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ninjacolin's avatar

What are the best ways to overcome mental roadblocks?

Asked by ninjacolin (13822 points ) January 29th, 2010

Some mental roadblocks are very common and have very simple solutions. One example I can think of is how people defeat themselves when they need a solution by using the words: ”I can’t find the solution.”

To overcome this block, you simply have to start the sentence differently: ”How can I find the solution?”

I can’t remember where I read about this. But the idea is simple: You’re either telling yourself that you have no solution and hence telling your brain to stop being creative by giving yourself that negative answer as an answer. Or else, you’re asking yourself a question that forces your brain to be creative and start problem solving. Putting yourself into a mind state that is searching and receptive to solutions.

A simple example: “I never pass my tests!”
Fixed: “How can I pass my tests?”

What are your thoughts on mental roadblocks and how to avoid them?
Do you know of any more?

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27 Answers

Sophief's avatar

It is one thing telling ourselves “I can do it”, but it is making our heads think otherwise is the problem.

TheJoker's avatar

I like to use the mental snow-plough approach.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Dibley Hmm.. I think that might be the same problem as described above. Telling yourself “I can do it!!” is just as useless as saying “I can’t do it” since it doesn’t help you to find an answer to your problem.

“I can do it” has it’s place though, after you know what the solution is. Helps keep you motivated, but even in this case, I know it’s better to use full sentences. Don’t say “it” actually make plain to yourself in simple terms what you are about to do right now.

example: “I’m going to do a pushup right now.”

Sophief's avatar

@TheJoker What approach is that?

jrpowell's avatar

I ignore the problem and drink a 40 and take a nap. Usually the solution comes to me while I sleep. I think it is called incubation.

edit :: this

Incubation (psychology)
Incubation is one of the 4 proposed stages of creativity: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification [1]. Incubation is defined as a process of unconscious recombination of thought elements that were stimulated through conscious work at one point in time, resulting in novel ideas at some later point in time [2].

The experience of leaving a problem for a period of time, then finding the difficulty evaporates on returning to the problem, or even more striking, that the solution “comes out of the blue”, when thinking about something else, is widespread. Many guides to effective thinking and problem solving advise the reader to set problems aside for a time.

From wikipedia.

Violet's avatar

I like it!
Mine is kind of unrelated but, I have to write myself notes saying, “be nice”. It works too. But lately I have been letting my anger do its own thing.

TheJoker's avatar

@Dibley…. well, I credit myself with being a fairly imaginative person, so when I get a mental block I’ll asume I’ve examined it as best I can at that time. So, I do something completely different, preferably soemthing creative, for a while.
Then, when I feel ready, I go back to the origional problem with a brain thats in creative mode & plough my way through the block. Always worked so far. I think the key is getting your brain in creative mode.

partyparty's avatar

I think the best way is always to approach things in a positive manner, by always saying ‘I can’.
Then the problem is half solved before you begin.
Perhaps write two columns on a piece of paper with outcomes. One side would be written I ‘CAN’T’ and outcomes if I think more positively and think I ‘CAN’. That way you can see in black and white what the consequences would be, and you can decide for yourself which is the best approach.

Cruiser's avatar

Ninja, your solution is one of the best there is and that is positive thinking. Think positive, not just when facing a problem but all the time and solutions come much more quickly. Taking a step back and away from the problem…going for a walk….taking as much time as is available to mull it over and think it through can be the ticket to new ideas. If the problem is particularly grave and there is enough time, sleeping on it and even meditating will most always allow me to see through the issue towards a proper resolutotion.

BoBo1946's avatar

Every faces mental roadblocks, it is not the roadblock that is the problem, but how we react to the roadblock. Best solution, take the best detour and “keep on trucking!”

Steve_A's avatar

I find for me if all my own resources are exhausted as in I simply do not know, or tried all of my options I turn to other sources.

Teachers,friends, family(not so much),books,internet etc….Oh and I love asking questions once I got my mind juices flowing I will be annoying and ask question after question.

My best example is fluther! I have received vast of amounts of ideals,help and corrections that have only helped me!

Not sure if this is considered over coming mental roadblocks but it does feel it has for me. :)

12_func_multi_tool's avatar

@ninjacolin
You have it right ninjacolin the brain recognizes positive statement, more easily believes them than negative.
eg I will not pig out on pie tonight —negative
I will eat healthy tonight—positive
The person with the 2nd statement has a better chance of accomplishing her diet goal.

nebule's avatar

I have trouble finding out what it is that I want in any given situation at the moment… I always wonder whether it’s acceptable to do a or b etc… what other people would do…. so I’m trying to figure out what my values are and sometimes I find this impossible.

