We have a great deal of influence over what happens in our movie of life explains Graham Price

Cinemas may need to evolve if they’re to survive the march of technology. One way might be that each of us could have a screen that enables us to adopt any role in the movie. Other people’s scripts could automatically adjust to what we say and do. We wouldn’t need to react negatively to what others say or do. We could act more freely and powerfully than we might in our normal lives. After all, it’s just a movie.

But this technology already exists. It’s called ‘life’. We already have a great deal of influence over what happens in our movie of life. We can already choose what we say and do. Others adjust their script to respond to what we say or do. We can already choose not to react negatively to whatever others say or do. And we can already act more freely and powerfully, than we might have done until now. The question is: can we enjoy the benefits this freedom brings, or do we need to wait for cinemas to evolve in the way I’ve described?

Most of us spend our entire lives on autopilot. Our autopilot (or ‘mindset’) is all the unconscious patterns, beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, abilities and programming that drive the way we think, feel and act all the time. The ways we respond to people and situations are driven by our autopilot. Even our choices, that we may think are being freely made, in truth rarely are. They too are mostly driven by our autopilot.

We spend much of our lives reinforcing our autopilot. If we avoid things that make us anxious, we reinforce the unconscious beliefs driving anxiety. If we withdraw and isolate because we’re depressed, we reinforce the unconscious beliefs driving depression. If we do things we’re compelled to do, such as overeating, OCD or addictions, we reinforce the beliefs driving our compulsions. To resolve these issues, we need to accept our feelings, desires and compulsions and repeatedly do the opposite of what they’re telling us to do.

By contrast, if we habitually act confidently and powerfully, we’ll reinforce unconscious beliefs driving our confidence. To create a more powerful autopilot, we need to regularly act outside our comfort zone, and accept any discomfort that may initially arise.

To make our lives highly resilient and free from stress, we need to understand that negative thoughts always want something to be different. So negative thoughts about the past or present are always wishing for the impossible, as the past can never be different, and we cannot undo what already is. So, to dispel negative thoughts we need to ‘accept what is’ all the time (stop wanting things to be ‘already’ different) and focus only on how to make the future better.

We need to stop wanting aspects of the future that we cannot control to be different from the way they might be (my definition of ‘worry’). Every worrying thought should be replaced by acceptance of ‘whatever might be’. Then focus on actions to gain more control of whatever we were worrying about.

To deal with challenges in relating to others, we need to ‘own our reactions’ (rather than blaming then on those who triggered them), make an effort to understand the perspective of others and seek compromise or win-win solutions.

If all limiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours are driven by our autopilot, how can we escape from, or positively change, our autopilot? It’s ultimately our behaviour that drives this. That’s good news because, while it’s too late to change or undo early life experiences, it’s not too late to change our behaviour. The prime way to escape from any limiting aspects of our autopilot is to become aware of those limiting patterns, and be willing to act in more productive or powerful ways than our current thoughts or feelings are telling us to do. Philosophers call this ‘exercising free will’. If we repeatedly do this, we’ll strengthen our autopilot. Without needing cinemas to evolve, we’ll be able to take complete control of our lives.

Graham W Price is a chartered psychologist, personal and executive coach and development trainer. He’s an accredited member of the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) and a leading provider of Acceptance Action Therapy ... (Read More)

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