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Old June 3rd, 2005, 02:57 PM  
...La De Dah!
-Silence's Forum Picture
Name: Heather, Duh.
Join Date: March 29, 2004
Location: The Sunshine State.
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Default Emotional Thought Stopping

My step mother printed this out and gave it to me, maybe it'll help someone here.


Emotional Thought Stopping

Depression - A Mood Enhancing Exercise
The following is a mood enhancing exercise which is based on theories I present in "The relationship of the conscious and the subconscious mind". It is not to be considered a therapy for depression, as a therapy is more complete and would include an accurate definition of the type of depression, an action to implement based on that diagnosis, and finally addressing what changes you need to make in order to maintain a more depression free life after therapy.

Emotional thought stopping is probably most effective for those individuals who are severely depressed and experiencing strong suicidal urges. Effectiveness of the procedure will depend on ones total commitment to the process and that they not change anything outlined herein. Why? The person with unipolar depression will have the tendency to "yes-but" the procedure and discount many of the concepts to the point that it becomes ineffective. Also, the person with bipolar disorder ( manic depression ) will feel a need to enhance or add to the procedures (possibly overdo something) to a point that their changes may cause the exercise to become harmful. Please, let's all of us stick to the agenda as outlined and heed all of the warnings!

You can not fail at this procedure. If you faithfully adhere to all of the concepts outlined and your mood is not substantially lifted, you have not failed and there is no reason to despair. The experience would merely be another in a series of steps one might try in order to find what will be effective in reversing, or living more comfortably with their depression. This may help a person to decide that therapy is needed and one may further decide, with the help of their therapist, that drugs, and/or intensive therapy will be beneficial.

Emotional thought stopping is simple, (some may even use the term simplistic) and anyone can easily do it. The concept is not new, as it has its roots in the genius of the early Greeks. You may have been exposed to the procedure if you are familiar with the bible, and some modern therapists use its concepts. There are some basic changes I have made to both the reasoning behind this procedure, and changes I have implemented concerning the actual technique.

Ending Depression - What are our Goals?

1. We will not attempt to solve life's problems or the problems caused by our depression or mania at this time, but for a short period of time we will protect ourselves from the negative emotions caused by those problems.

2. We will regain control of our emotions.

3. We will protect ourselves from thoughts of hopelessness concerning our future.

4. We will substantially lessen our suicidal urges.

How Does Emotional Thought Stopping Work Against Depression?

What we are concerned with are those thoughts which are automatically sent by the unconscious into the conscious mind, due to the intensity of unresolved emotion associated with ongoing problems in our life. When using emotional thought stopping, that automatic thought from the unconscious is cut off the very second it is presented, period!

Thoughts of suicide, anger, dispair, self degradation, past emotional trauma, and future hopelessness are stopped the instant they are presented to the conscious mind. Why? Because allowing that thought to remain in the conscious mind, when a person is depressed, will reinforce and intensify the negative emotion, no matter what the conscious intellect tries to do!

We have been trying to rid ourselves of these negative emotions for some time now, and have failed, each failure reinforces the negative emotion and insures that our subconscious will continue to present these negative emotions to our conscious mind.

Again, during this exercise we do not try to solve any of life's problems or the problems caused by our depression, in fact, we do not even allow thoughts concerning our problems to remain in the conscious, even for a second. The very first thought which is thrown from the conscious the second it is presented is any thought that has to do with suicide.

How do we do this? I send negative thoughts back to the subconscious the second they are presented with a resounding sub-vocal "stop". Actually, over time the word "stop" has been replaced with a sort of primal grunt. I clear my mind, if the thought returns I send it back with more intensity. The word "stop" may have to be so intense that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand out and your spine tingle with intensity. Throw the thought of suicide back into the subconscious with a vengeance, match or exceed the intensity of the emotion with the word,

"STOP!" "I don't deserve this!"
"STOP!" "I--want control!"
Use the energy of your anger! Use the power of your despair against the very depression that spawned it!

Next, or at the same time, begin to stop all thoughts that have anything to do with life's problems or the problems caused by your depression.

"I deserve to die!" "STOP!"
"I'll never get a job!" "STOP!"
"If only I--" "STOP!"
"That bastard always--" "STOP!"
"My depression is caused by--" "STOP!"
"They make me--" "STOP!"
"The pain will never end!" "STOP!"
"But--" "STOP!"

This must be done for at least a full day! From the very moment you awake until you fall off to sleep, you should not have reinforced one single negative thought, not one!

A very important time is just before you fall to sleep that first night. A significant part of this exercise is during our REM sleep after this first day. We have not reinforced one negative emotion, possibly for the first 24 hour period in years. Our "dream work" after this first day has much to do with the success of this mood enhancing exercise.

