The Tools

How to remove PVGs and help others to do so

Our goal is not to provide content about PVG tools (tools against Personal Vision Gaps) - there are others who do this better than us. However, in this page you can find a model we've built for principles of PVG tools, which aims to summarize the roots of these tools in a simplified form.

We have extended writings in Hebrew on each of these principles - feel free to contact us for those, or for questions on the matter.

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The following model serves as a unifying theory for behavioral change, and is based on principles from Cognitive, Behavioral, Positive and Evolutionary Psychology, Neuroscience and Human Physiology.
The goal of these principles is to help anyone create tools, systems, products or services that deal with PVGs.

All principles rely on academic concepts, besides certain principles that we created in order to wrap up several academic concepts together (we mark those principles by using the words "according to this model"). You will find related terms under each principle (better citations are coming soon). See legal disclaimers at the end of this page.

Three Core Concepts

You don’t need to know all about Psychology in order to understand this model - but here are three core concepts from Cognitive Neuroscience that are important for understanding this model's principles.

1. Perceptions as building blocks

A perception is the way an individual interprets anything they encounter in their lives - whether it’s an event, person, state, emotion, skill, ourselves. There are significant “rooted” perceptions such as friendship, parenting, work, but also minor perceptions such as the taste of cucumbers, a sunny summer day, the street in which we live, and so on. 

Our thought consists of an enormous number of perceptions by which we know how to manage and act in life. This model sees perceptions as the main factor that influences behavior and patterns of thought.


2. Associations & Priming

Note: This is a very simplified version of the way Neurons and Synapses work.

Not every perception influences us all the time; when we are reminded of a certain perception, it is “activated”, or “pops” into our head (whether we’re conscious of that perception or not).

Whenever a perception is activated, two things happen:

  1. The perception strengthens its links to all perceptions that are currently activated.
  2. The perception activates all perceptions that are already linked to it (the intensity of those activations depends on the current strength of links).

The next metaphor can help explain this better: Let’s imagine a big network of lightbulbs that are connected with strings, and are off by default. Each of those lightbulb is a perception, each of those strings is an associative link, and this network is our mind.

When one of them turns on, linked bulbs turn on with different power of light (depending on how strong their strings are to the original bulb), and then those bulbs activate their linked bulbs with lesser power, which activate their linked bulbs with lesser power, and so on.

Eventually, our behavior and thought in a given moment are created by the perceptions activated in that moment (which are of course made by a vast number of combinations of beliefs, values, memory, the way we perceive the situation in that moment, and so on).
While it is not yet fully explainable, it is clear that mindsets affect health and physical conditions, such as with the digestive system or immune system.

Unconscious effect of active perceptions

Imagine the next experiment: Someone would watch a roulette wheel stop on a number between 10 and 65, and then they would be asked what percentage of United Nations that are African nations - Do you think the roulette wheel will influence their answer?

In a research done in 1974 by Kahenman and Tversky [1] Research shows that if participant’s roulette stopped on 10, their average guess was 25%, and if it stopped on 65, the average guess was 45%. 

Why is that? As explained before, all activated perceptions affect our behavior. According to this model, specific numbers are also perceptions, and the stronger they’re activated in a given situation, the more influence they will have on our behavior. This example is mathematical (and defined as the anchoring bias), but obviously this is not limited only to numbers but to any perception; such as mood, semantic fields, visual items, and so on.
A trivial example could be how our mood in a certain situation affects the way we perceive and behave in that situation. By this principle, lightning or smell in a situation should as well affect our behavior, though much less than our mood.

Activated perceptions are more available to our memory than others, which can also lead to an affect on behavior (see availability bias below).

Preference For Existing Associative Links

Our mind has a natural preference for using existing associate links rather than creating new ones. That means we are unconsciously prone to reinforce what we already know, believe in, or are more familiar with. We tend to reject facts that do not adhere with the way we see the world, our self-concept, or facts that are new to us.

3. Conscious VS unconscious mind

Note: This is a very simplified version of Dual Process Theory or ACP.

All processes that our minds are capable of, can be divided into processes that only our conscious mind can do, and those that only our unconscious mind can do. 
Generally speaking, our unconscious mind is way more powerful than our conscious mind. It is faster, its processes require much less effort, has access to much more information. Yet, our consciousness is capable of much more complex processes.

Processing tools of the conscious mind

These tools consist of analysis, speculation, doubt, thinking using defined set of rules (such as math, logics, social codes, judicial rules, and so on).
In addition, the conscious mind can activate any unconscious processing tool, but less effectively.

