Friday, 21 December 2012

Self-Discipline & Sophrology

These are notes I took several years ago. I learnt some things, but over time they mostly faded away. Re-visiting them, I decided to type up, share, and so remind myself of some of the good ideas, ideally even put them into practice! The notes are based on “Self-Discipline” by Theodore Bryant & “La Sophrologie” by Jean-Yves Pecollo, together with personal experience.

Coincidentally, I just came across the following blog post from only three days ago which re-caps some of the things here


1.    Introduction

Lack of self-discipline is caused by inner conflict, the creative, fun-loving, anti-authoritarian or child self within running amok instead of supporting overall progress of the self. Understanding how this happens, we can overcome it.

Negative Influences:
1)    Cynicism
2)    Negativism
3)    Defeatism
4)    Escapism
5)    Delayism

1)    Have faith in your ability to improve.
2)    Positive Attitude and good spirit are key to success. Positive body language and posture also; karma: “what goes around comes around”, you make it every instant.
3)    Perceiving shortcomings in yourself, have the confidence that you can override them, that nothing will stop you on your quest.
4)    To accomplish something rewarding often requires passing through difficult or uncomfortable moments. Do not give up too easy!
5)    Address the question of whether delay is constructive. Self-discipline means enjoying doing things on time.

Antidotes are applied by means of action-oriented self-talk, consciously talking to yourself. Self-talk messages must be (i) Positive, (ii) Specific, (iii) Present Tense. Your behavior is influenced by thoughts and feelings, but these messages are often subconscious and later give rise to a surprised reaction, “Why did I do that?” or “What just happened to the last hour?”. Self-talk is an incredibly powerful channel into the subconscious, programming you to support you in your goals.

Example: “I am now working on my essay”. All thoughts turn then to this. Other thoughts may arise, and negative influences also, but you are aware of it now and you repeat your affirmation over and over until it wins the argument and is enacted. Repetition is key. You are positive and in control, not “I have to” or “I should”, but “I choose to”. Finally, it is yet more powerful if spoken and thus heard aloud. More advanced still is self-hypnosis by creating and using times when the mind is particularly receptive, such as after meditation. Use images as well as words, vivid mental visualizations of yourself in action.

What is Self-Discipline? Decisiveness, Time Management, Motivation, Rules & Goals? These are the consequences of self-discipline.

Self-Discipline is a skill to be learnt, not a force of will-power, but one of awareness & co-ordination like a conductor of an orchestra of your desires, emotions, needs, fears, thoughts, memories, and dreams. The secret of success lies in your ability to recognize and deal with the part of you that offers resistance. This part takes over when external forces of authority are removed in whose presence self-discipline grows weak through lack of exercise. Practice and develop, and self-discipline grows stronger. The main obstacle is fear, often subconscious that must be recognized and accepted so as to minimize its immobilizing effect. We must explore the often deep-seated roots of our fear.

2.    Exploring our Fears

1)    Fear of Failure
To not face a task we wish to accomplish or to not devote ourselves fully to it because we fear to fail is inexcusable, yet it is the single most likely cause of eventual failure. We shall try and try again and try with all our heart till we are rewarded with success. How would any great person succeed without the commitment and perseverance necessary to achieve anything significant? It is a problem of the ego that links failure with self-esteem. Fear is a stepping stone to success; we must learn not fear it, remember what went wrong, reflect of what we can change, and also, after the passage of time, look back and review the lessons we have drawn.

Difficulty: Faced with difficult questions in an exam or in research, we might skip from one to the other and never satisfactorily get to the bottom of any. The key is to relax, play around, delve for insight, and write up our discoveries. Over-ambitious, we do not get anywhere, so tackle things one at a time. Under-ambitious, and we are subconsciously satisfied once the fear of failure has passed, and we do not fulfill our true potential. Thus, when the rains come down, the wise taxi-drivers do not stop when they have reached their daily target, but work over-time to ferry those in need.

Love: Disappointments and disappointing others, both can put one off from taking risk. There is nothing more risky than love. Your heart is on the line. Surprise, embarrassment, sweaty hands are all to be expected. Love thyself, know thyself, and nothing can harm you.

Finances: Money shields us from the fear of security being taken away, of losing independence, from all our time, energy and effort being wasted. There is great need for wisdom in the way we manage our money. Choose wisely to lessen risk and make success more sure.

Death: A deer in the headlights should be motivated to cross all the faster. But on the contrary it suffers a moment of indecision and paralysis. You must go beyond the fear of death.

2)    Fear of Success
Unfulfilled expectations of family and friends, or transgressions, real or imagined, may make us feel unworthy of guilty of the happiness and satisfaction that come from personal accomplishments. Whether the cause is past or current behaviours, thoughts or actions, we must remember that we are fundamentally good, whatever others may say or think. We must do good, be true to ourselves, our mind at peace. We are worthy of success, and grateful.

Artists especially are sometimes anxious of the attention, pressure and expectation that comes with success, and so are people in general. It is the fear of not living up to our image.

Then there is fear that success will make others jealous or resentful of us, or that we will upset those close to us. But those who really love us will rejoice in our success, and why should we care what others think?

For all the above, remember, “Go your own way, and let the people talk!” Life will be just as free and fun and spontaneous with each success if we have a good attitude, don’t get carried away and maintain the self-discipline that brought success. Stay true to yourself, and if others can’t handle it, then that’s their problem. Learn to enjoy the adulation, attention and the people that you meet as a result. As Federer warns, know yourself, so that criticism doesn’t mess with your mind. Finally, in life there is no need to choose between things we desire. It is possible to attain multiple goals if we dare to have it all, and imagine how we want things to be. Maintain concentration. Like Henry, finger over the lips, “Shhh…”. “He who dares wins”.

