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What is metacognition or how to stop eating our heads so much

Do you consider yourself a person who does not stop thinking about the same question or problem until you reach mental exhaustion? Whatever the reason, the mental gear starts to work and the classic “don’t scratch yourself” it only serves to worry us more and more. Sometimes, it is good to verbalize what worries us in front of third parties because that way we can minimize it; in fact, it is a psychological mechanism that works even if it is just by talking to ourselves out loud. But for many this will no longer work or on the contrary, will exacerbate the problem in constant feedback.

“When we spend too much time analyzing our concerns, we often end up more lost than we were in the beginning,” he acknowledges. Pia Callesen, American psychotherapist, in ‘Aeon’. “In addition, persistent excessive thinking can trigger insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and a marked loss of energy, which in turn leads to additional concerns about how we feel, thus creating a vicious cycle. In some cases, even, it can cause long-term anxiety or chronic depression. “

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Some of the mental consequences that derive from this circular thought that does not allow us to live calmly is, for example, always living alert, believing that something bad is going to happen.. “You start to overanalyze yourself or the people you care about, which will lead to a greater sense of danger.”Callesen explains. On the other hand, we can also end up thinking negatively about ourselves, coming to believe that other people dislike us and therefore becoming more distant in our social relationships.

Perfection does not exist

Another effect is to end up developing excessive planning in all aspects of life, to the point of overwhelming us if we do not have everything under control that we would like. This can lead us towards a perfectionist personality That is not healthy at all, since throughout our experience we come across events that are beyond our control, generating a lot of frustration and unnecessary worry in matters that may be really important or objectively insignificant.

“Thoughts are fleeting and will cease to exist if you do not expend mental energy on them”

Against this background, Callesen developed a very useful psychological technique with the aim of putting a stop to worry or, at least, making it less persistent and recurrent. Metacognitive therapy, as its name suggests, consists of reflecting on inner thinking, showing ourselves critical not only with the object or subject of what worries or overwhelms us, but also with the way in which concern is triggered in our mind . That is, nor it is only based on downplaying what worries us and realize that it is not such a big problem; also in identifying how it appears and why.

Metacognitive therapy was founded by Adrian Wells, clinical psychologist at the University of Manchester, who realized that “To think too much and ruminate what worries us is a learned strategy that we choose, consciously or unconsciously, as a way of trying to deal with our difficult thoughts and complex feelings. “In this sense,” it is not a fixed trait of our personality, but a habit in which we fall and we can learn to change if we want to “, Callesen emphasizes.

“The key is to perfect the technique of letting go of the thoughts that trigger that initial worry”

She and Wells last year published a large trial involving 174 patients with depressive symptoms. “We found that those who participated in metacognitive therapy reported more benefits than those who received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),” the most common when treating this type of disorder. “This made me wonder whate the cause of mental illness is not our negative thoughts ‘per se’, but spending too much time with them in the head, so the solution could be to have less hours and minutes in mind, “he concludes.

Now, the solution does not seem easy. You cannot erase your thoughts or stop their persistence just by wanting or seeking it. But you can detect them before they become obsessive and stop them in time. “Overthinking begins with ‘a triggering thought,'” Callesen resolves. “It’s not what causes unpleasant symptoms, but the time you spend thinking about it. So you can learn to control whether you really want to stay focused on that concern or rather let it be. “Ultimately,” thoughts are fleeting and will pass if you don’t expend mental energy on them.

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“One way to challenge the belief that you can’t help thinking too much about something is to reflect on whether you can actually postpone your worries,” concludes the therapist. “Set half an hour a day at a specific time when you can ruminate on all your problems and concerns. If they occur early in the day, you must learn to let those thoughts go. like when a mosquito bites you and you feel like scratching, But you know that would make the situation worse. “The key is to” rehearse how to let go of the thoughts that trigger that worry. “Since tobacco addicts have to get used to chewing chili, your mind has to focus on other tasks that require your full attention Rather than return to noticing that fact that is there and that, no matter how hard you try, it cannot be remedied.

Arjun Sethi
Passionate guitarist, gamer and writer. Lives for the perfect review, and scrapes texts until they are razor-sharp.


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