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What follows is a technique that includes four [04] procedures that teach the skills leading to the ability to take Calm Action. This technique is helpful for people who are impulsive and have distorted thoughts about self and others, which usually leads to problems in living.

Calm action is predicated on mindfulness – the ability to take in what is happening both inside and outside of yourself without attachment and response. Mindfulness is a detachment from the emotional cues that cause us to act in ways that ultimately prove to be harmful or disruptive.

There are four [04] skills leading up to the ability to obtain what you want without internal or external turmoil.

  • relaxing (deep breathing and cuing)
  • objectifying your problem or stress
  • imaging your solution
  • affirming yourself and your power to act and
  • obtaining the results imagined

The client should plan on at least thirty minutes of daily practice five days per week for about two months to master all of the skills in this set.

Slow Deep Breathing & Cuing [SDB/c]

It is necessary that the client practice Slow Deep Breathing [SDB] nearly every day for about fifteen [15] to thirty [30] minutes until s/he can calm him/herself on demand.

It is very important that the client pair a key phrase such as “I am calm” to the relaxed state of mind and body. This key phrase will become a ‘cue’, which will be used in stressful situations in vivo.

SDB and the key phrase can be used as soon as the client starts to encounter a stressful situation. To use SDB/c at just the right moment, the client will need to get in touch with his/her internal stress levels. If the client waits until the internal stress level exceeds a rating of 4 or 5 [on a scale of 0 to 10], s/he will probably not be able to choose to use SDB/c.

SLOW DEEP BREATHING & CUING- Client Instructions

  1. Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted for about fifteen minutes. Rate your internal stress level on a 0 to 10 scale where 0 means totally calm and stress free and 10 means stressed out.
  2. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands palms down on or near your knees.
  3. Close your eyes and listen to all of the sounds in your environment for a few moments. Try to focus your thoughts on what you hear, ignore all other thoughts. If your thoughts wander, gently squeeze your knees and return your attention to the sound.
  4. After a minute or two turn your attention to your breathing. As slowly as you can, breathe through your nose to a count of ten [10]. Try to make your inhales last until you reach ten. Try to fill your lower abdominal area with air first, then your midsection and finally your chest. Try to really expand your lungs as much as possible. It may make you feel uncomfortable at first; this will be especially so if you smoke cigarettes. However, with a little practice your ability to expand your lungs will increase.
  5. After you have fully inhaled, hold your breath for a count of three [03].
  6. Then exhale slowly to a count of ten. As you exhale think “I am calm” over and over again. Try to see these words light up in your mind as clearly as you can.
  7. Repeat the SDB cycle for about ten to fifteen minutes or until you feel noticeably calmer. Concentrate on your breathing. Ignore all other thoughts. You will find it difficult to do this. But each time your thoughts drift, just squeeze your knees gently and refocus on “I am calm”, and the rising and falling of your breathing. Once you get into a SDB rhythm, you can stop counting and just breath.
  8. After you feel calmer, open your eyes and rate your stress level again. How much calmer do you feel?
  9. Remember to rate your stress levels pre- and post-practice. A rating, after practice, of three [03] or less is your goal.

Try to rate your stress levels every two hours or so [keep your ratings on an index card with the date and time of each rating].

Objectifying is a skill that empowers a person to look at a situation, and the emotions, thoughts and impulses that go with it, with full awareness [mindfulness] and choice.

Impartial spectator: trying to observe your own behavior as if you were observing the behavior of another.

The Impartial Spectator, is a concept that Adam Smith used as the central feature of his book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. He defined the Impartial Spectator as the capacity to stand outside yourself and watch yourself in action, which is essentially the same mental action as the ancient Buddhist concept of mindful awareness.

Adam Smith understood that keeping the perspective of the Impartial Spectator under painful circumstances is hard work, requiring, in his words, the ‘utmost and most fatiguing exertions’.

As reported by Schwartz in Brain Lock, 1996

The objective is to have the client focus awareness on a stressful situation and the emotions, thoughts and impulses that go with it, while describing what is happening, what s/he is feeling and what s/he is thinking, as a television reporter might do. The client should describe the experience as if s/he were observing everything from the outside – to report everything without reacting.

This skill is harder to develop than SDB because it requires greater self control.

The combination of journal writing and SDB can help the client objectively describe what s/he is feeling and thinking without acting on the emotions until, with full awareness and choice, s/he is able to consciously decide to do so.

