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The MythoSelf Experience

Why Ambivalence Could Seriously Affect Your Health

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For some of us, ambivalence seems like a safe option in the face of an unpleasant decision. If we're asked to take a stand for or against an issue - whether it be the choice of who to vote for, what to invest our money in, whether to change our career to something we really want, or even who to love - we might weigh the pros and cons of our options in our minds, see risks for either side we choose, and decide, ultimately, not to decide. In our minds, this makes sense: at present, we're probably not facing a crisis, so why not continue on with things the way they are, rather than making a dangerous choice and introducing risk into our lives?

What we often don't consider, however, is that by refraining from making a decision, we're thinking in fundamentally avoidant terms about our lives. And when we're thinking in avoidant terms about making decisions - when we're being ambivalent - we put ourselves at risk for significant health problems.

The reason for this has to do with the way our minds process information. According to the theory behind Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), our minds are constructed in a way that makes us better at processing positive statements than negative statements. When we think in positive terms - for example, when we think "I'm going to take that new job in a new town" - our minds focus directly on the positive term in the statement: the new job. But when we think in negative terms - for example, when we think "I don't want to decide on this new job just yet" - our brains process two terms: the negative "no", and the positive "this new job". And, since our minds prefer to think in positive terms, what we focus on is always the positive term. Take any negative intention you like, any concrete thing that the mind is designed to avoid - unhappiness, illness, heartbreak - and the results will be the same. We remain focused on exactly what we ultimately want to avoid.

When we have these kinds of negatively-directed programs running in our mind, we're beset by feelings of rootless dread. It seems as though our "hearts are in the right place", as it's said; consciously, we believe that we want to avoid things that we recognize to be harmful or otherwise bad. But even though we know what we don't want, we've left no room in our mind's programming to let us know what we do want - the only natural counter to what we'd rather avoid. So in our minds, we're surrounded by apparent threats - failing, being unhappy, being rejected - without a sense of what we can do to escape the threats.

This is exactly the mental situation responsible for producing chronic stress. Our body enters a state of stress as a reaction against perceived threats around us, heightening our physical functioning and increasing our sensitivity to a wide range of environmental cues. This allows us to respond effectively to threats, to get ourselves out of danger, and to restore a normal world around us so that our bodies can, in turn, restore their normal functions. However, if our sense of danger and threat is exclusively self-created and exclusively internal, we might find it very difficult to get ourselves "out of danger". Like animals with carrots dangling in front of our faces, our neural programming makes us see what we're trying to avoid - makes us see threats - wherever we choose to turn. And so we never get the signal that our bodies should return to normal: we never get the signal that we should no longer be stressed.

And stress is no small problem. Our nervous system, when under stress, begins flooding our bodies the hormones that bring about our increased sensitivity and oxygen usage. But even though these hormones allow us to respond more effectively to immediate threats, they can, over time, cause significant health problems. A full account of these problems and their causes can be found in the e-book The Menace of Stress, but some of the more common ones include muscle fatigue, memory loss, high blood pressure, reduced immune system functionality, and chronic emotional problems. All of these - and more - are caused by stress. Stress, in turn, is largely caused by sensations of source less dread and anxiety, which are caused by negative patterns of thinking - which are caused by ambivalence.

So what's the solution to the problem? The solution is simple: don't rely on ambivalence as an easy way out of difficult decisions. Weigh the evidence, think about the pros and cons of either side, and then just decide and act on the decision.

To anyone who frequently uses ambivalence as a refuge from tough decisions, this course of action might seem dangerous, foolhardy, and even absurd. But consider the consequences of the other course of action - the attempt to take no action at all. Ambivalence, and the chronic stress it brings, can have serious consequences on your health. And in order to escape them, only one step is necessary: you must decide.

Generative NLP are a refreshingly plain spoken resource and training centre for the MythoSelf® Process that is based in South West London and was founded in 2001 by Charles Moore who is one of only a handful of people who has the privilege of being in a close mentoring relationship with the models creator, Joseph Riggio Ph.D. from the beginning. 

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