Psychological State Management: Scratching the Surface

I’ve been working a lot with one, Miss Megan K, and just recently, the dangerously smart, Frankie Faires on state management.

“What in the eff is ‘state management’? Is that, like, politics??

Not quite, Chief. State management is the ability to change your mood in order to elicit a desired outcome of a specific interaction (more or less). This is important for you because your psychological state determines tons and tons of unconscious associations you make during everyday interactions.

Let’s say you’re in a really bad mood for whatever reason and you’re required to talk to a group of your peers. How do you think that meeting will go? Will you be receptive to listening to ideas that you don’t really agree with, or will you shoot them down and call them idiots? Are you willing to swallow your ego and listen to others’ criticism, or will you just say, “no, I’m right; you’re wrong; na-na-friggin’-boo-boo, you idiot”?

What if you had the ability change your state beforehand? What if you could go from pissed off to Mr. Sociable? How many more people would you be able to positively affect? How many people would you be able to influence? How many people could you make better just by them being around you? Don’t you want to positively affect people’s lives? I know I do…..if I can.

What if you knew exactly how your state would affect specific interactions? Could you not then predict the outcomes of that interaction? If you could predict the outcome, could you not decide to ONLY participate in situations that make you better? Furthermore, if you know how to change your state, could you not change it to make EVERY outcome of every interaction positive? Put your Broca area of your frontal lobe of your cerebral cortex to good use! (Don’t worry, I’m not that smrt. Frankie told me to start with cerebral cortex, and I decided to do some research while travelling down this rabbit hole.)

[Additionally, check out this general information from Jeffry Ricker, Ph. D. at Scottsdale Community College. It’s pretty basic, Psych 101 type stuff so it’s not too hard to understand.]

You see, state management is absolutely vital in your everyday interactions (and not just with people).

I Suck at State Management

True story….but I used to be absolutely superb.

And this is where my talks with Megan K and Frankie started.

I am really good at being pissed off. Like, really good. I sit at a job I hate for about 9 hours a day. I come home and have household chores that I hate doing (just like everyone else). I choose to be a social media whoore where I disagree with 95% of the people I interact with (“whoore” kinda sounds like “hoover” without the “v”). I’m so incredibly good at being in a bad mood that I can do things I enjoy while still being in a bad mood. For instance, I’ve gone on dates while thinking I’d love nothing more than to just get up and walk away, yet still received a call back because I made her laugh and she had a good time. Not me. I’ve gone to training sessions, shot the shit, drank beers afterwards, and had fun just like the “good ‘ol days”. When in reality, I wasn’t really into the conversations or beers I was drinking. Shit, I wasn’t even in the mood to train, but I went anyway. I was just going through the motions and making sure I didn’t let them see my lack of enthusiasm. I guess you could say I’m a really good at faking it.

Hell, I’m getting so good at being in a bad mood, that being in a bad mood almost puts me in a good mood. Wait, wut?? When I’m highly cynical and filled with hate from the dark side, I make a lot of non-politically correct jokes to myself. (Believe it or not, I do sensor a lot of what I say on Twitter. That should be really surprising if you follow me on there.) I make so many off-color jokes, that I eventually make myself laugh. Does that make sense? Probably not. But if we understood the human brain, I wouldn’t be writing this, and depression would no longer be a disease.

However, in the rare case that I am in a genuine good mood (eustress), I absolutely excel at most things. Things that I normally can’t stand to begin with. I’m like f*ckin Billy Mays. (S’rsly, did anyone hate him? Doubt it.) My best training days are days where I get to the gym in a good mood. My best interactions with random strangers are on days I’ve got my true happy face on. These days seem to be getting further and further apart. (The main reason my posts have been getting further and further apart since I can normally only write well in a eustress state.)

Fixing Your Shit

In my talks with the afore mentioned, I’ve learned there are 3 primary ways to change your state:

  1. Chemically
  2. Physically
  3. Psychologically (duhhhhhh)

Chemical can be anything from a chocolate chip cookie to recreational drugs to huffing magic markers. Though, I highly highly caution against the recreational drugs.

My chemical dependence, erm, I mean, solutions are sugar-free Rockstar energy drink, coffee, or trailmix. My associations with these are caffeine buzz and a woman-like love for chocolate. Work is even [shortly] tolerable when any of these items are consumed. I’ll get to this later, but those are just associations I make with them and a positive mood. They may or may not be the actual cause of why they change my state.