Problem solving is considered a positive undertaking, yet problem solving when we are depressed, is what gets many of us in trouble.

At times,I have thought of possible solutions to my problems, and mentally acted out how those solutions would help my life. Then I would begin thinking of reasons why it probably would not work, and eventually I would end in a worse depressed state than before the session began. All this, within the confines of my own bedroom. Even if it seems as though we have a good idea and problem solving seems to be a positive undertaking, at this time we must refrain, especially if we are in a manic phase. For two days we are working on emotions, not life problems.

Similar procedures have been tried before with varying degrees of effectiveness. The short comings of prior attempts have to do with the lack of intensity and their intermittent nature. If we find a beneficial procedure in a self-help book or during a therapy session, we possibly feel better for a short period of time, but the nature of our depression soon overwhelms this feeling and we are back where we started. One hour of help once or twice a week, even with possible home work assignments, allows ample time for our negative ruminations and suicidal urges to return and plague us once again.

Combating Depression - Positive Thought

Many times attempts are made to supplement mood altering exercises with positive affirmations. When we are depressed, positive affirmation is counter productive and in effect are attempts to lie to the subconscious mind. Positive affirmations are attempts to shove positive thoughts into the subconscious, the subconscious will not respond. We have all experienced the anger and despair after being told "to look on the bright side", or "every cloud has a silver lining" etc.

I remember once, while in very bad shape, I was doing my usual last minute Christmas shopping, (I think it was the 26th of December) and I passed a book store with a large display of Erma Bombeck's book, "If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Always in the Pits?" The title triggered something! My mind exploded! I screamed, "bowl of cherries? -bowl of cherries? - LIFE IS A BOWL OF CRAP!" I said it over, and over, and over. If one perceives that they are mired in fecal matter, what matter the smell of roses?

A Positive Thought does not Cancel a Negative Thought!

Why? Our body has receptors which are sensitive to the sensations of heat, cold, pressure, and pain. The sensation of intense pain takes precedence over all other sensations. This is essential to our very survival.

If you are making love to your spouse in the privacy of your own bedroom and suddenly, out of nowhere, a tiger grabs you by the ass - who you gonna talk to? Likewise intense pain, and the anticipation of pain (fear) also takes precedence in our mind, and will block positive thought until the pain is resolved.

We all long for the return of the endorphins of joy, of love, of pleasure, of contentment, and for the return of expectation.

The truth is, they have not left us, they are still within us, yet at this time cannot be accessed. But, after a day or possibly two of blocking our negative thought by using emotional thought stopping the subconscious will send a positive thought to the conscious mind. It will be something like "Maybe there is something worthwhile in this mood enhancing exercise" or "Maybe tomorrow will be just a little better".

It is this internally generated positive thought from the subconscious that you want to seize and to reinforce. Go with it! In other words, do not try to shove positive thought into the subconscious, let them come in response to the renewed hope you gain from emotional thought stopping.

Caution! Be aware that when the positive thoughts begin to be sent from the subconscious, you will at first, be very elated. But this small glimmer of hope will be interrupted by a thought of "yes, but", where you acknowledge the positive thought, but think that it is too little, to late, and you begin to match that positive thought against all of the other problems in your life. If you allow this to happen the negative in your life will shortly cancel this small glimmer of hope. You must stop the negative "yes, but" thought, and wait for the subconscious to send another positive thought. It will, shortly!

The Future: Narrow Your Horizons

For the short period of this exercise let there be no future beyond these two days! We are already stopping any thought concerning suicide, so that emotion is not being reinforced, now let us stop all thoughts concerning the future. We are not pretending it doesn't exist, nor are we trying to lie to the subconscious about how dismal our future looks, we are simply not reinforcing the negative emotion associated with our future.

Our future now exists of that hot shower or relaxing bath you are about to take. As you sit in the tub or sauna your mind is occupied with the task at hand, nothing else, and the future consists of that warm and relaxed feeling you have after a bath in which you had no feelings of negative emotion. Continue in this manner throughout the next two days, looking forward to that special meal you are about to prepare, or that good book you are about to read. Exercise if it works for you.

I don't pretend to know what it is like to be totally alone, or about to die, or in prison, although I have been close to suicide and have been in situations where the highlight of my week was a bowel movement. I suppose one gets tired of hearing "to take it one day at a time". If one believes in God and in heaven, then there is a more positive view of our future. But, the mental and physical pain here on earth may cause us to lose sight of that eventual bliss. We cannot change what is, we can only change our emotional response, to what is and will be. Emotional thought stopping just may help us "to make it better, one day at a time"

What we are attempting to accomplish is to plan, execute, and feel a sense of pride and relief, that something in the future is not hopeless, that something can go right. Small steps, small rewards, more to come.