Processing tools of the unconscious mind

These tools consist of pattern recognition, recalling memories, imagination (and filling up details using imagination), distributing attention, modifying perceptions (learning), comparing scales of different measures, allocating weights to considerations.

Tendency to minimize effort

Like all living things, we tend to choose courses of action that preserve our energy.
Since the unconscious processing tools require less energy than conscious ones, we tend to prefer using unconscious processes whenever possible.

Transferring from unconscious to conscious (and vice versa)

Unconscious thought is our default thought - all stimuli and perceptions first goes through our unconsciousness, and only a small portion of it is processed by our conscious mind.

The unconscious mind can “choose to transfer” a perception to the conscious mind: For example, our unconscious mind is always “aware” of the smell of a room. But it would only alert our conscious mind if, say, something stinks, or strongly reminds us of a past memory.
On the other hand, our conscious mind can “choose to request“ a perception: For instance, it can use attention to smell at any moment, or use memory to recall a perception.

Different types of wants

Some of our wants and needs come from a deep natural instinct (such as sexual attraction, hunger, need for fun, social needs) rather than other wants and needs which are much more thought-driven (such as getting accepted to a prestigious school, being professional, being a good friend, living a purposeful life). The first class of wants derives from unconscious processes, while the second from conscious ones. It's important to make the distinction between these two, as for sometimes they can conflict - for instance when you have a conscious-driven want go jogging, but also an unconscious-driven want to stay comfortable at home.

Generic Tools (against any gap)

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For our definition of gap, see our explanation of PVGs (Personal Vision Gaps).

Changing perceptions (/Reframing)

According to this model, changing perceptions consists of four steps:

  1. Point out which perceptions cause the problem*. Articulate** this perception as it is, and then re-articulate it into a positive form. Write the new perception in a sheet.
    Example: I’m not a good public speaker → On stage, it's better to be myself than trying to be a “good speaker”.
  2. Choose strategies (see the list**) to implement the new perception, and write them down in the sheet. 
  3. Every fixed time (e.g. every end of weekend), read the sheet and give yourself feedback on the use of these strategies (and spend some thought on whether these are the right strategies). Once in a while, review it with someone else close to you, for some outside-view feedback and for social commitment.


* Tricks for identifying a negative perception: (1) Think of a certain situation. Ask yourself “In the way I see this situation, what is fact and what is interpretation?”, or ask “what outlook caused me to behave this way?”  (2) “What are the advantages and disadvantages of this perception?”.

**Tricks of articulting the new perception: After identification of the negative perception, there are several different ways to look at the new perception - here is a list of few. Try different articulations, and check what works for you and for this perception:

  1. Definition: "A good partner is one that listens and supports at any situation"
  2. Self-statement: "I am a listening, supportive partner". Use present tense.
  3. Bias: "Listening just for the sake of listening is more meaningful than I think".
  4. Acceptance: "It is natural that I'll feel impatient in long conversations".

Our perceptions give instructions to our subconsciousness to be carried. Therefore, try to avoid:

  1. Negative Language: e.g. "I am not a...", "A good partner never does..."
  2. Should/Shouldn't: "I should do this rather than this...". You can switch those with "It's better to..."

Placeholder Technique: If you find it hard to articulate the new perception, don't put too much effort into it, and write down whatever you can come up with now. Ideas of how to refine this sentence will naturally come to your head each time you encounter it in the future.


*** List of strategies. The rule of thumb for those, is that the more memorable the strategy is (see the Memory chapter below), the faster the new perception will become natural and more automatic (because stronger associative links are created this way, therefore the perception will have more influence when activated):