Physical state change can normally be achieved by movement or “pleasure”. How many times have you felt better after you go for a walk? How many times have you been in a piss poor mood when you got to the gym and felt 10x better when you left? Have you ever read any of the numerous, scientific feel good reasons about orgasms? This article is hardly scientific, but does a good job of dumbing it down to my level (and the first result of a Google search). From this example, an orgasm is associated with feeling good; however, the cause has to do with chemicals released in the brain. Do you see how the two are different?

So, my associations with going to the gym are A) a place where I go to resolve my issues or B) a place I go when I’m already in a good state to ensure maximum training capacity. The fact that those two are at the opposite end of the spectrum should demonstrate that association is not causation since the same stimuli is associated with two different outcomes.

Eliciting a state change with just a psychological stimulation is the one I need the most help with. Like, a lot. I don’t hardly ever have either of my 3 choices of chemicals around me in an instant (and they don’t always work). I’m not always at the gym or in a situation where I can just up and go for a walk or do some kettlebell juggling. The other example of physical state change is not going to happen during any one of the 9 hours I’m at work, nor is it guaranteed any other time of the day. And because these are just associations and not the cause of the state change, none of them are guranteed to work everytime.

“Alright, then how do you (I) achieve a psychological state change?”

Well, pert near anything that isn’t chemical or physical, duh! Music, talking to a friend, seeing your dog, going for a drive, paying off a credit card, spending time with your family….any of those things. Those are all things that are nothing more than mental stimulations, and can be had at a moments notice…most of the time. The downfall is that they also require some other type of input too. About the only tool I have in my arsenal that is 100% mental is the example of telling myself bad jokes.

What I’m getting at is that I’m not very mentally flexible. When I’m in a bad mood, it takes an act of Zeus to get me out of it. Conversely, when I am cheesing like a fat kid at Chuck E. Cheese, it takes forever to get myself settled down. The days I’m able to go full retard in the gym, I usually can’t fall asleep until 1:00 am. I mentioned that here after the TSC. So, I need to figure out what I can do to elicit a change, either to make me better or calm me down. And this is where associations finally come in…

Associations are Crucial

A lot of this is what I learned from Frankie during The Movement coaching seminar, but he left a little room for us to connect some dots on our own. Basically, this is what I’ve “discovered” in addition to what he’s flat out told us:

Correlation is not causation. Correlation is association. Therefore, association is not causation. An event is associated with a specific stimuli, but it may not be the cause. i.e. if listening to music makes you happy and then you have an awesome training session, music is associated with having a great session. However, the cause may be increased positive hormonal production, resulting in higher CNS performance.

At the seminar, it was related to the mechanical properties of tissue and training adaptation. However, can’t we also relate that everything else too? And by everything, I mean evryfing. Seriously.

Basically stating, we can never truly know the real cause and effect. All we really know is what precedes the event, a black box (the event), and the outcome. All we can do is test different stimuli one variable at a time with that same event and see what comes out, either a positive or negative. This is trial and error or an extremely informal way of describing the scientific method.

The example a couple of paragraphs above is related to training. However, I am currently struggling with person-to-person interaction whilst in a negative state. When I’m in a positive state, I am everybody’s best friend and the coolest dude in the world. When I’m in a negative state, I’m not very friendly…even to unsuspecting victims that have done nothing to me. This is why my state management is so important to me. I’m in the business of making friends, not enemies.

Again, what does this have to do with associations? Well, I have associated all of my bad interactions with people to a negative state. Then you have to dig deeper and make associations to the things that have put me in a negative state. From there, I can start to make associations about what can get me out of that state in order to have good interactions with people.

Through trial and error, I’ve been able to correct wrong associations and make new ones. I’ve eliminated variables. I’ve retested certain events.

The scientific method is nothing more than that. It only differs because it requires making an educated hypothesis based on previous data and writing it down. Understanding the points I’ve made here is just the beginning. I’m not sure how far I will take it, but I know I will take it far enough to ensure I’m a better person and back to my old self.





Don’t Miss Your Chance

I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.

Then I took control.

You can too, and it starts right here.

