To help me get through my mental stuck spots and return to a more graceful way of living, I have learned to use a technique that I call “going O.T.T.” (Over-The-Top). It is a way of purposely over-exaggerating my troublesome situation with a lightness and humor, so that I can detach myself from my problem and see it differently.
Now here is a taste of humble pie.
I reach hundreds of thousands of people through my lectures, websites, workshops and books as an authority on shifting perceptions as a key to promoting more peace and happiness. But when it comes to personally applying these strategies in my own life I often struggle like I have never heard of them (just ask my wife Cindy or our kids!).
When something is bothering me, I can become obsessive about thinking my way out of it. When it gets bad I can’t sleep and find myself talking to other people about it. My thoughts become like a computer that is stuck in an endless loop, with my mind is taking me back through the same places again and again.
The problem is that the more focus I put upon how I view “the problem”—the more that I invest energy into maintaining my current perceptual framework of the problem. Of course I don’t realize this as I am trying to force my way through and then I just get even more frustrated, and make everyone around me know it.
Our problems are always a result of the way that we perceive the problem. Stated differently, the way that we define the problem IS the problem. However, we don’t realize that our view of our situation is the problem and so we actually work to maintain our problem as we invest our energies into solving it from this false perspective. This is why perception is everything.
There are volumes of self help books with all sorts of big words explaining how to have a better life but the simple formula to the majority of the problems that we all face involves two basic steps:
STEP 1-- Identifying the problem as being our misperceived way of seeing the problem.
STEP 2--Taking action to correct our misperception.
Identifying that you first feel stuck is actually a baby step toward taking responsibility for the problem. Admitting that the problem is yours is critical if you are going to solve your problem. This different way of thinking is usually the most critical part.
Taking action to correct our misperception is more of a submission to the fact that we are fallible and prone to misperception. This is the time that going O.T.T. can help by disrupting your thought pattern.
Now, to go O.T.T., what you do is take the same energy that you would normally invest into maintaining your misperception—which your mind tells you is the solution—and instead playfully and creatively exaggerate your thinking.
If your problem is that you continually find yourself overeating or overspending then you might playfully come up with a strategic plan to double your calories or debt spending (for pretend of course) so that you can really feel out of control and mess up your life. If your problem is a relationship pattern which leaves you feeling powerless, then you could exaggerate this powerlessness by going O.T.T. and becoming the feeblest person you can think of. Blame everyone and everything else for your misery rather than owning the fact that you play a role in creating your perception. Get creative at becoming even more miserable—that’s the point.
What I notice when I do this exercise is that there is always a grain of truth hiding in the exaggeration that I don’t want to admit to myself. Part of this truth is the fact that in a sick way I enjoy the struggle and don’t really want the problem to go away. This is why it is important for us to hang onto our misperception of our situation by telling ourselves that in our misery we are right in doing so.
This tidy little rational formula sounds so easy while I am sitting in an airplane and writing about it. After all, I am 36,000 feet above any of the particular problems that I am facing. But put me back on the ground and throw me into the midst of one of my personal struggles and through my own efforts I can easily become my own worst enemy. Instead of seeing new possibilities and solutions I can get stuck in a rut with my thinking. Perception is everything and when I am in a dark place I can make the pessimistic Eyore from Winnie the Pooh look like motivational speaker Tony Robbins.
When you’re stuck and really want more peace of mind, the technique of going O.T.T. is a way to tap into your creativity and break your mental pattern. For slow learners like me, identifying that I can choose to see myself and my situation differently can be a challenge of a lifetime. Nahhh…let’s GO O.T.T.-- make that several lifetimes!
1. How do you react to the notion that your current perception of your problem might actually be the problem? Do you become overly invested in believing that your perception is reality? Do you see how altering your view of your problem would change your relationship to your problem?
2. What would happen if instead of continuing to invest your mental energy into solving your problem—instead you “joined” your problem and took 10 minutes to go O.T.T. and creatively made your problem worse?
3. Reflect upon the last time that you were in a rut with your thinking and felt stuck. Don’t judge yourself—just note and describe your observations. What are your patterns? How long do you stay stuck? What usually triggers you to move on?
4. When you feel stuck with a problem, what would happen if you admitted to yourself that you are actually more interested in your perception of being right and stuck than your need to perceive the world in a way that would bring peace?
5. Go O.T.T. by designing a strategy for how you can continue to maintain your rigid, warped view that is making you miserable at all costs to your health, relationships, peace of mind and financial well being.
6. Have a private argument with yourself (either out loud or in your head). Make sure to defend your belief that you are seeing the only true reality of your situation. Go O.T.T. by arguing that you are the immutable center of existence and that the real problem is that everything external to you must change so that you can be happy. Make an absurd list of blaming your problem on the world, your parents, your spouse, God, your pet fish, dust mite—darn those dust mites piss me off!
7. Add going O.T.T. to your mental toolkit of strategies during a time of meditation when you are not stressed so that you can use it when you are.
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