Objectifying is used together with SDB to prevent the client from impulsively reacting in a self injurious way to stressors. After this process is learned through an imagery process, the client will be able to calm him/herself with the ‘cue phase’ and become mindful of what is happening externally and how s/he is responding internally as a means of self regulation and control.

OBJECTIFYING – Client Instructions

I. Observing Confusion
  • Go to a room where you have a TV, a radio and a stero. Put on a TV show, a station on the radio and a tape or CD all at the same time. Set an alarm clock or timer to go off in fifteen minutes.
  • Sit in the middle of all this confusion. Close your eyes and describe to yourself what is going on around you and how you feel. Remember, just sit there with your eyes closed and try to describe your feelings and the situation you have just created. What impulses are coming to your mind? Do not act on them, just observe and describe them as if you were a TV reporter.
  • Continue until the alarm goes off. After the exercise write your observations in the ‘current day’ section of your Journal. Repeat this exercise until you can do it for thirty minutes without acting on an impulse to end the session before the alarm goes off.
II Awareness without emotion
  • Get a tape recorder and record some of your traumatic memories from your Journal on tape [if desired, you can erase the tape as soon as you have completed the exercises]. Select passages that still evoke some feelings in you.
  • Play your tape through the headphones with the volume on low. Put the TV on. Sit in a comfortable chair and start doing Slow Deep Breathing while repeating the key phrase. Ignore both the TV and the tape.
  • If you start to feel emotional stress, try to focus on the source of the emotions within your body. Is it centered in your stomach, neck, shoulders, head, etc.? Then try to describe how it feels with neutral words. Remember you are a TV reporter whose job it is to describe the events being experienced. Identify the trigger for the feeling (Was it something on your tape?) Become aware of any impulsive actions that come to mind. Remember, you are being objective, so you will not act on any of these impulses.
  • If the feelings or impulses are too overwhelming, STOP the exercise and get something to distract yourself. Otherwise, continue the exercise until the tape is over and you feel satisfied with your performance. Your objective is to listen to the entire tape without your emotions or impulses reaching an uncomfortable level. When you can do this you have successfully completed this exercise.

Imaging uses the imagination to create a powerful motivating image in the mind’s eye. NOTE: the image may not be a picture, since some people don’t visualize in this way – it may be a sense of, rather than a picture of. Using Imagery, the client can harness the power of the imagination to guide him/herself toward well-thought-out actions that keep them safe and improve the quality of life.

The objective is for the client to imagine him/herself engaged in positive action scenes in place of self destructive, impulsive reactions to stressors. A well imagined scene acts as a model for the behavior to follow. It motivates the individual to match his/her behavior to that model. It also helps the client to confront a tendency toward negative thinking.

Imagery puts the behavioral principles of modeling and correspondence training to work for the client.

The Basic Steps of Imagining

  • Close your eyes.
  • Begin your Slow Deep Breathing while you use your key phrase. Continue until your stress level drops below four [04] on your scale.
  • Now imagine yourself executing a series of actions that produces a desirable outcome. Imagine as much detail as possible. See yourself doing the actions. See where you are. See who you are with. Hear the sounds. Smell the odors. See what you are wearing.
  • As negative thoughts enter your mind, squeeze your knees, say your key phrase and return to your imagery.
  • Once you have imagined all of the details of your action sequence, assign it a trigger word, such as ‘Project Jump Start’. You will use this trigger word to get yourself started on executing the action sequence once the time comes.
  • Close the session with five repetitions of the positive affirmation “I want it; do it”.