11 responses to “Psychological State Management: Scratching the Surface

  1. State Management is an experiment just like everything else. And what I’ve found is that there is stuff that can test well. But just because it has doesn’t mean it will so sometimes I have to get creative.

    What’s awesome though is that you know enough to experiment.

  2. Wow, this is AWESOME! I’ve spent the last two weeks doing the exact same thing although I could never explain it as eloquently as you have here 🙂 This shit is SO interesting to me. More later but I have to say I’m rather impressed that you even care or think about this stuff. And I’ll just assume that I’m part of the 5% of the people that you interact with that you agree with. Haha. Right! Good post sir.

  3. you know my feelings: amazing! 😀 you’ve explained it in terms normal people can understand and relate to. i also agree with jackie on how impressed she is you care & think about this sort of thing. 🙂 keep em coming! and keep us updated!

  4. okay, I must say WOW! YES, I find it extremely interesting. I fight with these issues on a daily bases. I use to be the fun loving girl that light up the room when I walked in. I find that I now am fighting to be in a good mood. ON days when I wake up early and make it to the gym I am generally in a pretty positive mood. But getting to the gym is a struggle. Between not having someone to watch my girls and all the other things I have to get done. Then there is fighting with my mind. If I have not done well at the gym in the past week, I say why even go. I’m not getting the result I want anyway. Or if someone or something has me upset, I just will blow it or them off. I don’t function well at all if I am in a negative state.

    We live in a negative world! So being positive and staying positive is becoming harder and harder even with the best of drugs. They eventually wear off….

  5. Dave:

    I’ll throw out a couple of thoughts for your consideration and see what you make of them.

    Initially, lack of awareness is a big problem. Above, you describe an awareness of emotional states both negative and positive and an awareness of certain stimuli impacting your mood. Now you have shifted your focus to look at ways to manifest a change in mental state. And, you have already found a few external things that work.

    Now, you want to find ways to shift mood internally and to be able to do this efficiently. An image of Obi Wan Kenobi comes to mind.

    As an athlete, you have already done this…in the locker room before a game…on the field, when you had to get your head in the game…going the opposite direction, when you stretch, you consciously breathe out and relax. These are all points, where either you, a coach, or a teammate, recognized (awareness again) that you needed to change your state of mind to perform better. As an athlete, you found ways to do this.

    Note: Shifts toward heightened emotional states tend to be easy, as we are hard wired for such responses…whether it’s a rope or a snake, it’s better to jump first and figure it out later.

    So, the ability is there…now, the context has changed. Of course, like anything else worth doing, getting good at this requires practice. Meditation is one way to practice.

    Maximizing positive external factors is another method for helping improve results. Check out Seth Roberts paper, where he discusses the benefit of early morning social interaction and using TV and the internet as a substitute, while living alone.

    http://escholarship.org/uc/item/2xc2h866

    An interesting journey is now underway…I hope you will share some of your discoveries with us, so that we might also find ways to improve our ability to influence our own mental states.

  6. @Everyone but Adam

    Thanks for the compliments! Sounds like we are all aware that we are going through *something* and just need to focus on being able to get through it. Hopefully the latter part of this post gave you some ideas of how to get through it.

    @Adam

    I’d agree with everything you said. The goal is to continue to find more (and better) external factors. As you pointed out, those seem to be “easier” to come about and usually have an immediate impact. The internal stimuli is what is very tricky. So, while I’m not neglecting them, I’m certainly more interested in the external for now.

    And also like you said, it is absolutely easier to change states to adapt to a heightened sense of awareness. Getting pumped up to go play a game of football is MUCH easier than, say, sitting at your desk for 9 hours and changing your state just to get along with your coworkers. Hahaha!

    Thanks everyone for the comments!

  7. I’d been writing a long response to your blog (succinct I am not), but in the interest of not putting you to sleep, will focus on a few basic points. What you’re looking at is more applied psychology (the realm of motivation gurus like Tony Robbins), whereas the work I did was lab-based associative learning research. But you’d be surprised at how much of this information carries over. Take from this what works for you.

    You hadn’t indicate that you’d explored your beliefs. Beliefs guide your behavior, and it’s more difficult to affect state change when the state you’re going for is diametrically opposed to your beliefs. For instance, you’ve insinuated (perhaps not-so-subtly) that (1) you hate your job, (2) work is a waste of your time and talent (3) you think your co-workers are idiots. If these are truly what you feel, you’re going to have a harder time getting along with people.

