Tag Archives: thoughts

Perception vs reality


perception photo

Perception vs reality

Think of your perception of reality as your ‘map’. Think of reality as the ‘territory’. Perception vs reality is an important factor in how we live our lives and how successful we are at picking up on what is really going on. Over the years I have listened to many people’s stories, especially all the ways things can go wrong.Our parents teach us what they have learned. Along with this information, comes biases, prejudices and faulty assumptions which leads to our maps not quite fitting the territory. Our perceptions are ultimately distorted and stop fitting reality and this is where many problems come in.

We look for evidence that confirm our beliefs about the world and this, in turn, reinforces our perceptions and distorts what we see. I have seen many clients whose map is so far removed from the territory that they no longer actively engage with the world in a productive way that makes sense. People with severe anxiety and depression often have distorted maps and this causes them to only focus on certain negative aspects of reality in order to make sense of their thoughts and perceptions.

When it comes to perception vs reality, always look for the evidence in reality that supports your thinking/perceptions. This is one way to avoid upsetting and unhelpful thinking from getting the better of us. Cognitive behavioural therapy regularly refers to unhelpful thinking styles that tend to add to our stress. Thoughts such as: black and white (all or nothing) thinking, personalising (blaming ourselves for things that have nothing to do with us), catastrophising, emotional reasoning (I feel upset therefore something MUST be wrong), mind reading (thinking we know what others are thinking) and so on.

We have a lot of flexibility in the thoughts we want to choose to make sense of reality. Make sure you choose these thoughts wisely – ones that are reasonable, based on evidence as much as possible (rather than assumptions) and provide you with positive feelings.

Mandy X

PS. In times of distress, check what you have been telling yourself (your perceptions and thoughts of the reality) and always ask yourself “What can I tell myself that will make me feel better about this situation?” Always look for alternative ways to look at something – they are always there.

Coping with social anxiety


social anxiety

Coping with social anxiety

Do you dread the idea of having to socialise? If you do, join the club! Many people get anxious in social situations, worrying that they will embarrass themselves somehow or not measure up to the people around them.

Cognitive behavioural therapy works well for people with social anxiety as it looks at people’s fears as well as the probability that these fears will in fact take place. More often than not, the fears we have never happened yet we still worry endlessly about what might go wrong. The anticipation in itself can be hell.

A useful technique is to visualise everything going well. It is also very effective to talk to yourself in a positive manner. Say things to yourself such as “I am good company, why wouldn’t people enjoy being around me?”. You may not believe these thoughts/statements at first but it is important to replace self doubt and self criticism with more positive statements. Behaviour that is warmer and shows you as more approachable then follows.

More often than not, it isn’t the situation that stresses us out, instead it is our perception that causes anxiety. If we imagine we will embarrass ourselves and we focus on our insecurities we are far more likely to feel anxious and dread the situation. We can challenge our perceptions though – any time, any place. We always have that choice.

Ask yourself what you are thinking – grab the relevant thoughts. Then ask yourself if there is another way to look at the situation. Would someone else see it differently?

Look for a revised, more realistic version of your original thought.


I don’t want to be here.

Why don’t I Want to be here?  I don’t want to be here because …?

People will look at me and know that I feel uncomfortable.

And that is bad because?

Well, people will know something is wrong with me…

And what is so bad about that?

People will think I am crazy…

And what does that say about me?

Well, it says that I am crazy.

Become an expert at identifying your assumptions and negative thoughts. Be as specific as you can when identifying a thought and become a thought detective asking yourself questions such as:

Where is the evidence for this thinking?

How do I know that my thoughts are true? Is is fact?

What other explanations could there be?

Is it helpful for me to think this way?

What would someone else say/do in this situation?

The more able we become at disputing our negative thoughts, the less intense the negative associated emotion will be and the more adept we are at looking at what we are telling ourselves, the better we become at discovering our core beliefs- these are ideas that lay the foundations for our negative thoughts and the most common ones I have come across are: I am  not love-able or I am not good enough.

See if you can figure out what your core beliefs are. They often take the form of a “if this..then that” statement. Eg. if I socialise, no one will like me.

The next step is to try find real life situations where we can test out our core belief. Start with a small experiment. Again – more often than not (I have assisted many clients in putting together behavioural experiments to test out beliefs) we find that our core belief is not true. When this happens, our need to believe and hold on to a core belief that limits us lessens. It loses it’s power as we prove to ourselves the exact opposite of what we thought.

Repetition is key – keep challenging, keep looking for evidence and keep setting up situations where you can test out your core beliefs (also known as “rules for living”.)

Tips for a healthy happy life:

Keep a balanced routine and healthy lifestyle

Develop a good social network – the key to contentment!

Develop a good professional network

Expect slip ups, failures and down days.

