The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Monday, October 27, 2014

Loosening Our Grip

(this article accompanies ‘Horses for Courses’ – though is also a stand-alone article in its own right)

Security and Protection

When we want to move on, and yet struggle to make any progress because we cannot let go of something, then we hold that ‘something’ in place for the purposes of security. We are using it to protect us from the unfamiliar, the unknown, that which we perceive as threatening, or is a perceived danger to our well-being.

Of course an actual danger to our well-being, in the moment, would, as a rule, be whisked out of the domain of our thinking and be dealt with by our ‘fight or flight’ response. It is a response in that pre-evolved ‘lizard’ part of our brain that facilitates our instinct for survival.

In my article “Throw Caution to the Wind”
I look at the whole area of caution, being cautious, having a cautious mindset, and running many things in our lives from that perspective.

Now a lot of our present day ‘security and protection’ facility operates at the level of the perceived threat, or the unknown or even the unfamiliar – rather than an actual threat. We will think about the threat, and then respond to our thinking rather than the threat itself. We will run through a whole load of “what if” scenarios and play out the nature of the threat, and calibrate our subjective response to our imagined scenarios.

Making mistakes

Some of us have issues with making mistakes. 

This is the home-town domain of the perfectionist personalities, who place particular demands upon themselves within an atmosphere of zero tolerance of anything less than 100% successful outcomes. Others, mere mortals, are excused having to operate within such strictures – yet for the self is reserved much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and varying degrees of beating up. Most of the drama is played out at a verbal level, yet sometimes objects close by take the wrath. At the extreme end of the scale there is even self abuse of a physical nature.

People who fall off the wagon in terms of dieting or other forms of abstinence will binge eat, or go on benders. Sports persons will hit out, kick out and smash equipment - bats, rackets and clubs are easy targets. Whilst this is frustration played out at the level of behaviour, the aftermath is often guilt or remorse followed by cautious protection.

When I was younger I would be very wary of attempting anything new, because – as person who didn’t like to be seen to make a mistake – I would protect myself from the threat of being imperfect. The greater irony was that the person I was trying to hide the possible making of a mistake from was - Myself the Judge.

Judgmentally, perfectionists over-ride curiosity, maybes and possibilities with “if I make a mistake then I can’t do it. If I can’t do it then I am no good - and not just no good at IT, but no good at ANYTHING.
So we don’t go there. We protect ourselves. 

In my case, if it was something I really wanted to do, I would sneak away and try to practise in private so that I gained a level of competence that exceeded the threshold of judged perfection.

It sounds crazy – yet all of this strategy is designed to protect us from feeling threatened.

Symptoms and Help

“Have you got any tips, or strategies Pete, to help when this happens for me?” This is a question I get asked regularly and, of course, it is about alleviating the symptoms that accompany the perceived threats. These are real and tangible symptoms, felt in some way shape or form in the body.

Of course there are a whole range of tips and strategies available to all of us, and often we just come up with ideas and go off and use or build our own.
The perfectionists build theirs, for some others there’s the ‘chemical’ route, there’s the avoidance route I’ve already mentioned, some grit their teeth and brace themselves against ‘a bumpy ride’,  and there’s the ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ route.
The list is long, and is about as long as we can be ingenious in our protective strategy building.  

We rarely ask for help as a first resort, unless we happen to know someone who might help. If a particular strategy isn’t working then we’ll come up with another. Or we might share our problems with a friend, who will then share what they know and tell us “I know a friend of a friend who did THIS when they had something like THAT affecting their lives.

The thing with symptoms is that they sit, like guards, at the gate, door or entrance to the places where the real issues are. “If you plan to go in there, then you’ll have to get past us first,” they seem to say.

The other thing with tips how to deal with symptoms is that the answer usually lies in the symptoms themselves, which can often give a really good clue to dealing with those ‘guards.’

Where, Way, Shape or Form

Earlier in this article I wrote this line:
These are real and tangible symptoms, felt in some way  shape or form in the body.” And, for me at least, the clues are - where in the body are the symptoms, and what way, shape or form do they take?