  1. Acceptance - We can’t change everything. What’s more, we can’t change too many things at the same time. If we decided to accept such perception: (1) Re-articulate the perception to say something like: "this [perception] is natural, many others live with it peacefully, it’s human to have disadvantages / weaknesses / mistakes". (2) If needed, search for others who probably coped with this difficulty, and ask them about it directly (yet - take their advice with limited liability).
  2. Elaborate on why this new perception is positive, and why the old one was negative. Do so by writing a few lines in the sheet, record yourself elaborating, make a video, write a “stream-of-thought” about the perception, and so on.
  3. Read/hear a previously made elaboration (from second 2).
  4. Collecting evidence/progress for the new perception: For instance, writting down once a week in a dedicated notebook, all the good things that happened with the new perceptions, progress made, breakthroughs, evidence for this perceptions, positive things people said or did regarding its truth, and so on.
  5. Create triggers to think about that perception (or triggers to remind you to read it out loud, or use any other strategy). For instance, if it’s a perception related to driving, put a note on your car door. If you want to think about it every morning, put it on your mirror. This can also work with your desk at work, main entrance door, bed pillow, wristwatch, a sticker on your phone, any reminder in your phone, and so on.
  6. Harnessing Self-image: Frame the new perception or change as something that is a critical part of who you are. This is due to the high influence of self-image (See below).
  7. Cognitive Defusion: a method for distancing ourselves from a negative thought. It consists of four steps:
    (1) Insert the perception in a sentence containing “I”, e.g. “I’ll fail this test”. Think of what that thought feels like, and what effect it has on you.
    (2) Insert the sentence in (1) to the format: “I’m having a thought that I’ll fail this test”
    (3) And now into the format: “I notice I’m having a thought that I’ll fail this test”
    (4) Draw conclusions: When I notice this thought, what do I want to do with it? What do I think of my original feeling and effect this thought had? Where did this thought come from? Are there similar thoughts I’m having? And so on.

We suggest not to work on more than 5 perception simultaneously, so you can focus on them, and not have duplicates of too many perceptions for the same problem. We do encourage to have a waiting list for perceptions you want to work on in the future.


Changing perceptions (instead of deliberately investing effort into “doing something differently” to force a new behavior) makes new behaviors come naturally. If changing a perception seems hard, then remember the more we practice the skill of changing perceptions, the easier it becomes - and it’s a skill that can serve us in anything we do.
This natural manner of a new behavior is important also because self-control and forcing behavior requires a lot of energy from us.

In addition to being based on other principles that are mentioned in this page, this section is heavily based on CBT, but different in form from any type of CBT - as it is meant to be applied through products that don’t include a therapist.

Habits & Conditioning

Due to our preference for existing associative links, it’s easier to do things that have already become habits - as behaviors that are habits are linked to certain triggers. For instance, cleaning your room can be linked to (and triggered by) arriving home. 

This notion can be utilized by choosing a fitting trigger for a desired behavior, and repeating the behavior each time we are exposed to this trigger. It's important to remember that each time we are exposed to the trigger without doing something active about the behavior, the trigger loses its strength a little bit - for this reason, choose only triggers that you encounter only when you want to execute the behavior.

For the same reason, it is harder to start new things than to continue with previous habits. If it seems like starting to run regularly requires a lot of effort from you, then remembering that this effort will be minimized the more you do it, can help as motivation for starters. 
This can also justify the use of programs that force you to do something for a limited time - for example, a call from a friend every second morning to wake up early for jogging, just in the first 2-3 weeks. Another example would be dedicating a weekend to begin playing guitar.

Habits are also “powered up” by rewards (though those rewards don’t have to be materialistic, for instance, just preserving the associative link can also stand as reward) - see the motivation chapter for that.

Cognitive Biases & Signals of Truth

Cognitive Biases are errors in our thought, common to all people. They originiate from the way our minds work, and cause our judgement to deviate from rational decisions.

There are a lot of known biases. We couldn't find any intuitive categorization for simplifying this long list, and made our way of categorization, that we call signals of truth:

(Note that each of those signals also apply for its oppositve: for example, “It’s right because it feels good” also means “it’s wrong because it feels bad”).

1. It’s right because it’s the default (/previous opinion /familiar)

Due to our preference for existing associative links & our tendency to minimize effort

It’s the default / It already happened: Default Effect, Ben Franklin Effect, Status Quo Bias (/ System justification), Foot-in-the-door.
Previous opinion or familiar: Confirmation Bias, Belief Bias, Familiarity heuristic, Backfire effect, conservatism bias, Illusory truth effect, Hindsight Bias and Moral luck*, Normality/ostrich Bias (opposite), False consensus effect
(Categorization notes: *both: when it’s a memory rather than forecast, it’s more believable).

2. It’s right because it’s personally related to me

Due to our preference for existing associative links.

Read more: Identifiable Victim effect (or Compassion Fade), IKEA Effect, In-group Bias, Social Comparison Bias (opposite), Self-verification (which is our tendency to defend our beliefs about ourselves. Leads to additional biases: either Optimism Bias and Illusory superiority, or Pessimism Bias or Worse-than-average - depends on the belief being judged).

3. It’s right because it feels good (/good for me)

Due to our preference for existing associative links ("good" and "right" are always linked).

Read more: Halo Effect, Illusion of control. It’s good for me: Self-serving bias, Pro-innovation Bias, Selective Perceptions.