What Past?

Sandpaper off your finger prints, get a face make over, and burn your resume. A little drastic? Then try the same things concerning the past as we did concerning the future. It happened, but we are not going to let any negative emotional memory of past events into our conscious mind for this two day period. It may take as much energy and commitment to do this as it took to stop suicidal thoughts, it's worth the effort!

For two days we will live in the here-and-now, unencumbered by an uncertain future, unencumbered by emotional baggage from our past, refusing to reinforce our negative emotions, and acknowledging that we need this break and knowing well that we deserve it!

Depression - Anger and Despair

How do I find the energy? I have nothing left as my anger and my despair have left me physically and emotionally drained!

Let's start with anger. Conventional wisdom concerning anger is that we either act on that emotion or that we stuff it, either way we do ourselves harm in that we reinforce the emotion ensuring further and possibly increased anger the next time the stimuli is encountered. I would suggest a third response when anger is triggered. I firmly believe that the recipient of the energy of anger need not be that which triggered the response. Further, I believe that the response itself need not remain anger, but may willfully be changed to a closely related release of energy.

Let me illustrate. I am driving down a road at the socially acceptable 15 mph over the speed limit, when a car speeds at me from behind and passes me, the driver immediately applies her breaks and I have to break hard and swerve in order to avoid hitting her car. I am angry, enraged, and I do something which I (of course) have never done before, I pull alongside her car and give her the finger. As my focus changes from my astutely uplifted middle finger to the face of that wanton, wilted, witch in the Volkswagon, I focus on the face of my grandmother! In less than an instant, my rage becomes an intense embarrassment, my finger frozen in air, it will not return to my side. We pull to the side of the road and my mind races with thoughts such as, "My God, we need to get her off the road before she kills someone, or kills herself!"

The energy of anger directed at an unknown driver, was instantly changed to an intense embarrassment directed at myself, and the possible resolve of mentally enacted murder was instantly changed to emotional problem solving.

Use the energy of despair! Despair just may be the result of internalized anger, over time. Regardless of this argument, despair does drain us of energy, as does anger. Recall how utterly exhausted and demoralized we are after a long session of despair, that takes a lot of energy.

Is it possible to use the energy of anger, of despair, and even the energy of mania, in our work of exorcising the demon of depression? I think so! We no longer direct the energy of anger and despair at ourselves or at others, we are not angry or disparaging because we are depressed. Let the recipient of our anger be the depression itself.

Get pissed at your depression! Use the energy of your despair to find a resolve that things will soon be better, TAKE CONTROL! Let that brief, illusive brush of manic genius aid your intellect in overcoming the monster within. All the while, use emotional thought stopping to protect you from your negative emotions, and use it to keep the mania focused and most importantly, grounded in reality.

Combating Depression - How do we Start?

The first step is to block out a period of time, two days, during which you will be unencumbered by any distractions. During this two day period you will be asked to completely immerse yourself and occupy your mind with the task at hand. This should be a relaxing time, an enjoyable weekend, you will be asked to take relaxing baths or maybe you have access to a sauna. You can exercise if it helps, bring self-help materials, a good book, surf the net, meditate, whatever. Do not bring work or anything associated with your problems, no tax forms.

Also, do not attempt to undertake anything new at this time, such as quitting a bad habit or trying to stop an addiction at the same time. We will lose our focus and if we do poorly on this other new venture, it will adversely effect this exercise. I will be asking you to read this article over more than once, make assorted lists, and possibly write a few letters to friends and family.

Secondly, I want you to write a list of everything that is not right in your life including, all of life's problems effecting you presently (they may be from the past, present, or coming in the future), list your symptoms of depression, and the problems caused by your depression. This will help to focus on the task at hand. It will also be a good time to start with serious emotional thought stopping, in that we make this list and do not allow any negative emotion triggered by items on the list to remain in our conscious mind.

Our ultimate goal, over time, is to be able to allow our problems into our conscious mind independent of the negative emotion associated with that problem. Then we can begin working on our problems from a position of strength rather than from a state of depression. But, this comes later.

Next, I will suggest a few additional exercises in order for us to keep our mind occupied during these two days. In addition they may help us manage our lives, under more control, after the two day period is over.

Procrastination plagues all of us and can be the cause of much additional mental anguish when we are depressed. At present the most pressing and painful things in our lives are those over which we have no control and are unable to resolve. That may be suicidal thoughts, an addiction, no job, interpersonal relationships, a recent loss, etc. With such horrendous problems facing us how can we allot time and effort to the more mundane concerns in life? "If I cannot end the pain, what matter the rest?"

