~ Dr. Cynthia Phelps
Pronoia reminds me of what people call rose-colored glasses.
It got me thinking, rarely (if ever) have I heard “rose colored glasses” used in a positive light. It’s usually been spoken to me as a warning or admonition that I was being too positive and I better watch out because bad things were going to happen.
The default mode network is a mental state where we are scanning the internal and external environment anticipating things that could harm us. You can imagine that if you were living in the jungle, or working in a dangerous situation, having an active default mode network would keep you out of harm's way, as it would alert you to any possible dangers, and turn your attention towards them.
But in present day society this default mode network does not always serve us. Often we are completely safe and out of harm's way, but our default mode network is still telling us “hey, that guy in the meeting doesn’t like you, he’s going to get you fired,” or “you are running out of money and your going to be destitute.” Often these messages are far more dramatic than the actual situations and can cause unneeded stress and anxiety.
When our default mode network picks up something it thinks is a threat, it treats it like a life-or-death situation. So we end up with adrenaline pumping through our systems for no good reason. Even worse, having an overactive default mode network can raise your levels of cortisol which causes many of the negative health effects of stress.
So back to rose colored glasses.
First a story. I had a client come to me because he was miserable and could not see the joy in his life anymore. He was is a difficult situation with an adult son living with him who had mental health and addiction issues. Society is happy to validate his sadness and frustration.
He was attracted to my work in self-compassion, yet, he was still very skeptical that there was anything that could make a difference after all the therapy, group meetings, and self-help books he had forged through.
When we first met, he said something along the lines of “So this self-compassion stuff is like you telling me to put on my rose-colored glasses, right?” I laughed and said “actually, it may be more about taking off your crap-colored glasses.” This gave him pause, and then made him laugh heartily.
We spent the rest of his session looking carefully at the thoughts he was generating about his son and situation and how we could shift them to be more self-compassionate as a way to get back to joy. Basically we were looking for where his default mode network was telling him stories about how bad things are and will be.
What I love about self compassion is that the process is not about taking negative thoughts and forcing them to be positive (putting on the rose colored glasses). The process is about noticing the difficult thoughts and seeing how they make you feel, and if they are causing suffering, to give yourself some love for that suffering.
Once you have shown yourself some compassion, then take a careful look at the thoughts causing your suffering. How can you create a replacement thought that is compassionate, honest and fosters a sense of well-being? These new compassionate thoughts can be referred to on a regular basis as a reminder to help you to take off the crap-colored glasses.
You are in charge of the thoughts in your head and how they make you feel about the world and people around you. It really does make a difference how you frame your thoughts. It can change your emotions and your behavior.
What I love about self compassion is that it’s a gentle way of shifting out of the default mode network and opening to the possibility that you can see the world and yourself in a new light.
At the very least, take off the crap-colored glasses.
Cynthia has a passion to help people improve their mental wellness through the practice of inner compassion. She founded InnerAlly a company that develops mobile technologies to help people practice compassion on a daily basis. Her background is in neuroscience with a focus in learning and behavior change. She has over 18 years of experience in developing tools to help people change their health behaviors. She is a Peer Recovery Coach and a Trained Teacher of Mindful Self-compassion.
Dr Phelps is offering a life-changing course in how to practice self-compassion in San Antonio starting on Mondays at 6:00 to 8:30pm from September 17 - November 13, 2018. This 8 week program is based on groundbreaking research that has been shown to raise your levels of self-compassion so you can make the changes you want in your own life. Learn more here: CynthiaChelps.com/msc or by contacting her directly at 713-478-4018 or at Cynthia@InnerAlly.com
Copyright Cynthia Phelps 2018