Imagery Practice Exercises – Client Exercises

I. A simple imagery to action sequence
  • In a quiet room, sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Do your SDB routine until your stress level is below 4.
  • Now visualize yourself getting out of the chair and picking up an object from one side of the room [for example a book] bringing that object to the other side of the room and placing a second object on top of it.
  • Get a clear picture of yourself doing just that in your mind. Once you have done this end the visualization with five repetitions of the positive affirmation “I want it, do it!”.
  • Open your eyes and, without delay, do exactly what you imagined yourself doing, After you have completed the action sequence, praise yourself for matching your actions to your visualization [do not criticize yourself in any way!].
II. A complex imagery
  • In a quiet room, sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Do your SDB routine until your stress level is below 3.
  • Think of someone close to you who you have not spoken to in a while that you would like to call. Imagine what it will be like hearing that person’s voice. Imagine what you will say when you greet the person. Think about what you will talk about, and how the conversation will be a pleasant one. Think about the person’s phone number; repeat it to yourself. See it in your mind. Think about where the person is living and what s/he is doing in life. Once you have done this end the imagery with five repetitions of the positive affirmation “I want it, do it!”.
  • Open your eyes and, without delay, do exactly what you imagined yourself doing, After you have completed the action sequence, praise yourself for matching your actions to your visualization [do not criticize yourself in any way!]. If the person is not home on the first call, keep calling until you reach him or her.
III. Imagining self control
  • In a quiet room, sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Do your SDB routine until your stress level is below 3.
  • Think about an addictive activity that is harmful to you. Perhaps drinking alcohol, cutting yourself, speeding, using pot or cocaine, going into rages or having unprotected sex with strangers.
  • Imagine yourself not doing the activity for the next _____ day(s) (you decide: one to seven days). Imagine what your schedule will be during those days and what you will be doing that will help you avoid doing your chosen activity. Imagine how you will manage desires to do the activity (perhaps you will uses SDB). Imagine who can help you meet your goal. Imagine how happy you will feel to see yourself succeed in avoiding your addition for your chosen number of days.
  • Open your eyes and, act exactly as you visualized acting. After you have completed each day of the action sequence, praise yourself for matching your actions to your visualization [do not criticize yourself in any way!].
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4 each day of your chosen number of addiction free days.
  • After you have completed the chosen number of days reward yourself with something healthy [not with the addictive activity], such as a movie, meal out, book, CD, etc. And remember to feel proud of yourself.

Obtaining is the achievement of your goals. Obtaining means putting into action the plan that you imagined and getting the results you want. Obtaining means focused action that gets desired results. It requires a clear vision of what you want; a sound, thoughtful decision to act; and execution of the decision with determination.


What was done to you, you now do to yourself. If what was done to you was intrinsically harmful, Affirmation can break this part of the cycle.

Some people reject praise from others and resist realistically praising themselves. Self hatred creates this resistance: you feel unworthy of accepting anything healthy or good.

Affirmation is easily learned in a single day since it involves the simple repetition of meaningful sentences. Getting into a routine of using Positive Affirmations on a daily basis takes a week or two.

Positive Affirmation Practice – Client Instructions

Twice daily, once in the morning just after you wake up and once at night, sit down in a comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. Take several slow deep breaths – close your eyes and repeat each positive affirmation ten times. After you have repeated all of them, say to yourself, “I believe in who I am and what I think”. Repeat this ten times and take several slow deep breaths.

  • I am not to blame for being the way I was.
  • I am responsible for changing myself.
  • I want to change.
  • I feel better when I face my inner pain.
  • I can change. I will change. I will never, never, never, give up!
  • I am a good person and I will prevail.

For best results do this twice a day for at least six weeks.

Putting the skills together – Client Instructions

  1. Use SDB/c to cue yourself to calm your emotions and impulses.
  2. Use Objectifying to:
    1. identify your stressors
    2. describe the emotions and body locations of the emotions the stressors trigger
    3. identify the action impulses the stressors trigger
    4. describe the disruptive effects the stressors are having on your thought process.
      Use simple sentences and neutral words to Objectify what is happening to you.
  3. Focus on the sources of the stress.
    1. Identify it as clearly as you can.
    2. Is it in the environment or is it coming from within your mind?
    3. Once you have identified it, describe it in simple words.
    4. Then identify the effects the stressor is having on you.
    5. What action impulses are you experiencing? Are your thoughts racing? Are your thoughts confused? Are you experiencing a flood of emotions and thoughts?
    6. Describe whatever is happening in simple sentences. Use neutral, not emotional words. For example: “My boyfriend just said that he likes redheads [stressor]. Since I have blonde hair, I felt anger [emotion]. The anger started in my face in the form of tension [body location of the emotion]. I want to yell at him for insulting me [action impulse]. My thoughts are speeding up [effect on thought processes].
  4. Use the Positive Affirmations “I am in control” and “I think before acting” to help you avoid reacting impulsively and to prompt yourself to stay out of the borderline zone.
  5. Imagine a balanced and rational course of action. Make your vision as clear and as attractive as possible in your mind’s eye. Repeat to yourself, “I want it, do it!”.
  6. Open your eyes and take control by executing your imagined action sequence. Obtain the results you want.
  7. Ignore all negative thinking. Stay in the recovery zone.