My suggestion is to change the focus of our activities and what occupies our conscious mind. Another list! Begin with the list you just completed, which includes all your life and depression problems, arrange that list in order of descending importance and associated pain. First on the list would be that which causes you the most mental anguish, continue down the list, adding all those things in life in which your depression has deprived you. This may include activities such as listening to music, hobbies, enjoyable time spent with friends, reading, games, sports, etc. (those activities which we love and that relax us, but no longer have the energy to do)

Continue the list including those things which your depression has kept you from doing your best at, such as property and home upkeep and cleaning, personal grooming and hygiene, etc. End the list with a hot bath. Now take the list and invert it (turn it upside down), rewrite the list starting with a hot bath and ending with the worst problem in your life. The top of the list now becomes our priority, that which occupies our mind and that which must be done first.

Whereas, yesterday the most pressing thing in your life was that which was giving you the most pain, today the most pressing task is a hot bath and a manicure. Yet still you worry because your apartment only has a shower - a shower will suffice.


During our two days together, I wouldn't suggest you paint the inside and outside of your house. Keep the tasks simple, the above reverse procrastination list will allow you to plan, complete, and receive positive feedback on, at first, simple enjoyable tasks.

As you gain strength you can begin to tackle those things which are now so easily procrastinated. Earlier I mentioned writing letters to friends and family, I would also like to add letters to the antagonists in your life. This is an exercise to help you define what is wrong in these relationships, and mostly what part you had in causing the relationship to fail. For, as much as we might want to blame others for our problems, ultimately the only control we can exercise, is over our own actions and emotions, not others.

The situation may be an impossible one, such as in an abusive relationship, where the only possibility of control in this situation may be to leave. Emotional thought stopping may just give us the strength to do so. Make the letters real, explain your depression, what you are doing to change things, what you might have done differently. Don't blame others, don't blame yourself. Now set the letters aside, as this was an exercise to help you define what went wrong, and what might have been done differently, the letters need not be mailed. If you do mail them, make sure that they will not further hurt the relationship, let them sit a while before you mail them, just in case.


A distinction should be made between the concepts presented in this paper, and the act of repression (in effect trying to squelch or hide from negative emotions). Emotional thought stopping does not allow the negative emotion to remain in the conscious mind thereby not reinforcing that emotion, whereas repression allows the negative emotion control of our conscious and then shoves the emotion into a corner of the mind trying to hide from it.

This is akin to stuffing anger (letting the emotion happen and then not acting on that emotion). Repression of an emotional response will insure that when the emotion does resurface, it will be as strong or stronger as it was before. Also we are risking the possibility of psychosomatic illness as the emotional chemistry remains even if we do not act on that emotion.

Now, a warning that emotional thought stopping can be misused!

It is possible to gain benefit from an improvement in mood, yet continue to use emotional thought stopping to hide from life's problems. The benefit will be short lived however, as our problems will worsen when not attended, we will be overwhelmed and emotional thought stopping eventually will not be enough to protect us. Emotional thought stopping can be continued even after depression is lifted, but it should be used to give us strength in order that we solve life's problems, not hide from them.

I need a break. It has taken me 14 years to complete these manuscripts, 14 years of pain. I started this project in order to help myself understand more about what I was going through. I am finishing this project for you. By now you are aware I know of your pain, I hereby acknowledge it. I would just, for now, like to sit and hold your hand, and have a good cry...
The next cry we share will be one of relief, tears of joy, when we realize that a small window has opened and that tomorrow may just be a little better than today.

Having Trouble?

First I ask you to completly clear your mind of past, present, and future problems, then I turn around and give you exercises that bring up all of this negative emotion, not fair? If you are bothered with that, I suggest you make the lists sometime before the 2 day exercise begins.

If you have trouble during the weekend, make your activities more physical and more passive. Exercise, take baths, read, listen to music, but stay away from the TV as much as possible. If there is only one thing you are able to do, let it be to concentrate on stopping thoughts concerning suicide! That alone, if done for 24 hours, will give you enough strength to attempt the rest of the exercise at a later time.

You should find benefit from this exercise after the first 24 hour period in which you have not reinforced one negative thought from the subconscious mind. If you do not, or if you cannot keep the negative thoughts from coming into the conscious mind, or if for any reason this exercise is not a positive experience, then I suggest you quit this exercise at once!

This would be an indication that, for some reason, you do not have the strength to go this alone, at this time. I don't think you could use the buddy system, unless your friend has gone through this exercise and found it to be very helpful. Otherwise, you will need the help and guidance of a counselor or therapist.

© Stephen L. Bernhardt - 1996-2001

Some days even my lucky rocketship underpants won't help.
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