELIEVED and not just mouthed in a half-hearted hopes that you will become that which you mimic! Actually, "Sefl-Talk" (Dr. Shad Helmstedder), and Psycho-cyber-netics" before that, are effective affirmation therapys over a long period of time, I've just found that creating euphoria through the repeation of believed affirmations is many times faster and more powerful!).
Therefore it's CRUCIAL that the ASC routine begins with repeating words and phrases that you believe no matter how depressed you're feeling. And, what words do we always believe regardless of mood? Well,for most people, its words and sentences referring to character. Words like kind, generous, warm, friendly or honest. (You can make flashcards up with these words, one to a card, on the front, and then sentences discribing examples of your character on the backside).
Then, as the exercise proceeds and you feel a little better, and your mood lifts or elevates a little, you find that you can repeat other positive things about yourself, (from other flashcards), and can comfortably start repeating more positive affir-mations using sentences containing words like neat, thrifty, organized, loving, caring, trustworthy, or whatever normally describes your basic personality and so on. Everyone is different. You scan down long written lists of words and phrases (preferably sentences) and pick up the ones that feel right (you currently believe) at the moment). Sometimes it may depend on what you have been successfull at recently, for example.
As your mood elevates during the exercise, guess what? Your belief system changes! And all of a sudden, as you start getting into a more positive frame of mind (or another "personality", who knows), and you can start remembering (shifting focus, etc.) other good attributes about yourself. Then you can start repeating additional words and phrases from your flash-cards. Words and phrases that you simply refused to believe about your self a few minutes ago when you were less excited (and perhaps focused on your negative-self image).
Getting back to your affirmation flashcards; a great source for building these lists are the Self-Talk paperbacks by Dr. Helmstedder. These books have page after page of terrific positive affirmation senerios and scripts. Take these scripts and build your flash cards , and then pick out and repeat outloud what you believe about yourself (according to you initial mood). Then, during the ASC exercise, before you know it, your're flying along with words and phrases that you would normally only repeat to yourself when you are really "up" and even a little grandiose, (euphoric,.... get it?)! At the end of a routine I literally believe I am everything described in my entire portfolio of affirmations flashcards!
The fourth unique concept of Accelerated-State Conditioning is the hardest part of all! Creating the surge of euphoria at the end of (or even during) each possitive affirmation you repeat outloud. This is done by mentally "linking" the memory of what euphoria feels like with the present behavior of repeating the positive affirmation that you currently believe. The next time you get goosebumps listening to a new song or getting excited at a football game, pay real close attention to how it feels.
Remember the example of biofeedback to regulate blood pressure. It's the same principle at work here. You are learning subtle cues, signals or feelings. You repeat an affirmation while thinking or remembering what a surge of euphoria feels like and all of a sudden the link between the current behavior of repeating the (believed) positive affirmation, and the memory of the feeling of a Rush is made and you actually experience or feel a current Rush as a result of repeating a positive affirmation. And there you are! Pavlov's Classical Cond-itioning, (remember the experiment where the ringing bell makes the dog salivate?)..You have learned how to open the chemical flood-gates of the mind at will! The most incredible psychological tool imaginable to my way of thinking!
Now feeling good and permanently altering and changing personality are obvious-ly reason enough to consider taking a risk and using this experimental exercise, but the benefits are far beyond these two basic attributes!
For example, I have every reason to believe the changes to brain chemistry are enormous during Accelerated-State Conditioning! And unlike the endorphins associated with physical exercise (where the endorphins, etc. are pumped primarily into the blood stream but don't cross the blood/brain barrier according to the latest research), it's obvious to me that the ASC routine is primarily working on my "BRAIN CHEMICALS"!
And I also have reason to believe that during the ASC routine we are creating many "positive and healthy" chemicals with other beneficial attributes, some of which I can't even begin to fully describe at my level of knowledge. What I do know is this; everytime someone currently widely read, opens their mouth, (in just about any scientific or metaphysical field), they are talking about the benefits of everything from endorphins (associated with feelings of well-being and the reduction of pain), to more recently discovered neurotransmitters, to disease fighting interleukin, which is associated with strengthening our immune system. All of which, the mind and body are perfectly capable of creating (or a compar-able natural substance) by themselves according to research.
And believe me, when you're doing an exercise that creates an intense Rush every 30-60 seconds, your pumping tons of this stuff into your bloodstream. No wonder, the effects of this exercise last for hours and sometimes days on end. And now, if I'm creating chemicals, within myself, that fight disease, I've got a darn good reason in and of itself to be doing this routine! Just look at the Mind/Body movement in the health industry...the whole medical world is acknowledging the power of the mind!
Another huge benefit from using ASC is the increase in energy that results from elevating your mood. No one can deny the energy that comes from feeling good. As you do this exercise regularly, it becomes obvious that we have unlimited sources of energy. Our thoughts simply change our interior chemistry and we've got the "fuel" to do it all!