3)    Fear of Rejection:
Think for yourself, take control, be self-assertive and put your own interests first. Thus, do what is good and what is right, not necessarily what will satisfy others or give us a reputation of being a “nice person”. It is the ego that makes us feel that a rejection of our words or actions or work is a rejection of our “self”. As Willow says, “rejection I can handle, I’ve had plenty of experience”.

4)    Fear of Mediocrity:
This is the flip-side of the desire for perfectionism. Let us instead follow our creative impulses, reaping joy from the mission itself and not judging its outcome from comparisons with others or being overly self-critical. Set yourself high expectations, but we are only human, so do not fear to not live up to them. We can but do our best, and we strive to do so.
5)    Fear of Risk:
Replace “Better safe than sorry” with “Look before you leap”. Change often. Self-confidence and self-discipline go hand-in-hand. “I can do it!” attitude. 
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 
“Fired up and ready to go!”
You are now in a better position to recognize fears before they sabotage your present plans, so it is important to think them through consciously.

Preparation & Opportunity —> Luck
“The harder I work, the luckier I get!”

3.    Tools for the Subconscious
1)    Self-Talk & Vivid Visualization

2)    Affirmations, written in the first, second and third person. Think deeply about the words as you write them, and note separately any resistances, doubts or other emotions that might arise. These will help identify roadblocks which can be countered using what we have learnt. Also note down any motivational quote or something that inspires you. Change as often as necessary, and review your affirmations each day.

3)    Private Praise & Rewards, especially for the easy but most important initial stages.

4)    Relaxation. Inner conflict —> Stress —> Loss of motivation, avoidance and relief of escapism. To interrupt this process, use meditation techniques to relax and pinpoint obstacles, asking “why?” to get to the root of the conflict, then maintaining this relaxed state when you go into action. In the case of addictive behavior, use something to replace the void left by the addiction.

5)    Mission, Motivation & Steps to lead you there. Think through clearly the risks and rewards, so that you know for sure that this is something you wish to pursue and achieve, and overcome subconscious fears.

Clarity —> Structure —> Intensity
Decision —> Preparation —> ACTION!
     —> Completion & Maintenance

6)    Arrangements for Today
7)    Maintain Concentration right through to the finish!

4. Sophrology 
  Savoir... Aimer... Être  —  Know... Love... Be

1. Good Company, Good Spirit & Good Discipline:
The three keys to education in Arthurian legend, and necessities for any journey on which we wish to embark. Sophrology, deriving from the Greek "sos" = harmony, "phren" = spirit, consciousness, "logos" = study, seeks to describe a path towards harmony, serenity & happiness, and the awakening of states of higher consciousness, and to understand this scientifically. It was coined in Spain in 1960 by the Columbian Alfonso Caycedo. The initial motivation is to eliminate suffering. Our target then is to attack the cause of suffering. Broadly speaking, there are three common reactions to suffering: (i) Agir: to act on people or things around us to conform them to our desires, (ii) Fuir: to escape, isolating oneself from potential troubles, and (iii) Change: pleasure is neither lasting nor stable, so we change circumstances often to renew and refresh. But the most important thing is to recognize that the cause of our suffering and the source of our joy are at least to some degree within ourselves. If the face is dirty, then cleaning the mirror will make no difference. Only once this first step is taken, this fundamental realization properly understood, can we take stock with the state of things with gentle honesty, and without either indulgence or severity. It is time to assess where "enough is enough", to pause and to draw the line.

2. Good Goals:
Accept the difference which exists between where we would like to be and where we are at, and make of this difference an area of conquest, a basis for work & giving us direction. A good goal is one which is realistic so that we do not lose heart in its pursuit, yet also grand and worthwhile enough to motivate us. It should stretch us: "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?" (Robert Browning) "A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way, he steadily raises his level of aspiration." (Kurt Lewin) To set one's goal too high is a form of pride, of which the Tibetans classify seven forms (condescension, arrogance, infatuation, pretention, conceit etc.) Most likely it is pretention, and it shows a lack of humility. Even those who are proven, established, highly regarded and confident in their own abilities must be wary of over-reaching, and in any case a more indirect approach via lesser goals might be more profitable and more likely to succeed.

3. Good Signs:
Encouraging signs & landmarks are witnesses of our progress. They increase our motivation... motivation to make further progress. "One should have a noble and grand objective, but there is no end to arrive at." We will never have the illusion of having "made it", and so we keep advancing, like on a bicycle — the most important thing is to keep pedalling — balancing is easy, maintaining awareness that the path is right for us, that we are going in the right direction, thanks to the signs

4. Good Path:
Whichever way, whichever path we choose, we must follow with awareness, courage, enthusiasm and discipline. Awareness that the path is good, good signs that we are heading in the direction of our goals, and courage, enthusiasm & discipline to keep going on that path.
Sophrology consists of dynamic relaxation, a state of relaxed alertness, the sophroliminal state.

Four Levels of Practice:
1) Body Awareness [sensations, facts]
2) Mind Awareness [emotions, impressions]
3) Universality [prayer, meditation, unity of consciousness]
4) Individuality [re-awakening to the everyday in a higher state]

"Je ne sais pas ce qui ce passait dans mon esprit et je ne pourrais le dire. C'était un de ces moments ineffables où l'on sent en soi quelque chose qui s'endort et quelque chose qui s'éveille."

Translation: "I do not know what came to pass in my soul and I would not be able to explain it. It was one of those ineffable moments when one feels in oneself something which sleeps and something which comes awake."
Victor Hugo

The Letting Go
Like a tennis player in the zone, a letting go to the subconscious, following a usual routine and following auto-pilot with amazing results. Two things are necessary:

1) Knowledge of what to do,
through practice & concentration

2) Confidence in oneself,
through overcoming fear (especially of failure & judgment).

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