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  • Kevin Patton

What is The Matrix?

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Sorry, not that one, no science fiction here. At Living Well, we only talk about stuff for which there is a strong evidence base, we don't play head games, we support people in moving towards the person they want to be, living the lives they want to live - and we won't offer you pills, red, blue or any other kind.

The Matrix is a simple to use format to help us learn to discriminate between direct experiencing with the senses and indirect experiencing in the mind (vertical line), and then the idea of sorting behaviour into two directions called Towards and Away (horizontal line).

Learning to use the Matrix is experiential and much the same as learning to ride a horse, or a bike, or play the piano, or paddle a kayak. It can be learned very quickly but takes a little time and practice to become good at it. Mainly people practice learning to notice where behaviours are taking them, and to align that with what is important. The model can be used outside of therapy, for instance it is already used in education and in the workplace. It's been used in Sierra Leone to help combat the spread of the Ebola virus.

Some of the things you identified in my last blog were external to you, and you used your 5 senses to do them. Some of them were more internal, when you were shifting your focus on to something interesting, useful or fun.

We can look at these things by using these questions.

• How does doing this make you feel? • What activities help you feel good about yourself? • What activities give you strength? • What activities can keep you feeling good?

By doing getting caught up in the FEAR stuff we looked at in my last blog, we’re moving away from what’s important to us. Remember FEAR F = Fusion (stuff your mind tells you that gets in the way when you get caught up in it) E = Excessive goals (your goal is too big, or you lack the skills, time, money, health, or other resources) A = Avoidance of discomfort (unwillingness to make room for the discomfort this challenge brings) R = Remoteness from values (losing touch with - or forgetting - what is important or meaningful about this).

Stopping the FEAR stuff is good, but it’s not enough to stop moving away from the person you want to be – you’ve got to start doing stuff that will move you towards this.

The antidote to F.E.A.R. is D.A.R.E. D = Defusion A = Acceptance of discomfort R = Realistic goals E = Embracing values

Defusion Techniques:

Name the Story When we experience really strong emotions, we can get caught up in old patterns of unhelpful and unworkable coping strategies such as using substances, self-harming or unhealthy eating habits.

Emotions, thoughts and what we do (or feel the urge to do) are all linked and become vicious cycles. Changing one part of the cycle will help improve the situation and work as a positive move.

If we can identify and name the emotion we are feeling, and the story we’re telling ourselves to keep it going, we can begin to understand why we react the way we do – in our thoughts, our physical reactions and behaviours. Then we are in a better place to stop the cycle or break out of it. We can learn re-focus on what will move us towards the person we want to be living the life we want to live.

So, next time you feel an emotion, name it and the story behind it, then decide what to do first, before acting on automatic pilot.

Thank your Mind Before take-off, pilots have to file a Flight Plan with Air Traffic Control explaining what they are going to. For example, Take off will be at 13:00. I will climb to 13,000 feet on a bearing of 42 degrees at a speed of 300 mph. I will maintain that heading for 7 minutes, then climb to 15,000 feet on a bearing of 50 degrees at a speed of 400 mph, and so on. That way, other planes know to stay out of that bit of sky. Thing is, 90% of the time, the plane isn’t on the flight plan. It might be off by 50 feet, or off course by a degree or two, but – most of the time – it still gets to its destination, why is that? (The pilot makes course corrections along the way).

The Chinese word for "Crisis" (wēijī) is comprised of two ideograms, one for ”danger” and one for ”opportunity”. The core concept, here, is that negative emotions are an alarm call providing us with the opportunity to get back on the right course.

Thank your mind for the alarm call.

Acceptance Name the feeling, observe it like a curious scientist, rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, commit to allowing it, breathe into it, make room for it, give it a shape and colour.

Realistic goal-setting If you lack skills, set new goals around learning them; if your goal is too big, break it down into small chunks; if you lack resources, brainstorm how you can get them; if you lack time, what are you willing to give up in order to make time?; if the goal is truly impossible, e.g. due to health or financial issues, or external barriers over which you have no direct influence, then set a different one.

Embracing values Connect with what matters to you about this goal. Is it truly meaningful? Is it aligned with your values? Is it truly important? Is it moving your life forward in the direction you wish to go?

In my next blog, we will look at when the FEAR stuff just keeps coming.

Until then, do three things every day that will move you towards the person you want to be.

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