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Activating Agents part 2. Saturday September 14, 2013

I open the fridge door. I see an opened pack of milk chocolate. The instant my eyes detect it my emotional circuits react at lightening speed. Flashbacks of previous pleasure return producing warm excited emotions that fill me with desire. In seconds I eat the bar. My request is granted. It is down the hatch before I can say the words 'chocolate has many calories'. The bar stood no chance of survival.

Are my emotions then not a rapid response mechanism to activating agents or triggers?

Triggers may be even be internal I guess, arising in our minds, but they are easier to see and understand with external things, like a song, a place, a colour, a shape, a taste, a sight of food or drink. I see it, want it, eat it and it's over and all in a heartbeat or two.

Thinking, well, it's maybe overrated. There was no thinking involved, at least not of the slow, steady, reflective sort. Sure, I can be mindful. I can see the chocolate in the fridge door, observe the warm fuzzy feelings, acknowledge them, allow them to pass away while I simultaneously review all the disadvantages to eating the chocolate.

Sadly, I'm not yet that enlightened. So, my road to success might have to begin with removing or staying away from my activating agents. When I attain enlightenment I will manage to resist temptation and overcome my urges with wisdom. There may be a part 3.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Anonymous Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 8:43am

Bill, it's 'lightning speed'. Good post: may be of use to me when helping hypnotherapy clients with weight loss/anti-smoking or any other form of craving.
Thank you.

Obat penyumbatan pembuluh darah Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 8:46am

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Julia Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 9:26am

Please..what language is this so I can google translate.

Julia Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 9:39am

Hi Bill.
I am not sure I understand this. I re read your activating agents part 1 to see if that would help me with part 2 and the connection I find is food, dieting and temptation I guess, distancing ourselves from bad stuff..although chocolate can be good for you even on a diet! Warm fuzzy feelings are good too!? The only things I need to resist are other people's demands (which are cold, sharp taking your breath away sensations) On the contrary I want to succumb to warm fuzzy feelings and chocolate both of which are so good for you.
Have re read it again... I agree knee jerk reactions are not always good (Is this what you mean by "rapid response mechanism to activating agents or triggers?" Knee jerk reactions?
I want to lap up your blogs Bill as you have provided so much help for me in the past; I recall especially the posts you wrote about anti depressants. They were masterpieces. Oh well I expect it's too early in the morning for me. I will probably get it around 11am.

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 10:25am

Hi Julia, I think it's Indonesian and it translates on Google translate as:
Thank you very much for the information that has been conveyed.

Julia Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 10:53am

Thank you!

Anonymous Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 1:10pm

That is a bit absurd _ avoiding triggers On what planet do you live

Julia Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 2:46pm

Hi there. I feel I must defend Bill even though I have been critical of his blog today and even though i am quite sure he is more than capable of defending himself and probably chooses not to. The dignified person that he is.
Bill has written some very interesting helpful blogs and posts in the past and if you read them, I am sure you will decide he is firmly living in the real world. But sadly, I agree with you that we can't avoid triggers. And even though the magic hour of 11am has passed, I still don't understand Bill's points today.

Anonymous Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 3:23pm

Of course you can avoid triggers if you want to, it's not absurd at all!

Anonymous Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 3:51pm

Bill's post is very evocative of what makes us give in to forbidden pleasures - who can resist 'warm fuzziness'? Who wants to resist it? We forget all dangers when we feel something so pleasant, so enjoyable, so un-threatening & ir-resistible.
Hope this helps you, Julia, we all experience that, one day or another - next week, you'll help me thru' it maybe.

Julia Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 4:36pm

This is very kind of you Anonymous to take the time to explain this to me. Yes I guess I am just having one of those days.

Anonymous Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 4:38pm

I agree about it being hard to be mindful of emotions just prior to doing something like over eating, or any other addiction. Mindfulness of emotions and letting them pass in order to prevent doing something we dont want to do is a real challenge. That is why mindfulness is best practised outside of these situations at firs. Mindfulness is like a muscle that needs to be exercised over and over in order for it to become easier to do. So start with being mindful at a less challenging time. There are hundreds of situations in which to begin so I will just give one example but know that they can be applied to many areas. Take a situation like one day I am feeling annoyed with a person about something, not totally angry but just annoyed and I can't shake it off. Then I sit down with that emotion and just be quiet focusing on my breathing, then focusing on the ''sensations'' in my body, noticing where this feeling is located, and following it as it moves, as it often does physically move around the body, not judging it or myself as i am observing the sensations around this annoyance, but just ''noticing'' the sensations, sending them positive energy, or even just imagining my favourite colour seeping into that spot in my chest where the anxiety lies or the funny feeling in my arm, and eventually it dissapates. This type of mindful practise must be practised regularly-often during or after the mindfulness I realize something new about myself and/or the urge to perseverate on the annoyance i felt disappears. Once one has done this regularly one can apply it to cravings or addictions. Then the 'lightening' fast process of feeling, thinking and acting-choosing the chocolate or what have you, slows down. I am more in touch with my body sensations-so it is easier to go oh, hmm, im having that craving, interesting. I will sit down and get quiet and ''notice'' where is that craving feeling manifesting in my body? is it in my chest? my stomach? does my head actually hurt a bit? and then i am able to ''observe'' the emotion and sometimes able to let it go-usually realizing i am upset about something i was burrying, and then i ''observe that'' too, and the sensations that go with it, until it is gone. Sometimes this works. Sometimes this doesnt. Bill is onto something here. DBT or dialectical behavioural therapy, the most widely used therapy for mood disorders is exactly as i have explained. The process is the same. Its about noticing and getting in touch with your feelings and where they manifest in the body, often realizing there was somethign behind those feelings unrelated to the actual craving, somethign subconscious. It is a very hard thing for me to do but it does work-sometimes. As i get better, I think it will work more often than not in order for me to make ''conscious'' choices about food, verbal reactions to people, and so on so that i may act in accordance to my own personal values-