    Furthermore, this doesn’t simply have to do with others. If, hypothetically speaking, you define yourself as being “awesome”, and for you “awesomeness” includes the ability to stick it to the other guy and continually come out on top…your beliefs may not result in being someone who’s pleasant to be around, particularly when you consider the environment to be negative.

    On several occasions you’ve described yourself as “acid-tongued” (see, I really do read what you write). If you believe this to be a favorable trait of yours, and yet it results in the expression of negatively-perceived behaviors, you’re going to turn a lot of people off. If, in response to that, you claim that you don’t give a hootenanny…well, there you go.

    This is why I brought up the issues of motivation and goals when you initially mentioned this post to me. Do you have enough motivation to change your state when it comes to your co-workers? Do you perceive the benefits of getting along with others to outweigh your desire to express your frustration with your current situation? Have you set goals for your behavior, in the same way that you would write out your fitness or business goals? The more reasons you can find for modifying your states, the more likely you are to be effective at it.

    Adam made a very good point here: it’s easier to anchor associations to more intense states (one-trial learning, anyone?). But the mind is remarkably pliable. You can eke meaning from things that hadn’t interested you in the past, although it might require some mental calisthenics to do so. Ever heard of the analogy of the mind as an iceberg? Expressed behaviors are only the exposed tip, but there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Accessing the stuff there is how you truly affect change.

    Okay, I’ll stop here. I haven’t even gotten to the issue of strengthening associations because I think the first step is to explore your beliefs. The good news is that you are genuinely passionate about what you enjoy, and if you can apply that enthusiasm to managing states under adverse conditions (e.g., finding powerful reasons to get along with others at work), you will have an easier time going about it.

  8. Awesome post, Dave. (And i’m finally getting around to finish reading it, AND commenting. Gotta love mid-terms)

    The topic should be of concern to pretty much everyone, and you’ve done well in analyzing the many parts and struggles that goes with dealing with that problem.

    We all have a lot to improve in the area; I’ll say however that I’ve made part of the trip there, and I can share some tips:

    – A good place to start is the use of Keywords. A Keyword can be a word (!) or phrase, but also a sound, song, previously lived moment; pretty much anything, that you can associate with a strong emotion that you’d want to summon at a later time. When in need of a particular mental state, simply summon your Keyword in your head and feel it thoroughly. With the right keywords (here’s your homework: figure them out), it’s guaranteed to work.

    – Also, general actions and way of life do LOTS on your general mood without even your having to think about it. What do you spend most of your time on? What would you rather do? DO IT. And if you can’t right now, what can you do to work towards it? What can you also do in the meantime to make your state more enjoyable, if only a bit? That would still be progress.

    Yes, that also includes finding a better job, if it’s crappy right now. 😉

    – Do stuff that’ll make you feel fulfilled. Take upon challenges that talk to you.

    That’s it for now!
    Thanks again for the post!

    Mat

  9. @Milda
    I think uou misinterpreted the part of the post that took you down the path you went. I don’t dislike my co-workers, and I get along fabulously with the guys my age. That’s not to say that I don’t dislike our management team as professionals. And when dealing with them, like I said, I’m very good at being in a bad mood. They have no idea I’m having these thoughts about them. As far as everyone at the office is concerned, I’m a peach. A peach that uses comedy to make points about how retarded they are. 🙂

    In all seriousness, my boss literally has no idea how much I despise his management techniques, other than what I’ve actually told him. The only “exceptional” rating that I get come annual reviews is for interpersonaly savvy. If I can get exceptional while hating everything about that job, just imagine what it would be like if I didn’t hate it.

    However, I can still take that criticism and relate it to other areas or specific instances in the past. What you said makes a lot of sense, and I will surely come back to that in the future.

  10. @Mathieu
    Great comments! I really like that keyword method and can definitely see how it works!

    As for your next point, I’ve been talking to some other people about what I really want to do and how to do it. So, I’m 1 step ahead of you there, but it’s still awesome to read!

    Thanks again!

  11. I’m a little late to the party…

    Recommend you look into Richard Bandler and NLP (although I still prefer the cognitive-behavioral approach to change).

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