For some, describing where (usually in the torso) is straightforward, plus they often can also identify the way, shape or form the feelings are taking as well. The symptoms may have some colour, or direction or type of motion. They may also have a particular shape, density or temperature.

For some, however, they may describe that they feel the symptoms in their head or, more specifically, in their thoughts (which are in the mind and hence, needless to say, are in the head.) Now, though they are in the mind, they may actually still carry way, shape or form attributes – but often these are not always identified straightaway and need investigating to ascertain any ‘identity’.

And it is this investigating that we rarely undertake for ourselves – mainly because those ‘guarding’ symptoms are just SO strong that we cannot deal with anything else whilst they are raging.


This brings me to the very real issues of the client I mentioned in the article Horses for Courses – the client with the over-analytical mind (sic).

It was in our first meeting where her ‘guarding’ symptoms actually rose to the surface whilst she was talking to me about them. They certainly were powerful and my client was somewhat distressed to say the least.

One of the things about guarding symptoms, like that, is that they raise the frequency of brainwave activity and narrow our mental focus. At the extreme end of the symptomatic spectrum I can best describe it as being like a mental panic attack. 

I have a personal recollection of more than twenty years of intermittent and unpleasant experiences of this nature and so am quite familiar with both how it appears on the outside and, more to the point, how it feels on the inside.

I asked her to rest her hands near her lap, to open the fingers out and let them interlock but not touch each other. If they did touch then it didn’t matter and she was to just let them move away from the accidental touch. I invited her to notice the spaces between her fingers and to let her focus drift to a point way beyond.

Although clearly upset she complied and held her hands thus open fingered as I talked to her gently about the distant focus and noticing the fingers, and the spaces, for just under a minute. 

I then invited her to relax her hands and notice how her breathing pattern had changed and, when she was ready, to tell me how she now felt and what was different from how she had felt prior to the brief fingers and spaces exercise.

She was quite astonished at how quickly she had been able to get from such a distressed state into such a well grounded one, and I assured her that she could use this whenever she chose or felt it was necessary. Plus, the more familiar she got with it, the more accomplished she would become.

I also explained to her what it was, what had happened, and how it had enabled her to release that particularly non-resourceful state of mind that she had previously struggled to let go of.


For me, one of the most significant pieces of my recent learning and discovery has been in the area of mental focus which began when an esteemed friend and colleague recommended the book “The Open Focus Brain” by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins.

From within the concepts and exercises outlined within this book, I have developed both an open-eyed and a close-eyed hypnotic induction that I would describe as being equally brief in content and rapid in effect. 

I use each of them quite regularly now with clients and also myself. They can be either stepping stones, gateways to therapeutic changework or positive transformation etc., or a brief stand-alone means of alleviating agitated or ‘perturbed’ states of mind. I have found them beneficial in alleviating physical pain, as well as being useful as a short yet effective demonstration of how closely linked our physical and mental focus can be, and how we can quickly become calm and grounded whilst still maintaining a good state of alertness.

It might be described as a part of distraction technique, or as a pattern interrupt, and to an extent I would agree. Yet, there are some really beneficial effects also going on here which don’t just emanate from interrupting a pattern or distracting a train of thought or perception. 
The key elements are focus and the engagement of sensual language.

We engage with the material (fingers) and the immaterial (the spaces) and we notice the relationship between them. We draw our focus from the material in close and narrow focus to the immaterial in wider or broader focus. We are engaged with sensual language and drawn away from inner dialogue. We are invited to notice, yet to avoid, touch. And in the midst of all this, our agitated or perturbed state, and the associated high frequency of brainwave activity associated with it, dampens down, levels and settles into something much more grounded. 

My client, clearly enabled by this little routine, was now much better placed to investigate beyond the guards at the gate of her underlying issues. And thus it was that she moved on, and what happened next for her is described in the adjacent article “Horses for Courses.”

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