Meta-Meta-Cognition

Discussion in 'Self Improvement' started by asfixiated, Oct 18, 2015.

  1. asfixiated

    asfixiated Fapstronaut

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    So if you've hung around the forums and read some articles on the topic, you'll have heard of Meta-Cognition - a.k.a. "thinking about your thoughts".

    Meta-Cognition is instrumental to quitting any addiction - you need to be able to consciously "catch" your subconscious thoughts that lead to the repetition of the addictive behavior.

    Meta-Cognition is vital to recovery, but it has its dangers. Those dangers have a solution though, and that's Meta-Meta-Cognition. And that's what this post is about (if you hadn't already guessed from the title).

    What are the dangers of Meta-Cognition (MC)?

    When I started to use MC as a tool, I got really good at "catching" the thought patterns that would lead me to a relapse. I'd see a thought, way in advance of a relapse, that I knew was going to cause a problem later on.

    I would also identify my triggers very well thanks to Meta-Cognition - I realized for instance that seeing any kind of sexual material was a possible problem and could lead to relapse, or that fantasizing was another road to relapse.

    But something else happened that I didn't realize at the time - when I analyzed them in my head, these problems that could lead to PMO became reasons that would definitely lead to PMO. Here are some examples of thoughts like that that:
    • I just had that thought about my cute coworker. Well, I guess it's relapse time soon!
    • Oh no, there's a woman I find really attractive in this TV show, and now she's half-naked! I've felt this before - I'm being triggered and relapse is inevitable!
    • Ah damn, I skipped my meditation today! I'm falling into my old habits again. Guess I'm relapsing next!
    These thoughts would create a "strain" in my brain - a feeling of dread and inevitability. "Oh no, my brain's working wrong again. Here comes the relapse! Here go my dreams and goals!". And this would make relaxing and taking my urges head on extremely taxing.

    Why does this happen?

    This belief that our thoughts or emotions somehow "inevitably lead" to us acting on them is caused by what's called a Cognitive Distortion. Actually it's caused by several. In fact, according to this fancy diagram that I included in an earlier post, I would say it's caused by a combination of the "Emotional Reasoning", "Jumping to Conclusions" and "Magnification/Catastrophization":
    [​IMG]
    Looking at the diagram, you'll notice a lot of other common Distortions that many people experience.

    Don't judge yourself "a loser" just because you see yourself having many of them! I have all of them, and yet I don't consider myself a lost cause. Plus, that kind of judgment would be "Labelling", according to the handy-dandy diagram above :D.

    But I need MC to Reboot - how do I avoid Cognitive Distortions?

    Didn't you read the title:)? The answer is Meta-Meta-Cognition (2MC)! Study the way you look at your thoughts!

    I used to look at my all of my "gut responses" as inevitable. If I was triggered - that was it! It's over! I'm a loser! I can't do this! But guess what? Nothing farther from the truth! Until I'm there, PMOing, I haven't relapsed. And until that time comes nothing is inevitable. And I realized this by using 2MC.

    As you use MC during your reboot, take the time to also use 2MC - look at the way you perceive your addiction and your triggers. This perception is often unnecessarily fatalistic and destructive.

    As you study your thoughts with 2MC, there are often clear signs that they're undergoing some kind of Cognitive Distortion:
    • The thoughts include judgmental words and phrases such as "loser", "I suck", "I'm not capable of this"
    • The thoughts include words and phrases that suggest inevitability such as "it's over", "I'll definitely relapse now", "oh no - it's only a matter of time now!"
    • The thoughts are negative instead of constructive. A thought is constructive when it attempts to provide a solution to a problem. A thought is negative when it merely describes how bad a situation is, but brings nothing else to the table beyond stress.
    What do I do with the Distorted thoughts?

    When you catch an MC thought that is under the effects of a Cognitive Distortion using 2MC, the best way to deal with it is simply to relax, take a "step back" and and observe it. Then - and this is important - realize that the thought says nothing about who you actually are. It's just a product of your subconscious, and will simply disappear if you relax and passively observe it for a while.

    If you don't do this, you're effectively Cognitively Distorting the 2MC thought about the MC thought... Yeah I know, it gets pretty Meta - but this is a post about Meta-Meta-Cognition after all.

    Conclusion/TL;DR

    Meta-Cognition has a way of becoming imbued with negative judgments and logical fallacies that cause problems of their own - Cognitive Distortions. These can lead to feelings of "inevitable relapse" and can cause stress and fatigue which make the process harder.

    While you're consciously observing your subconscious with Meta-Cognition, you should also be observing the Meta-Cognitive process itself to avoid these Distortions.

    Stay Meta, NoFappers!
     
  2. BushidoWarrior

    BushidoWarrior Fapstronaut

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    Great idea! I remember it was a moment of realization for me when I noticed that the thoughts doing the most damage to my personal wellbeing were the thoughts about the thoughts I was having. I called them 'meta-thoughts', but I now know that is the wrong noun, as meta-thoughts refer to a different phenomenon entirely in the cognitive psychology literature.
     
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  3. david-ca

    david-ca Fapstronaut

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    It's a great way to know what led you to pmo.Every time i relapse i start thinking about what led me to it.after a few times i realized that even sexual fantasies were triggers for me so it helped me know what was the reason of my relapse.
     
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  4. ronswanson

    ronswanson Fapstronaut

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    I love what you write @asfixiated - I guess maybe you've read the 16 Habits You Should Do Every Day book as well?

     
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  5. asfixiated

    asfixiated Fapstronaut

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    I have, yes! I found it very inspiring, and I tried it numerous times. Unfortunately my brain fell into the trap of believing it that all the habits were "mandatory", and it caused me a lot of stress - which was a shame, because I think the guide has some great insights and the habits in it are very positive.

    Which is why when I saw you talking about it in that other post I thought "awesome! I just hope he doesn't fall into the same trap I did!" :DThat being said, the most important thing is that you try it confidently, without fear. Trying new methods and finding what works for you is the best way to beat PMO once and for all!
     
  6. ronswanson

    ronswanson Fapstronaut

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    I know exactly what you mean. And rationally, I know that not all of the habits are mandatory, I know that it's not about "success or failure". The problem is that my rational mind doesn't govern my emotions, and they have a tendency to freak out! But part of my recovery is learning to deal with my emotions in a more healthy way, recognise my anxiety, and become a better person despite it. It's not going to stop me.
     
  7. asfixiated

    asfixiated Fapstronaut

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    Exactly! And it's important to realize that your emotions are not you and the say nothing about who you are! They're just like urges - a gut response to an outside event! You can beat them the same way you beat urges - through relaxation and acceptance. :D
     
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  8. Jodokus

    Jodokus Fapstronaut

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    I haven't had that type of problem with meta-thoughts. But I was thinking of this:
    Sometimes analyzing the urges (or their conditions) makes them reappear. This can give me a hard time when writing posts here.
    But every time I endure it I'm rewarded with a deep insights and the feeling of katharsis or at least as if I have processed something.
     
  9. BrainPlasticity

    BrainPlasticity Fapstronaut

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    Awesome post man!. Going to share this in my journal. I'll be sure to check out the other links on your signature :)
     

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