Don’t let fear get the better of you and remember that we often all feel anxious when we are out and about. especially on down days. Don’t be hard on yourself and stop the high expectations. Learn to live simply and never take life too seriously.

Mandy X



10 Interesting psychology facts


brain photo

10 Interesting psychology facts


1)People who have cars with bumper stickers are more likely to exhibit road rage.** You may want to think twice before laying on the horn. A study at Colorado State University found drivers who use decals, dashboard hulas, and vanity plates, are more likely to be road ragers than others. Researchers say it comes down to the fact that people who mark their territory appear to be a bit more aggressive.

2)You attract what you show to the world. – So if you want it, reflect it. Happiness, freedom, and peace of mind are always attained by giving them out to others without expectation. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are eventually helped. You have two hands; one to help yourself, the second to help those around you.

3)According to studies, you’ll be happier spending your money on experiences rather than possessions.

4)Happiness has become an increasingly popular field focused on the scientific study of emotional well-being. Research has suggested that people often sacrifice things that make them happy such as vacations or going out to certain events, in order to afford possessions (such as property)  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/realestate/homeownership-the-key-to-happiness.html?_r=0

5)Kids are more highly strung today, with high school students showing the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950’s.

Approximately 49% of the general population suffer or have suffered from anxiety, depression or substance abuse. In particular, there is proof that the collective human race is becoming more anxious every decade and there are many speculative reasons for that. For instance, people move more, have less interaction with their communities, change jobs, are less likely to get married and more likely to live alone. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-files/200804/how-big-problem-is-anxiety

6)There is actually a phobia for losing one’s phone. Nomophobia is a term describing the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact (Elmore,2014) The term is an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia” which was coiled during a 2010 study by the UK Post Office. According to the study, 54% of those questioned said they experienced nomophobia. And overall, women were likely to suffer from nomophobia than men (Merz, 2013).

7)When we hug, the chemical that the brain release is the hormone oxytocin. It has been hypothesized that oxytocin, a hormone recognized for its role in social attachment and facilitations of social interactions, is also important in the formation of trust. (Baumagartner, 2008)

8)Desensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. In a study conducted recently, parents were subjected to watching movies that have violence and sex have showed that there was an increase in acceptance to both types of content, even to the extent of the willingness to show it to their children. (Romer, et. Al. 2014). There is also evidence of desensitization among people who play video games (Bushman, 2007).


9)Mirror neurons are the brain’s hardware for harmonizing individuals to their environment (Matousek, 2011). Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct stimulation. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can’t resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with giggles (Rizzolatti, circa 1990). It has been said that these neurons give us the capability for empathy, allowing us to feel what other people feel – theoretically both physically and emotionally (Ramachandran, 2012).

10)  It isn’t true that we only use 10% of our brain capacity. We do in fact use most of our brain power.

Mandy X





What’s the truth?


truth photo

What’s the truth?

It’s a very good thing that many ‘truths’ exist. What do you believe to be true about you…about the world? These beliefs will have been formed over your life time – some may be accurate and some not. But according to what and to whom? Who decides what the truth actually is?

There are so many things that we do not understand and don’t even know about – consider the vast Universe and how little we know about the truth that exists out there. What I am getting at is that your ‘truth’ can be challenged – especially if your beliefs and the things you believe to be true stifle and limit you in some way.

What do you want to believe about you? There are some boundaries of course – you may want to believe that you are Shymalgyan from Planet ZigZag but that could end up causing you more trouble than it’s worth. No, what I am getting at is that you can choose your truth, what you want to believe about you and your life is far more accessible than you realise.

Why not see yourself as competent and amazing? Who is the expert in this who can scientifically prove otherwise? Believe that you are successful and you are more likely to find and be ready for opportunities that can lead to success. When you have faith in the thought and hold it inside, it edges you closer to that becoming a reality. As they say “you have to be on the pitch to score a goal” and if you don’t believe something then you aren’t giving yourself the best chance of it becoming true for you.

I know a thought can seem transient and temporary but the more you focus on these thoughts and repeat them, the more real they become. “Act as if” or “fake it to make it” are common sayings relevant to this type of strategy. When you feel down and self critical, ask yourself where the big fat Rule Book of Life is that states these ideas you hold are true. There isn’t one – have a rethink and replace those negative thoughts with ones that help you feel brighter about yourself. You can ask yourself why you should ignore the negative thoughts (you may be preprogrammed to think negatively about yourself) but you can just as easily ask yourself why you should ignore positive empowering thoughts too.

I have managed to transform my thinking to a much healthier platform even if it felt a little stilted at the beginning. I still have bad days but my quality of life is better and the tough times don’t throw me as much as they used to. I am also a lot less emotionally volatile than I used to be when I was younger! I am living proof that choosing what you want to believe is a brilliant strategy than can open doors and change your attitude.

