The more you focus on sleeping, the more you have trouble falling asleep? This situation happens to everyone. This can be avoided by using a paradoxical intention. What is this technique about?
Our attitude towards different events is of the utmost importance regarding successes and failures. If we keep telling ourselves that we will fail, and the mere thought of a stressful event makes us feel anxious (and even physical symptoms such as sweating), we can be sure that our anxiety will take over. This applies to public speaking, exams, talking to the boss, and even falling asleep! It turns out that the more we think about the consequences of a sleepless night, the greater the chance that we will not be able to sleep. How to learn to manage your emotions? One practical method is paradoxical intention.
Paradoxical intention: what is this technique?
A paradoxical intention was developed by Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist, prisoner of concentration camps (including in Auschwitz), and creator of logotherapy (a psychotherapeutic method focused on reflecting on meaning). According to the doctor, “Wish is the father of thoughts, and fear is the mother of the event.”
Paradoxical intention is not concerned with treating symptoms but merely aims to make the patient distance himself from the source of the stress. Paradoxical intention is to force ourselves to desire what we fear most for a moment. It is about reversing attitudes and replacing them with a paradoxical desire. This kind of thinking makes the fears go away, and the fear slowly fades away.
An Austrian psychotherapist described the operation of this technique on the example of a young doctor who had problems with excessive sweating. Victor E. Frank recommended he try to sweat even more during the most stressful moments (causing sweating) to show his surroundings. When the patient began to feel anxious, he repeated the words: “Last time I only sweat a liter – now let it be at least ten liters!” After a few days of using this type of exercise, the anxiety subsided, and the somatic symptoms decreased.
Are you sleeping too little? The body is sending you warning signals
The paradoxical intention in the treatment of insomnia
When we cannot fall asleep and anxiously wait for the moment to fall asleep, our body activates the waking mode. Especially if we start to imagine what will happen if we do not get enough sleep and what things may suffer as a result of it. Constantly thinking about rest activates the brain and increases the adrenaline level, creating a vicious circle. The more we think about sleep, the more difficult it is for us to fall asleep.
How to use a paradoxical intention to prevent insomnia? It is easy. If you want to sleep before an important day, instead of repeating to yourself, “I need to fall asleep immediately” repeatedly, it’s better to distract yourself. Let’s think instead, “I wonder how long I can hold on today,” “I don’t care about sleeping tonight.” Such thought-making will help you avoid making your worst visions come true.