Now obviously, as I said before, ASC is not a cure for depression any more than is anti-depressant medication! But, just like with medication, if you feel better, you're more inclined (have more energy and motivation) to go out and spend some time finding answers (conventional therapy, job and life-style changes, etc.).
Granted, creating a temporary state of euphoria is a double-edged sword. The positive attributes of being temporarily high are obviously tremendous. For a few minutes you are invincible! You're fearless, gregarious, uninhibited, creative ...("happy as an Angel, as Scrooge says), the list goes on and on. But, at the end of the routine, when you come back down to reality, you bring back more and more of these attributes, (as a result of you're new programming), which become a permanent part of your personality and self-image!
But, on the other hand, when you're high, you can be irrational, careless, unobjec-tive ....again the list goes on and on. Obviously, you can't stay in this frame of mind, or make important decisions during these episodes. In fact, it's a good idea to repeat affirmations during the exercise that reinforce objectivity rationality, com-mon-sense" etc. to remind yourself while your high that you have to be careful!
Now even though hypomania is not really a full manic state, (no psychosis or loss of identity), I do not allow myself to maintain this state for more that 15-20 minutes at a time as a rule. Of course some people are often in a similar state much of the time, but they are the rare exception, or they can go into long periods of depres-sion as a result.
But again, the idea of the exercise is to put yourself into this euphoric state for just a few minutes a day, as needed. Just long enough to pull out of any slump you're experiencing and then to drop back to a more level and sustainable mood at the end of the routine. And, for manic-depressives; the more I use ASC routine to stay out of extreme lows, the more I find don't experience the extreem highs of mania. Mania is natures defense against depression and low self-esteem, (granted, its an over-reaction, but when we are extremely depressed it seems to be necessary for many of us to revert to this mania.) So, ASC serves to keep me in the "middle road" instead of experiencing wild mood swings.
Another benefit from ASC is that it creates tremendous optimism in the user. Hope springs eternal the saying goes, and because creating euphoria results in a mind expansion of sorts, you begin to see your true potential. Naturally, a better way is to feel good about ourselves is to actually accomplish things, but when we are depressed, or even just lethargic and unmotivated, the option of action escapes most of us.
Another benefit to ASC appeals to that part of me which I like to think of as spir-itual. I think getting high with ASC is one of the most spiritual events going. When I'm high, I'm loving, caring, altruistic, non-judgemental, understanding. Sounds like a pretty good description of spirituality to me!
Unlike most exercises of one type or another, ASC is easy to start-up. And, un-ike physical exercise,there is no real pain involved with beginning the exercise. You just stand there and start mumbling a few words, until you start waking up! It doesn,t hurt (like starting up that rowing machine)! In fact, you begin looking for-ward to it because you know it's going to feel good.
It becomes what the psychiatrist William Glaser describes, in his book of the same name; a "Positive Addiction"! What keeps bringing us back to the exercise, is not the pain of withdrawal, as with a physical, chemical or process addiction, but rather the memory of the pleasurable positive results and benefits. And, unlike anti-depressant medication, ASC is only used as needed. You're not bombarding yourself with medication continuallly, as with stimulates steroids ,etc. as do the anti-depressants (see Ann Blake Tracy's Prozac, Pandora or Panacea? - 1994). After all, with psyhological medications you cant just stop and start them as needed because they can only be reduced gradually over a period of days or even weeks!
Another benefit to the ASC routine involves overcoming fears and inhibitions. Especially the fear of socialization and public-speaking. I really believe these fears are at the core of my illness. I grew up extremely shy and withdrawn and immediately upon beginning to use this routine I noticed it greatly enhanced my ability to get out there and mingle and even give a few speeches.
Another powerful benefit to Accelerated-State Conditioning is that the routine helps you "get in touch with your feelings". Many times I've tried to start the exercise and felt extremely upset when trying to repeat positive words about myself while looking into the mirror. It can be like shame! Now, I've come to realize this negative can be turned into a positive.. that these feelings are really helpful, because often times I don't really realize how much hurt, anger, etc., I've been burying (stuffing) at any given moment. To be able to actually identify and allow myself to "feel" these feelings is of great value.
When I identify these feelings at the beginning of an A.S.C. exercise, I top the routine, (I'm always by myself when I do the exercise), and I let myself feel these negative feelings. I literally "accept and acknowledge the pain". And guess what, it never lasts! I have "dealt with the feelings to a certain extent and it greatly dissipates on its own. I haven't "avoided the feeling" by going into my addictive/compulsive routines! Dr. Deepak Chopra talks a lot about this technique in his "The Higher Self" series, and of course the 12-step recovery/codependency literature is full of this knowledge.