Julia Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 7:08pm

I am going to practise imagining my favourite colour seeping into the funny feeling in my arm and behind my shoulder blade which I get when I'm tired or agitataed/anxious. And into the fuzzy feeling (NOT a warm fuzzy feeling) I get over my right eye on the top of my head. I get this when I haven't had any deep sleep for a long time. It's not nice but maybe the imagery suggested by Anonymous above will help.

Julia Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 7:10pm

I meant my left eye.

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 7:19pm

Hi Anon, thanks for that interesting response. If you fancy writing a blog for Moodscope contact me at

Bill Andrews Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 7:41pm

Bill's response part 1

Thanks to all who have contributed so much in discussion of these recent posts of mine. I've been away and out of wifi so have been unable to respond. Of course it is also difficult to respond in some detail to every comment as this would prove to be a full-time job. The last post above by Anonymous beautifully illustrates and elaborates very much on the main issue I've been attempting to address. The use of the simple chocolate metaphor is to try to help give a clear illustration of the process of some sort of trigger often firing off a pattern that results in either participation in some sort of process we would rather avoid or avoidance of some process one would rather participate in. By beginning to remove the 'automaticity' that so easily drives our emotions and our behaviours and by instead bringing these processes into our conscious awareness we can begin to start the process of mastering them so the dog wags the tail instead of the other way around. Is this easy? Absolutely not. As the last post explains, it makes sense to start off with easier tasks that have a lower emotional intensity and build up. This is why sometimes removal of the 'activating agent' in the first place can help. Can all activating agents be removed? of course not. Whether it is food, drink, drugs, tv, gambling, spending too much time online, reacting to texts, or, for that matter, blogs, there are endless and unceasing activating agents that we fall prey to all the time. But developing awareness of our 'reactions' may help to allow us to develop a more considered 'response'.

With best wishes,


Bill Andrews Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 7:45pm

Bill's response part 2

The other day, in response to part 1, a contributor explained about all the variety of challenging 'activating agents' that were leading to an over-eating pattern and said how there was nothing at the moment that could be done to remove or change them. I completely understand this sort of pressure leading to an attempt to diminish or divert the intensity of the emotions by using food as a tactic. Nothing may be immediately obvious to change the 'bigger picture' but limiting the availability of the items of food or alcohol that are commonly turned to while attempting to relieve the emotional distress so that it is simply harder to access them may prove a useful tactic to help begin the process of becoming mindful of the emotions that are driving the unwanted behaviour. In my case, if the chocolate was simply not available in the fridge door then I was unlikely to walk a mile to the nearest petrol station where I could buy it. It's just an attempt to set ourselves up for success.

Right now, if you have chosen to read this post you have an opportunity to examine your response. My words may irritate you, make you feel angry, or may have the opposite effect. You can make a choice to react and write some strong response, you can choose to do nothing and think about it, you can choose to write something supportive. You can watch the emotions rising up within you, even play with them, notice them, wonder about earlier experiences of similar emotions, perhaps in response to a conversation with somebody else, I don't know. But we have always endless opportunities to learn more about ourselves and what drives us to do or not do anything, the drivers of our experiences.

Another response pointed out my niavety about diet and the food industry and political forces etc. etc. I appreciate the point but I suppose my question is 'What, if anything, can I choose to do or not do differently today, right now, this minute, that is under my control and which will result in a better outcome, no matter how small?'

Thanks to everybody again for taking the time to respond. We all can learn from each other. Please be assured that however poorly I may attempt to deliver some small message about something I feel might be useful to somebody, my genuine intention is only to be of help. If any post I write simply does not serve that purpose for you then that's ok. Maybe the next day's post will do so.

With very best wishes to all Moodscopers,


Caroline Ashcroft Sat, Sep 14th 2013 @ 7:48pm

Thanks Bill, very kind of you to respond. We love your blogs and appreciate you taking time out of your holiday to respond.

Lostinspace Sun, Sep 15th 2013 @ 12:20am

I expected to see another "card" of Moodscope analysed as yesterday which I found immensely helpful. Is this not going to happen? I am all at sea! There are NO open chocolate bars in my fridge, I hide them where no-one else will get at them. Then, I sometimes forget where they are.

Anonymous Sun, Sep 15th 2013 @ 3:41pm

You can use any image you like, or Just send love to that area which feels weird, OR just observe the funny feeling, sit quietly and observe it as you breathe in and out, see if it moves or changes form/feeling. If you have ''busy thoughts'' while you do this, imagine putting them in a little cloud above your head and letting them go, dont be hard on yourself for having busy thoughts, just notice oh, im distracted, oops, into the cloud it goes, and re focus on the shoulder. good luck julia, i hope you find some insight. Of course you could also go the phsycial manipulation route and try massage or chiro....

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