Mandy X


Photo by mamnaimie piotr


Never as good, never as bad


thoughts photo

Never as good, never as bad

One thing that I have learned from my own personal experiences as well as via the stories my clients tell me, is that the actual reality- the real event is never quite as good as we think it will be nor it is usually as bad as expect it to be.

One of my long term clients recently said to me that her mind takes her off on all sorts of mad journeys where one thoughts spirals into another whereby she ends up “catastrophising” a possible future event before it has even happened. Some Scientists believe that the brain cannot tell the difference between an imagined and an actual event and if this is the case, we are setting ourselves up for stressful physiological events that may never come to pass.

How often have you imagined the future, thinking about how awful you will feel, how humiliated you might be or how you will mess up an opportunity – only to find that when you finally got round to actually experiencing the event, it wasn’t as bad as you had expected? This seems to be what the majority of us experience and we don’t seem to learn the lesson. Even though the event is better than we anticipated, the next time we are in the same or similar situation, we relive the same experience all over again.

The same goes for positive experiences: we often wistfully observe drivers in their flashy cars going by or we see a well dressed person in designer clothing and imagine that they must have an exciting fulfilling life. When you have never experienced wealth as we see in the media and celebrity world, we can easily assume that what we do not have will be the answer to all our current problems. The truth is, thoughts about how happy material goods will make us, or how keeping a full social calendar will keep us satisfied are mistakenly held. Whatever your assumptions are that lead you to believe that obtaining something will make you happier than you are right now, it is time to challenge them. You are living with irrational beliefs and this will lead your current position in life to be less pleasurable.

Where you are right now is fine and even if it could be better, believing happiness can only be achieved through an external means is a sad misguided way to live. The truth is, feeling satisfied and content is a choice. I know – it sounds so simplistic and stupid but it is true. This is real wisdom. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, your power of perception and the attitude you choose will be the most powerful predictor of your contentment and enjoyment of life.

When you realise that life is never quite as bad or as good as we think it will be, it makes sense to choose the right attitude in the present moment and go with that.

A great book related to the above post:
     Mandy X

Photo by -closed- look 4 /MyVisualPoetry

stress intervention

Positive Stress Interventions


laughing photo

Positive Stress Interventions


Do you ever feel stressed? I guess that’s a silly question. Even when you try (like I do daily…and often miss my target!) to stay calm, think positively and tell myself that nothing is going to destroy my ‘fab funk’, something invariably comes along to challenge my ‘serenity’. Like traffic jams, rude people, the cost of living, …..etc etc….

So what can we do to inject positive stress interventions to help us manage the crazy world we live in? I have a few suggestions…

This stress intervention technique is my favourite and I use it regularly when I feel myself ready to throttle someone or reach for that big fat dougnut…

1) Acceptance

Most unhappiness comes from the big fat hole that exists between how we want our life to be and how our life actually is. There is often a wide gap between how we envisaged our lives turning out (for me it was a lovely house, a kind adoring husband, lovely kids, a perfect figure,constant happiness…ummm….okay.back to reality) and the reality of life as it is.. (lovely house, no husband, lovely child, far from perfect figure, not constantly happy….sigh…). We can work ourselves up by all that isn’t right and exhaust ourselves in the process or we can accept the way things are. This doesn’t mean being passive and resigning yourself to a mediocre life, it’s about giving up the resistance and learning to deal with the cards you’ve been dealt. It’s okay to have ‘poor me’ days but when we stay too long in the ‘poor me, it’s so unfair, why me?’ mindset, we focus on what is wrong and not on solutions. Acceptance can bring with it a sense of calm and invite a new perspective. Say to yourself, “life is tough right now, this is how things are but it doesn’t mean it will be this way forever”.

2) Mindfulness

There are many triggers that can set us off on a daily basis where we begin focusing on our fears and insecurities. We feel bothered about the past and anxious about the future. Soon, we start the “what if” type thoughts and we’re off on a tangent…leading us deeper into more stressful thinking. Mindfulness is a wonderfully accessible and simple stress intervention. Focus your thinking back to the present moment. If you’re driving, focus on the song lyrics on the radio/cd and if you fid your mind wandering, put the song back to the beginning and start again. Practise being in the moment more. Observe, listen, touch, smell – take in your surroundings. The more ‘in the moment’ you are the less time your mind has to wander off and freak you out with mad irrational thoughts about things that may actually never happen.

3) Unhook from your thinking

This is a vital stress intervention. We need a thought to spark and emotion. If I ask you to feel angry right now, you will need to THINK  of something that makes you angry.So thoughts are the beginning point and they affect our quality of life enormously. Give up the negative thinking…look for ways to challenge your negative thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking, “I’m such a failure”..or “I’m useless”, think of examples in your life that contradict those thoughts. You will most certainly be able to find examples when you were not a failure or worthless. How does that help you in life anyway – thinking of yourself in negative terms? Well, it doesn’t. There can be absolutely no good that can come from reminding yourself of everything that is wrong with you. Imagine if someone gave you a parrot as a present. Imagine that parrot sitting in the corner of the room shouting negativity at you all day long…. “ah you loser, give it up, it’s no good. You can’t do it…”. Hopefully you would do the right thing and give the parrot up for adoption!