And one more possible use for ASC. What about those suffering from addictions. Many mental health educators explain "addictions", as behavior designed to avoid feelings rather than feel them. Believe me, if you start using the ASC routine, you are goingt to have feelings...big time! And, if you have to create an artificial high, why not do it in a manner that does not have physical destruction, financial ruin, etc. as a by-product. ASC isn't even addicting! Like any exercise it actually takes a little effort to force yourself to do it! In twenty some years of use I still have to prod myself somewhat to get started (but like I say, it's certainly not painful so it doesn't take much to get going).
Before concluding I want to insert another warning: Because ASC relieves the pain associated with depression it can inhibit a desire and eliminate the motivation to understand what's causing the depression to begin with! (Not unlike the anti-depressant medication Prozac from reports I read)!
I realized a long time ago, that to break this cycle of mood swings I was going to have to do therapy, etc. and thus I have reduced substantially the need to elevate my mood routinely by finding out what my triggers to depression are, etc.. (My bias of course is that I am assuming there is a psychological component to be dealt with).
Finally, I want to talk a little bit about alternative ways (other than chemical, all-though sometimes I'll use an over-the-counter sedative like Uni-Som if I'm really getting hyper) to dealing with hypomania, should you find yourself too high, unable to sleep, racing thoughts, overly optimistic, careless, compulsive, etc. after an ASC routine.
The most powerful "downer" I've ever discovered is going into "SLOW-MOTION"!! You literally physically move at the slowest possible pace and totally focus on your movements. It's incredible! Try it sometime for a full five minutes if you can! Your thoughts slow down, your heart rate slows down, you start relaxing. You can even do it in a chair, in a crowded room. Just totally focus on your hands for example and move them so slow no one even notices what you're doing. The key to it is "total focus". It is so powerful it rarely fails to slow my thoughts down! I think it triggers all the "muscle-memories" that are associated with non-movement and non-action.
Another extremely powerful tool for dealing with the hypomanic state is Transcendental Meditation, but, since it's widely recognized I will not elaborate here.
Another powerful downer for me is turning over my disease to a higher power.I'm not going to develop the ideas behind the 12-step/recovery movement here but it sure has "instantly" cured or halted many a potential manic episode for me. Try it first, ...it never hurts to ASC for help...sorry, just a little sick humor!).
So, no matter how you feel, or where you're at, remember, mood follows thoughts and behavior. So, maybe you too can can control your moods without medication or whatever you use to "medicate" yourself! Maybe you and I both have the potential to feel "on top of the world" everyday of our lives, who knows!
Finally, for those interested, I'd like to explain how I discovered the idea for Accelerated-State-Conditioning it in the first place. In 1976 I was working as a real estate agent. I'd been working for about three years and was not very successful (actually, I was a "flop")! Selling is not exactly the job of choice for someone who suffers from shyness, but there I was, working late one night, alone in my office, practicing a "listing presentation" (sort of a one-on-one speech), outloud. The interior lights in the office formed a mirror on the front plate glass windows and I was watching my facial expressions in this "mirror" as a spoke.
I had been doing this for around an hour, when all of a sudden I started feeling extremely good. And the better I felt, the more dynamic my speech became! All of a sudden, I started feeling extremely confident and I realized (hope springs eternal) that I had the potential to be a powerful speaker! (A thought completely opposite from my "self-image").
Of course what had happened was, I had worked myself into a euphoric hypo-manic) state (probably another personality)! In fact, because I didn't realize what was going on, (as I mentioned earlier), I ended up eventually working myself up into a "manic" episode after a couple of days of running around like superman without sleeping or eating. (I was too excited thinking about what a terrific sales-man I was going to become to realize I was getting sick (manic))!
Now that I think about it, I had every reason in the world to be excited! I knew I had stumbled onto a procedure that can change personality overnight! In fact, my poor eye-contact problem, that I had suffered with for years, literally vanished that night, and has never really come back! I had literally become a different person as a result of that one manic episode!
Well good luck, hope this little "self-expose" gives you something to think about.
Maybe (after consulting with your mental health professional), you'll decide to take a risk,.. get a little "high" now and then and start Accelerating!
And, for you mental health counselors, a suggestion. You take a risk too! Put a mirror in your office. Build a little "smiling faces collage"; and for the final 15 or 20 minutes of each therapy session, help your "appropriate" clients build an ASC routine. And encourage them, not to talk or discuss negative behavior or thoughts for the final third or fourth of your session with them. I'll bet you a-dollar-to-a-doughnut they will be back next week! Why, because you will have helped them shift their focus during the last part of the session to their positive attributes. Their mood will probably be at least somewhat elevated, they will have a plan of action that they can use daily and the energy and motivation to come back and start "getting to the bottom" of things!
TO BE CONTINUED!
If you have questions or comments please feel free to phone or EMail me. I will try to respond as quickly as possible.
The top photograph was by USGS on Unsplash. We are grateful.
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