The opposite is “it’s wrong because it feels bad” (such as with Horn Effect), but it’s worth to mention that negative is perceived stronger than positive (possibly due to an evolutionary mechanism of fear - see Evolutionary Biases below).

This is reflected in biases such as: Prospect Theory (“Loss is more significant than the equivalent gain”), Framing Effect, Loss Aversion.

4. It’s right because it requires less effort

Due to our tendency to minimize effort
This occurs either when (i) we don’t feel the need to seek additional information, or (ii) when we make an Attribute Substitution: which is when we unconsciously replace a complex judgment with an easier judgment.

Not seeking additional information (/first conclusion wins):  Attribution/correspondence Bias (/Actor–observer Bias), Bandwagon effect* (when regarding that, take note of Optimal Distinctiveness), Dunning-Kruger Effect, Stereotyping, Survivorship Bias.
Attribute Substitution: unconsciously replacing a complex judgment with an easier judgment. For instance, we prefer dealing with specific (rather than general) information (Base Rate Fallacy), Searching for patterns in randomness (Pareidolia, Illusory Correlation), Projection Bias, Trait ascription bias.
(Categorization notes: *relying on others’ information)

5. It’s right because it’s the most accessible to my memory

Due to our tendency to minimize effort
Things can become more accessible to our memories because they're (i) more memorable or (ii) primed.

Read more:
It’s right because it’s more memorable (therefore more accessible): Peak-end Rule, Salience Bias, Rhyme-as-reason, Negativity Bias, Bizarreness effect.
Priming
(& Wysiati), makes perceptions more accessible to memory: Anchoring effect, Embodied Cognition.
We can’t ignore memories
: Curse of knowledge (If we try to remember how to is was live without knowing things, we would still encounter newest associated memories).
The general phenomenon
: Availability Bias

6. Our perspective is based on our experience in the present

The Present Bias is our tendency to rather settle for a smaller present rewarding event, than to wait for a larger future rewarding event*.

Read more: Spotlight Effect, Illusion of transparency.
* The magnitude of the present bias is determined by how psychologically far the event seems determines how abstract or concrete the details of the event seem (because of Psychological Distance (CLT)) - therefore causing positive-detailed event to be preferred if they are close, and negative events less preferred if they are close).

7. Hardwired perceptions & Evolutionary biases

This section describes a group of perceptions that all human are born with. By the definition of a cognitive bias, such perceptions that are deeply rooted in us and are hard to change, can serve as source of bias for us.

(i). Different genders had different roles in our evolution: For hundreds of thousands of years, males had the role of protecting and hunting, while females had the role of raising offspring. Even after, almost all humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers since 105,000 years ago, until 10,000 ago when agriculture started. During thousands of generations, perceptions of humans were adjusted for reproducing and surviving within the context in which they lived. Here are some of these "hardwired" perceptions:

  • Modern perception of equality between genders does not match our evolutionary perception of the skills, roles, and personality traits of each gender - all aligned to the way our ancestors lived - thus causing biased thought. For instance, males are more traditionally associated with protecting, while females are more associated with taking care of the family.
  • We desire to demonstrate traits that make us sexually attractive, such as cues of hormones (waist-to-hip ratio, strong jawlines, size of breasts, general body size), intelligence, humor (see Geoffrey Miller's Theory), leadership, and more (see parental investment theory).
  • We are attracted (not only sexually) to those who show those traits. This attraction takes part not only in mating, but also affects other opinions we have of that individual: How fit is it to lead, how skillful is it, how intelligent is it (see attractiveness bias).
  • Some mating behavior is hardwired in us. For instance, preference for short-term mating in males or desire for a variety of sex partners, and the opposite in females. So does some parenting behavior.

(ii). Social perceptions

  • There is an hierarchy of individuals we care about: offspring, ourselves, mates, and then different circles of “tribes” (such as family, circles of people we are more familiar with, nation, and so on). Related Bias: Ingroup bias.
  • We desire to maximize our status in our different circles of tribes. Related bias: Social Desirability Bias.

(iii). Memory
Some types of memory are stronger than others because of evolutionary reasons. For instance, visual memory is stronger than textual (common people started reading only less than a thousand years ago) - see memory below. For that reason, we might prefer certain visual stimuli or memories rather than textual ones, and sometimes ignore the latter.


* Mechanism-related

There are also biases that occur because our intuition doesn't comprise of some mechanisms about how the world work, or how people work.