The same goes for your negative inner chatter – give it up.

These three stress interventions are great because they are practical and you can try them out anywhere. I really find they help me get back on track and feel calmer instantly.

Mandy X

laughing photo

Photo by JasonDGreat


Photo credit – Smiling Macaque monkey: David Slater


Thinking and beliefs

beliefs photo

 Thinking and Beliefs

Do our thoughts accurately reflect reality or do they create our reality? This has long been a question I have pondered on. What is the truth? What we believe and feel in our hearts or the bare face objective reality unfettered by emotions?

If reality and the outside world, what we see, is independent of us then whatever we believe makes no difference to the way the world continues to progress and play out. We might believe that being a vegetarian is a healthy option but the level of vegetarianism will not be affected by this belief. What goes on in the external world and our internal world is separate.

If reality is partially subjective however, what we think and believe can and will make a difference to our quality of life.Your beliefs are partially creating your reality. In fact, we all have slightly different realities of reality. What are you on about I hear you say… let me explain.

You cannot merely look to external reality for truth because your thoughts are creating it. If you believe the world is better off with more vegetarians, your own thoughts contribute to shaping the world in accordance with your beliefs. We look for external events and evidence to support our thinking not the other way around.

When you realise the power of your own thinking it becomes easier to take advantage of your inner powers of perception. In order to use your thoughts to create, you must first believe it’s at least conceivably possible to do so.

If quantum theory is to be believed, then it’s clear that our observations influence reality. Our thoughts affect reality through direct and indirect action. Direct action involves thinking and then following through with a concrete action. On a  indirect level, when we believe something to be true we can promote that event happening – known as a self fulfilling prophecy.

Your thoughts can affect reality through indirect action, whereby your beliefs make you a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you go to work each day, you’re a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your beliefs about reality will be reflected through your actions, often in extremely subtle ways.

You can act upon the world. You can move things around, talk to people, make changes, etc. If you believe that your actions will be ineffective, then you create yourself as a powerless entity. But if you were to change your beliefs about that, you could significantly change the world. What are you telling yourself? Are your thoughts empowering or disempowering?

Understand that beliefs are decisions. They are choices. When you hold a belief, you aren’t merely observing reality — you’re actively creating it. So if you adopt the belief that you will embarrass yourself at the next office party, understand that what you’re doing is choosing to embarrass yourself. You’re setting up the prophecy you wish to fulfill. If your thoughts could not impact reality, then this would be foolish. But if your thoughts can and do impact reality, then it’s just common sense to choose the beliefs that are aligned with what you wish to create. So if you’re overweight and believe you cannot lose weight, you’re actually choosing to be fat. And underlying that belief may be a whole web of other disempowering beliefs — you may need to unravel quite a few of these in order to feel comfortable creating fitness for yourself.

I believe that my thoughts are capable of having a positive impact on reality and I feel a strong sense of responsibility for what I am creating with my thinking. This is how I choose to engineer my life – thinking and action aligned purposefully. I choose to believe that the universe supports me and that there is a way to achieve my goals. I believe that people are inherently good and that I have the power to choose my circumstances in life – how I spend my time and the people I let into my life.

When I choose positive thoughts, I tend to attract this into my life. It may seem simplistic but it certainly helps to have a head full of thinking that promotes a good, happy, peaceful world around me.

Mandy X





Life as it really is…

Real Life

Real Life


Have you ever stopped to think about whether life is really how you see it? We all have our own take on the world yet many of us base our reality on assumptions, projections and second hand information. These ideas and stories that we tell ourselves and recreate in our minds can be tainted by our own irrational thinking and dysfunctional perceptions. Examples of this type of thinking that distorts reality:

Black and white thinking

Life is never black and white yet we try to make it so in order to simplify life. Unfortunately, the trick is not to simplify life but rather to accept that life is complex and that there will always be exceptions to the rule.


Making a mountain out of a molehill magnifies events and creates distortions. Take the emotion out of it and try to look at the facts

Negative Filtering

Every situation has pros and cons, yet sometimes we tend to see the negative in everything.


Imagining that everything is done to get at you or comments are directed at you. Often, others may be totally oblivious to you. You don’t know what others are really thinking or why they are doing things. You will only know if you ask directly.


Coming to a general conclusion over one incident.

Emotional Reasoning

We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid, then we must be stupid. I feel it therefore it must be true.

Recognising that the way we see the world may not necessarily be the way reality is helps us to keep perspective and not always take our thoughts seriously.

Mandy X