I generally stop and hear myself saying… “I just don’t know” but I’ve started telling myself… “I do know… I do have the answer…I just need to be quiet and let it come, rise to the surface like a bubble… be silent… it will come… what feels comfortable to me…? what would I be happy with?” etc. It’s working wonders!!!

mattbrowne's avatar

Have you heard of negative or reverse brainstorming?

Instead of asking ‘How can our team solve this problem and carry out the project successfully till the end of the year?’ you ask:

‘How can our team make sure this problem doesn’t get solved and our project turns into total failure?’

At our company we’ve tried this out several times sometimes with very good results. People can become very creative creating failures. At the end you’ve got a list of realistic major hurdles. This might help you overcome mental roadblocks because dealing with the hurdles is part of the overall solution.

Our brains love novelties. The method can boost creativity.

Trillian's avatar

Isn’t the brain amazing? Another trick is to think out loud. Articulation helps me a lot, and sometimes I forget and will ask someone about a difficulty I’m having and as I’m speaking the answer will come to me.
I’ve heard before that the thought process is incomplete without articulation. I find that to be true, at least for me. I also think that writing counts as talking…

filmfann's avatar

Best way around mental roadblocks is mental detours.

ninjacolin's avatar

Yes, matt!! That’s such a cool one.

The way I was taught that was concerning Goal Setting. My teacher said the first thing you want to do is figure out what outcomes you don’t want. Take a few minutes with a piece of paper and write them all down. What would failure look like, and then of course what would it take to make failure impossible?

Planning is important. Taking your issues seriously enough to sit down with a pen and paper and to make real your goals of self improvement.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Like @TheJoker said: the plow approach. Almost any positive action beats inaction. Even if you take the wrong action you have at least tried something. Time to bust out of this hermit shell and attack the world again. If I fail, there’s always the cabin in the woods again.

YARNLADY's avatar

I use the detour method. When I reach a mental roadblock, I just go in a different direction.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

With a mental bulldozer! lol

the100thmonkey's avatar

Time.

When I reach an impasse or can’t figure out how to proceed, I go and do something else. I find it helps find fresh perspectives on a problem. Occasionally (particularly with vocabulary, names and definitions), I find that the answer just comes to me in the middle of the something else I’m doing.

12_func_multi_tool's avatar

I was told once by a teacher our minds still work on a problem in our sleep. That is of course, I assume if the problem doesn’t keep us up. Sorry to jump in like this.

DrC's avatar

Our brains have been found to be very plastic (continues to change throughout our life). What this means is that we shape the structure (and therefore the function) of our brain by the patterns of thinking that we choose to follow. When we practice thinking more positively and limit the amount of time we spend ruminating on negative thoughts, the easier it becomes to think positively and stop the negative thinking. The brain tends to support those functions that it practices. So more power to you! You have exactly the right idea.

Sometimes people have difficulty stopping the negative thinking before they can replace those thoughts with positive ones. A great exercise is to choose a small object in the room and concentrate on it – on every aspect of this object – for a few minutes. This redirects the brain away from the negative ruminations and calms down anxiety. Then you can choose to replace those thoughts with positive ones.

nebule's avatar

@DrC thanks for that little ditty about focusing on an object..it seems like the sort of simple but potentially incredibly effective thing that I need… but of course… I’m already thinking ..what happens when you stop thinking about the object..don’t the troublesome thoughts just come slam-dunking right back in there? At what point does and can the brain decided to think the positive thoughts… what if you can’t find the positive thoughts…. or they are there but you are soooo inclined to think negatively that they don’t have a chance?

DrC's avatar

@lynneblundell The concentration exercise is a start. It’s a way to accomplish two things: 1. get your mind focused and off ruminating negative thoughts, and 2. exercising your ability to block out other things while you center your attention. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes to do. The moment you recognize that you are having negative thoughts, you can choose to focus on positive thoughts instead. The concentration exercise increases your ability to do this.

As far as finding the positive thoughts, there is a process of questioning negative thoughts in a logical fashion in order to approach things more realistically. So, for example, the thought “I still feel tired and I don’t want to get up out of bed.” may become “If I get out of bed and let my blood flow, I will probably not feel as tired and will wake up easier.”

nebule's avatar

thanks Dr_C I want you at my party :-)

Bronny's avatar

ugh typically i grab a bottle of moscato and squeeze my brain/eyebrow muscles really tightly and hope for the best.

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