Statistical concepts: Gambler’s Fallacy (statistical independence) or conjunction Fallacy (general events are more likely than specific ones), Berkson Paradox, Hot-hand fallacy, Selection Bias.
Mathematical concepts: Scope Neglect, Subadditivity Bias.
Psychological concepts: Impact/durability bias (we’re not aware of psychological defenses), Naïve realism (not understanding cognitive biases).


According to this model, the first step in de-biasing our decisions, is to notice whenever we evaluate truth - because in any evaluation of truth, some biases apply. We call this rule: "truth should be evaluated with consciousness". When noticing:

  • Remember the 7 signals of truth, and check which of those might apply.
  • Most biases require that we entirely discount our unconscious intuition and resort to analytical methods instead (such as statistical methods, or weighing pros and cons). 
  • Some biases require that we seek more information before forming our intuition (e.g. Attribution Bias).
  • Other biases cannot be solved, and require an understanding that our evaluated truth is not ultimately true.

Motivation (& convincing)

This model focuses on a theory of motivation called Motivational Salience (or Incentive Salience), by which every perception has “motives against it “(Aversive Salience) and “motives for it” (Incentive Salience).

In light of this theory, In order to motivate ourselves to do an action, we need to strengthen motives for the action and weaken motives against it. According to this model, this can be done in three ways:

  • Adding or modifying motives: Being convinced* of another good reason why we should do this, or being convinced that a negative motive is not as bad we thought. Those motives don't have to be materalistic, as they can also include motives such as desired emotional feelings, desire for self-varification (see below), desire to feel like we understand the world, and so on.
  • Priming the incentive motives in real-time when we want to execute the action (or immediately when we encounter a trigger that reminds us of the action). 
  • Strengthening** the priming effect of the for motives.


*Convincing yourself or others can be done by utilizing the signals of truth.
The first signal (it’s right because it’s default) is the easiest to use, especially through foot-in-the-door methods.
When convincing others, it's important that they feel comfortable agreeing with you. When people feel you're trying to convince them out of selfish motives, they get defensive.
When convincing yourself, you can also utilize tools for changing perceptions (see above).
When convincing others in conversations, there's much to learn about (1) how to best choose and compose arguments, and how to use them during a conversation (2) Storytelling. We don't discuss these topics here.


**There are two ways to strengthen the priming effect for motives:

  1. Linking between them and the action, or between them and the trigger of the action - see Habits & Conditioning above.
  2. By utilizing the signals of truth (see them above for more details):
    Making for motives feel (1) more familiar (or making them the default in our choices), (2) more related to us or our self-image, (3) feels good or spares us feeling bad, (4) feels as if it's eventually saving effort compared to other alternatives, (5) more memorable - see Memory below for ways to do that, (6) psychologically distant/closer, (7) more desired by society, or being socially-committed to execute the action.
    The contrary is also true for all of those, for the against motives: (1) less familiar, (2) less related to our self-image, and so on...


A different technique besides dealing with for and against motives, can be to ignore motives:

  • Putting ourselves in a situation where there’s no option but to execute the action.
  • Using Flow state: Flow is described as intrinsic motivation, and is the state of being fully immersed (focused without noticing it) in an action.
    The theory of this concept claims that in order to achieve Flow state, balanced levels of challenge and competency are required.

Importance of self-image and core perceptions

According to this model, our self-image is a core perception - a perception that is almost always active, and is interconnected to the vast majority of perceptions we have and experience. Due to our preference for existing associative links (see above) we have a strong subconscious will to prove to ourselves that our core perceptions are true.
As a part of that, we have a strong subconscious drive to prove our self-beliefs to ourselves (Self-verification theory, Self-efficacy, Self-affirmation). This drive is a crucial factor in the perceptions that our subconscious develops, whether they’re social (such as who I befriend,  intimate partners, how to interact with people, what should I deserve from people, my role in a situation) or not (how should I spend my free time, what jobs am I fit to, what am I capable of).
This drive also causes us to subconsciously project our self-beliefs to others using body-language, language nuances, choices, and so on.

This phenomenon is extremely hurtful when it is driven by negative self-beliefs. This doesn’t apply only to individuals with general negative self-image, but causes damage to any individual when they face a situation that involves a negative self-belief.
For instance, even if a generally confident and positive individual believes they are bad at singing, their singing skills will be significantly decreased, and they will subconsciously try to convince both others and themselves of that belief. They will continue to do so until they encounter an event which makes them change this belief, such as reliable and convincing positive feedback for their singing after a concert.

