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The Sweetening Spiral, A New Twist On Your Road to Wellness

Jul 23, 2008
What is the opposite of a vicious circle? Think about it! Isn't it odd that we have no common term for this in the English language? German, Swedish and French have such terms, but we don't.

I deal with this issue daily, as I help people release negative, self-defeating patterns of behaviors in my practice of psychotherapy, often in telephone sessions. The most common vicious circle is one in which outer stress leads to anxiety, leads to tension, leads to feeling stressed inside ourselves, leads to more anxiety, leads to more tensions, leads to etc.

The most common way that many people deal with such vicious circles is to take medications that dampen anxieties and dull their stress responses. While this is a quick fix, it often also dulls consciousness and dampens alertness. Anti-anxiety medications may also be habit-forming or even addicting.

I help people to stop their vicious circles and make a new start on personal development through various self-healing methods, such as relaxation, breathing exercises, imagery and meditation. My favorite is WHEE: Whole Health - Easily and Effectively.

In working on their vicious circles, I found it frustrating that there was no term for building positive feedback loops. After much thought, with the votes of many clients, we came up with a 'sweetening spiral.'

I like the spiral image better than that of a circle because we never really come back to the same place after working on our issues to relieve some part of the vicious circles we have fallen into. Each time we work our way around from anxiety that leads to relaxation and de-stressing exercises, leads to unwinding from tension, leads to less anxiety, leads to etc. we find ourselves in a new space.

When I first raise this issue with clients, many respond with a "Yes, but...!"
"I've had this for so long, how could I change it?"
or "I"ve tried different therapies and none of them worked."
or "If you lived with the boor [usually a less polite term] I'm living with!"

My usual first answer is to introduce them to WHEE. With a simple tapping on the body and affirmations tailored to the individual's needs, we clean out the clutter of negativity in the inner emotional computer files and start to install positive replacements.

Almost invariably (I've had only one such case in nearly 6 years of using WHEE), well before the end of the first session, we develop the beginnings of one or more sweetening spirals. Building the positives, in addition to softening and releasing the negatives, makes the whole process much quicker.

Once we get our minds around sweetening spirals, we often find it pretty easy to see new places we can apply these principles. I often suggest to clients that they can work their way into a sweetening spiral - as in offering acts of kindness, reaching out in love (sometimes as tough love), extending forgiveness, and moving into a place of acceptance. Positive actions beget positive reactions, which encourage us to again offer kindness, etc. etc.

I have puzzled over why we focus on the negatives more than on the positives in our society. Perhaps it is our "fix-it" mentality. We want to identify the problems so that we can correct them. We don't focus as often on the positives, to build more positives. This seems to be a natural human tendency, as in being more attracted to violence and crime in the news media. News stories that focus on positive behaviors and events get little attention.

We give more attention to the weeds in our gardens than to the flowers. Practicing with sweetening spirals helps us to cultivate and enjoy the flowers.
About the Author
I'm a wholistic psychiatric psychotherapist, with a passion for teaching self-healing, bodymind and personal spiritual awareness. I authored Healing Research, Volumes 1-3 and many articles on wholistic healing. I am editor of the International Journal of Healing and Caring http://www.ijhc.org, a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine; and appear internationally on radio and TV.
See More by and about Daniel Benor, MD
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