Sunday, December 6, 2009

Introduction To: Assertive Psychology (Includes Exercise)

As I've promised, here is the first of the Introduction To: collection, which will explain many of the concepts I'll be rambling about for the next indefinite period of time. These will attempt to break down things to very simple terms, in an attempt to make it easier (hopefully) for you to understand what I'm talking about. So here goes:

First of all, I don't aim to mislead, so a disclaimer: Look, I'm not a doctor. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not even a med school student. I'm an 18-year-old (how many people just left?) high school senior who likes the direction in which his life is headed. As far as assertive psychology goes, I've been developing this and using this for a while now and I feel it's effective enough that I want to share. It's really as simple as that.

Assertive psychology is simply my term for a combination of paradigm and technique that empowers you to be in control of yourself. The concept of being in control of one's self seems to be a given. But those who have ever tried to break a bad habit or accomplish something challenging knows it's not so easy. Assertive psychology is the means to shape your conscious and subconscious thinking in order to accomplish what you so desire. I'm writing vaguely here for a reason; assertive psychology is applicable to almost anything. Furthermore, if you want to accomplish something technical (say, being able to perform Liszt's 1st Piano Concerto), I believe you've got to start at the most basic level: The mind.

The paradigm behind AP is this: You are in control, of yourself and your actions.

You have to believe this. This is the first lesson in AP. Even if it doesn't feel like it, you have to believe and remind yourself that you are in control.

It really is that simple. AP is the basis which will allow you to stop bad habits or build new better ones. I'll be unfolding the methodologies over the next few weeks, as I can discover and refine them. The following is a very important exercise that will provide a starting point for stress relief and mental organization:

AP Exercise: Meditation

I could write an entire book on meditation. Well, perhaps not myself, because I wouldn't have enough material. However, it's been done, and not without reason: Meditation, something revolving around simplicity, is also terribly complex. What I'm showing you here is an example of "mindfulness" meditation. In this case, it is strictly secular. The goal is to clear the mind of active thought for a brief moment of time. This contrast to the typical mind (overactive and distracted) allows one better concentration and mental ability.

Method: You'll need a fairly quiet, unpopulated space. As you progress, you may find you can meditate under busier conditions, but to build a foundation, use a quiet, empty space for now. Enter a position that's comfortable for you. For some reason, I prefer the stereotypical legs-crossed, hands-in-lap pose, but anything that suits you will work.

Close your eyes. Take deep, low, slow breaths, using your diaphragm to pull the air deep into your lungs. Focus on the sound of your breath. Focus all of your senses on that sound (even sight, though your eyes are closed). When you can do that, concentrate on nothing. This, of course, is easier said than done. Outside sounds and distractions will occur. Acknowledge them if you must, but do not think about them. If you're having trouble concentrating on nothing, visualize something empty or blank. I often visualize myself sitting on a pedestal in an empty white room. Be patient! Initially, you will not be able to maintain extended periods of successful 'thinking about nothing.' This requires practice. Aim for about 10 minutes a day.

When you feel you are done meditating, do not immediately open your eyes and move. Exit with mantras. Whatever your specific goal is for that day or period, repeat it to yourself, several times. Maintaining your meditative focus, concentrate on nothing but that mantra. Believe it. If you're truly isolated, speak the mantra aloud. If you're not, however, narrate the mantra in your head while mouthing along to it. Slowly open your eyes, and when you feel ready, exit your position, leave your room/space, and head out.

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