But for the same reason, this phenomenon can also be extremely helpful when regarding positive self-beliefs and high confidence in certain skills or attributes.

An important takeoff from this concept is to take care of our self-beliefs. This can be done best with perceptions changing tools (see above), and when this is not possible, merely just by trying to convince and encourage ourselves.


There are other core perceptions besides self-image perceptions, that carry the same level of importance:

  • Perceptions regarding hostility of the world (and/or of people in general).
  • Perceptions regarding meaning of life, or my place in the world.
  • Perceptions regarding nature.
  • Perceptions regarding social status.
  • Perceptions regarding my thoughts, or the role of my thoughts.
  • Perceptions regarding my body, or the role of my body.
  • Perceptions regarding work in general, and my work.
  • Perceptions regarding my use of time.

Core perceptions receive their power by being almost constantly active, and usually not thought of directly (therefore can more easily bias us, or influence us without our consciousness' interference).

Implementation Intention

Since our perspective is based on our experience in the present (see Cognitive Biases above), we tend to believe that if we have decided in the present to carry out an action in the future, our future-self will actually remember that. 

Implementation Intention is a self-management strategy, which focuses on making sure that plans are actually carried, by having a clear answer on when, where, and how they will be carried. 

For instance, instead of just saying  “I won’t use my phone when I eat” → put a note on the microwave to actually remember that in the relevant moment. As another example, instead of saying “I should start going to the gym” →  sign up online right now for a gym, and create an event in your calendar for going there the first time.

If while reading this you get a feeling of "but that requires much more effort for making plans than right now" - that's completly natural, and that's the amount of effort required for communicating with your future self.

Deactivation

As explained before, activated perceptions affect other perceptions, our behavior, and other phenomena such as stress (see below). For that reason, theoretically it would be beneficial if we'd be able to deactivate perceptions.
While we’re not capable of deactivating certain perceptions, there are techniques we can apply in order to “clean our head” and deactivate most active perceptions in a given moment. 

This theoretically this can be achieved with meditation (see below), breathing techniques (see below), distraction for prolonged times (see Flow above), or visual imagination (aimed specifically for “cleaning our head of active perceptions” - the lightbulb metaphor from above can be used here). We suggest on exercises that combine some of those together.

Note: This is not similar to negative priming.


Guiders

A tool for utilizing the transferring of processing (see above) between our subconscious and conscious mind. We decided not to elaborate here as this tools lacks foundations in science. Contact us about it.

Principles for Specific Gaps

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Stress

Stress is an automatic response* of the body to perceptions that an individual perceives as challenging, or with potential to inflict damage. This could be minor challenges such as forgetting where your phone is, or long-term challenges such as changes in our life.

Stress is not necessarily negative, as mild levels of stress can increase certain types of performance (see Yerkes–Dodson law), but it does require additional energy from the body in order to maintain the physical state of stress (and has additional negative effects such as on the digestive or immune systems, ulcers, and more).
Long-term stress, called chronic stress, has much more negative effects (see allostatic load. For coping, see Psychological Resilience, Hardiness - and we also recommend consultancy).

* The physical response of stress: every one of our internal organs is controlled by one of two nervous systems - one for rest, one for arousalץ The latter is more dominant during stress. In stress, the body dedicates more energy to the internal organs that belong to the second system (the body also releases cortisol hormone, which for example improves creation of memories and concentration - see below). When the body “cools down” after a stressful event, the balance is restored between the system.


Through this definition, there is clear importance for using techniques to reduce stress when it’s not beneficial:

  1. Identifying which perceptions are stressful (challenging/potentially causing damage), and reframing them using perceptions-changing techniques mentioned before. This means to either reframing them as less challenging, and/or less potentially damage-inflicting, or either reframing your skills as more capable (therefore there’s less challenge)
  2. Priming positive/relaxing perceptions: As perceptions affect each other, activating perceptions that are associated with relaxation and resting, can affect our state in a given situation, and help shifting the physical stress state.
    This can be done with conscious breathing techniques (see below), Imagination and visualization of any calming situation (usually of nature), positive memories, listening to music (we suggest having your own calming playlist. Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4),  thinking of positive things in the current or forthcoming situations, relieving muscles such as with Progressive Muscle Relaxation (guides: [1],[2]).
  3. Distracting: playing music, reading, any kind of hobby, social activity, humor, and so on. Evidence and effect of these techniques is limited (and varies between specific challenges).
  4. Regular physical activity: [1] [2] [3] [4]
  5. Deactivation: See above.
  6. Sometimes, we should modify the source of stress. For instance, if issues with our boss are a stressor, then finding ways to improve this issue can help with our stress and even solve it completely. Another example could be taking more breaks at work.

Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques are mostly useful (and have evidence for) reducing stress.

In addition, it’s important to remember that we can use breathing techniques quickly, in every situation, without needing to sit down and close our eyes (although that would be more effective), and then breathing techniques can also be useful as immediate response to anger, despair, feeling lack of self-control, and so on.

Most techniques suggest breathing (1) very deeply (2) very consciously (extremely important) (3) through the nose (4) Some techniques suggest holding breath for a few seconds. There is no consensus over other rules (such as how many breaths, how many seconds for inhale/hold/exhale). 

Read more: Effects of breathing techniques [1],[2], A research claiming that breathing without attention does not yield the effect.

Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindfulness is defined as the purposely bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment.
This affects the positiveness of active perceptions (both by not judging them negatively, and both by consciously observing them without negative emotional response, that would otherwise be automatic).

The concept of mindfulness is highly tied to the concept of time, and to the concept of acceptance. Echkart Tolle captures this connection very well in these two quotes:

“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
“Don't look for peace. Don't look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender”

How to meditate

Meditation’s main benefits are (1) stress-relieving (2) practice of mindfulness.

Preparing for meditation:

  1. Time: It is suggested to put on a timer in the first few practices, for 20 minutes.
  2. Place: Any solitary place entirely clear of distractions. Put your phone on silent (besides the alarm). A calming atmosphere is a bonus.
  3. Posture: Straight b ack (possible with support), hands rested on knees. Not “sleepy” postures such as laying down.

During meditation:

  • Breath slowly, deeply, and gently.
  • Pay all of your attention to a single object. It can be breathingas explained in the “breathing techniques” section
  • Relax your body: Don’t stress any part of the body.
  • For every thought that pops into your head: (1) Acknowledge it as it is (remember it’s natural that thoughts pop up) and then (2) get rid of that thought and concentrate again on breathing.


There are some tricks for more easily concentrating on breathing, by curiously examining different attributes of them. Examples: (1) the gap between inhale and exhale: what is happening there? (2) The air’s texture, temperature, pace, smell (3) Think of the meaning of breathing, and it’s relation to being alive.

Concentration

Activating attention is a state of arousal - see stress.

Attention control is the ability to selectively process perceptions (consciously or unconsciously) or ignore them. 

This is a list of techniques for improving focus in a certain situation. Since our subconscious mind is controlling our ability to control attention, the following techniques are intended to influence our subconscious thought:

  • Increasing the subconsciousness’ motivation to invest energy in this task - for how, see motivation section above. Take special note of the Flow technique mentioned in that section.
  • Increasing the state of arousal (for instance, see Low Arousal Theory), or relaxing if the state of arousal is too high (Yekrew-Dodel Curve) - see stress for how.
  • Breaks practically cease attention, and it takes time to recover attention afterwards. On the other hand, they allow cleaning our mind (see deactivation) which can help clear our cognitive load and recover energy. Note that the less motivation we have for the task, the more energy we need to recover before concentrating again (see attention span, Directed attention fatigue)
    Therefore, if maximum productivity is desired, use breaks only for cleaning your head.
  • Activate (just remind yourself of) perceptions that are usually activated while performing the task. Doing this will help to set the unconsciousness mind into the task, and utilizes biases of the first signal of truth (it's right because it's default).


Work environment

Another important aspect for concentration is our surroundings:

  • Distraction: Organize your surroundings to eliminate all things that take away your attention without your will. This usually means our phone and people around us. You can suggest norms for concentration with people you often work around, and if you're using your phone or computer, disable notifications on that device while working (usually there's a do not disturb mode).
  • Atmosphere: Because all active perception influence us, all of our surroundings effects us: the light in the room, background sounds, the type of music we hear. Only testing on different tasks can tell whether these has positive or negative influence (regarding concentration, mood, motivation, stress) on those tasks (See Environmental psychology).

Memory and learning

Activating memory is a state of arousal - see stress.

This section describes three strategies for improving memory:

1. Making things more memorable

  • Give meanings to meaningless things: In general, the more linked a perception is, the more memorable it is. Giving meaning is one simple way of associating. For example, instead of using ACT initials to remember 3 items, use CAT.
    You can go wild with this: If you need to remember both ACT and JLR, you can imagine a CAT playing with a Joystick and moving it Left and Right.
  • Bizarre ideas are more memorable: A pencil-case is less memorable than a gigantic purple Nazi pencil-case with vicious jaws eating a building. If that example seems odd, you can test if you remember it by the end of this chapter.
  • Chunking & summarizing (not all at once): It’s easier to remember things that are divided into groups of 3-4. An example with a license number: 9878622 is harder to memorize than 98-786-22.
    Similarly, instead of remembering whole paragraphs, we can remember only a significant sentence in each paragraph. Another example of that would be using initials.
  • Use different types of memory (and combine them): Each person has certain types of memory that are stronger than other types.
    - Use visual memory: Try to remember things as images, photos, draw the idea in an abstract way, etc.
    - Use rhymes, vocals, songs: Make a short rhyme for whatever you want to remember. If you want to remember a long paragraph precisely, try to find a song that you can fit that paragraph’s words into.
    - Use stories:
    Instead of remembering a shopping list of eggs, tomatoes, bread, butter, we can remember how once I sat at the kitchen table and were about to eat a butter-spread slice of bread, while suddenly a chicken came from the window and laid a tomato on the table.
    - Use spatial (orientation) memory: If we hang something on the wall in our room, our mind remembers it’s physically always there, and it can “go back” to find it. See the method of loci.
    - Combining different memory types can be done by: Imagine a visual story, a musical clip, don’t just make a rhyme but combine it with a funny hand motion, method of loci, and so on.

2. Encoding memories

  • Create associations to related ideas. Explain to yourself (memorably, if you can) how this idea is related to other ideas.
    Bonus: Associate the idea with ideas that will probably be primed when you’ll want to recover the memory (these also should be the ideas you prime in order to remember), such as place, scents in this place, other ideas you’ll be thinking about before that, etc.
  • Increasing our will to remember (see motivation)
  • Increasing our concentration (see above)
  • Repetition: Repeat as many times. You can repeat multiple times in different forms (speech, writing, painting, record+play, change the wording of what you repeat).
  • Consolidation: When an idea is primed and we prime it again, its memory is encoded better than if it weren’t primed before. Therefore, learning things in sequence is extremely useful - for instance, if we want to learn 2 subjects in 2 days, we rather spend a day for each than study both subjects in both days.
    In addition, skimming through things we just learned is also extremely useful;such as going through the headlines of the class we’ve just learned.
  • Hierarchy and categorization: When things have a context (such as categorization or timeline), we associate them in a way that helps the brain recall and encode. 
  • Making the idea more memorable (see above in this chapter).


3. Recalling memories

  • Priming any situation in which you remembered the idea. Try to remember any kind of detail of that situation: Weather, sensations, relation to other memories happened that day, and so on.
  • Different Prompts: Try to prompt yourself with different questions. For instance, if you ask yourself “what did I eat yesterday?”, try to switch that prompt with “Was it tasty? When did I eat? Who did I eat with? Am I sure I ate? Why am I sure I ate?”.
  • Relieving fixations: Sometimes we try to reach the memory in a certain way, and find it hard to forget that way in order to recover the memory with a different way. Therefore, cleaning our head (see Deactivation, or use a very short breathing exercise), can help restart the process of recovering the memory.
  • Don’t remember, restore (not all at once): If we got a paper, we can try to write down whatever we do remember, and then restore the rest of the memory step by step.
    For example, If we want to remember a mathematical formula, we don’t have to remember all of it by heart. We can remember some of it, such as just the upper part of a fraction, and then remember that the same part is also at the bottom part, but with another expression, and then that expression has a power, and so on.


Communication

Our model consists of techniques for good* communication, which consists of tools for influencing others (such as utilizing the signals of truth, storytelling, creating impressions), for letting others influence us effectively (such as active listening and reading body language), and for maintaining and strengthening relationships (such as taking care of the perception of the relationship by all sides). We haven't translated these tools yet. Contact us about it.

* This model defines this as a positive mutual influence between the internal worlds of people.

Fears

Changing fears is not different from the perception-changing techniques mentioned before, and these will probably work, but usually after much time and effort, since most fears are deeply rooted perceptions. For that reason, it is worthwhile considering turning to consultancy for such cases (at least for assessment).

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Contents of this page belong to Gidon Kadosh © 2020.

Disclaimer: Although this model can provide basic tools for personal change, it is not a replacement for the personal process that can occur in psychological counseling or other forms of counseling. This model is not responsible for any harm caused by its use, and any sort of responsibility is to be carried by its user. In cases of distress, we highly suggest turning for counseling - even if just for one meeting, for assessment. Feel free to contact us about questions on the matter.