Monthly Archives: February 2016

How to Measure and Change Self

The word “Self” in Quantified Self demanded some investigation. According to both spiritual and scientific findings, there is no self, but rather a bundle of varied reactions that we interpret and weave into a cohesive story of self. I wanted to see how to measure and change whatever self was for me. 

Here is my personality profile on, a site that takes publicly facing information and creates a personality profile based on what a person has put online.

How to Measure and Change Self

As you can see from the underlined section, the service picked up my tendency to not like when people don’t accept my decisions or try to make them on my behalf. This one expression of “self” would be an interesting reference point as the study progressed. 

I had previously developed a method for identifying and improving my state of mind when I felt an Upset come on. I had successfully shown progress using a Glass Half Full and Reversal protocols. These techniques dealt with the irritant in the moment. What I wanted was to use this approach to dig down into the embedded stories that seem to drive my reactions, what I am calling “Source Code Stories”. 

My Question

Could I measure and change a “Source Code Story” that was driving Upset reactions?

What I Did

Using an expanded mini-survey protocol, I captured the Source Code Story beneath a series of Upsets to see which story occurred the largest number of times. Once I determined which story was the strongest, I did multiple repetitions of an exploratory protocol on that story. Once I had completed these exploratory workouts, I conducted another set of mini-surveys to see if the frequency and experience of that Source Code Story had changed.

How I Did It

Using Google Form I first captured a list of Source Code Stories that lay beneath various Upsets. Here is how that worked: When I felt an Upset, the first entry on the Form was my state of mind on a scale of 1 to 5. The second and third entries were the cause of the Upset and the Glass Half Full opportunity within the situation. The fourth entry captured what I thought I was trying to protect when I was Upset. This was the Source Code Story. The fifth and final entry again rated my state of mind from 1 to 5. This is a screen shot of the first three entries in the protocol survey:

Survey Picture

Using this protocol I captured 36 Source Code Stories of what I thought lay beneath the feeling of irritation or worry.  The list has a variety of wordings, so I did hygiene on the list to group like for like Source Code Stories came up with 5 major themes. I rank ordered these themes by frequency of Source Code Stories within. 

Once I had isolated the most frequently occurring Source Code Story, I created an inquiry to pick apart this one story several times a day for a week. I conducted this examination 15 times. It consisted of writing in a Google Form the sensations, verbal story the triggering moment that I experienced when that Source Code Story was behind the Upset. This protocol was inspired by a process I had learned working with the folks at Liberation Unleashed

Once I had done the examinations, I repeated the original protocol to map an additional 33 Upsets and their Source Code Stories. At the completion of this I could compare the story themes from before and after the examination period. 

What I Learned

I was able to isolate a Source Code Story that drove a number of Upsets and change its expression in my day to day experience. Of interest to me was that my most frequently occurring Source Code Story was having my decisions challenged which was consistent with the assessment shown above. Here were my takeaways:

  1. The most frequent story, having my decisions challenged, was the driver of upsets 57% of the time in the first period.
  2. After 15 examinations of this story, some as remembered incidents and some in real time, there was no consistent trigger of the reaction. Sometimes it was an email, sometimes a discussion and other times I reacted with no provocation. The insight is that the reaction has no consistent external trigger and therefore I was the source of the reaction.
  3. In the second period, after the examinations, this topic came up only 24% of the time and the wording went from confrontational to more generally positive. My wording went from “they challenged my decision” to “I want this decision to contribute positively.” In this shift, I was now open to feedback which I no longer saw as a challenge.

When mapping my “self”, the assumption was that I would have a large number of Source Code Stories that would be overwhelming in number and complexity. This turned out to not be true. During the first period, I had five Source Code Story themes drive all of my Upsets, the second period seven. It turned out that the negative aspect of “self” is a narrative of five to seven consistent mismatches between reality and what I thought reality should be. And I can alter them one at a time.

In my subjective experience the Source Code Story was less powerful when it did come up after I had worked on it. Both numerically and experientially I had sanded down a rough corner of my “self.” The key to this, as in any training, is repetition. I was examining the story repeatedly to have these changes occur.

The next steps are to continue altering these underlying stories which will alter the pillars of the imagined self. Over time, we’ll see if the read will change as well.

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Reversing Thought Reverses Upsets

I was inspired by Josh Waitzman’s concept of building a mental trigger that he described in his book “The Art of Learning.” He describes how a repeated mental process can create calm before competing in martial arts competition.

Reversing Thoughts Reverses Upsets

The concept was easy but I had never built one. For my trigger, I wanted to see if reversing thought reverses upsets.

I had made progress finding a technique to restore a calm state of mind once I had detected an Upset with my Glass Half Full work. I decided to try and adapt the reversal technique I had learned from The Work of Byron Katie in this test.

The Work has as a central tenet that all stories we use to upset ourselves can be reversed and found to be equally true. For example, if another driver on the highway comes close to me and I think “He is driving too fast,” reversing the thought to “I am driving too fast” or “He is not driving fast enough” is found to be equally true. As my judgement about the position of our cars is entirely relative a lesson is delivered about how mutable thought and story can be.

My Question

Would reversing a thought improve my outlook reliably following an Upset?

What I Did

Over the period of almost two weeks, I measured the change in my disposition after using the Reversal protocol each time I knew I was Upset. I compared these results with the Sensations and Glass Half Full protocols I had used in earlier studies.

How I Did It

I created a short survey using Google Forms and placed a shortcut to it on my iPhone home screen. The survey was a structured set of questions that walked me through the process of reversing the thought behind an Upset once I felt one coming on.

For the protocol, I would walk through survey when I felt that I was Upset. The first question would capture my mood on a scale of 1 to 5. For the next two questions, I would write out the thought that was the source of the Upset, then write its opposite. In the final question, I would again do the mood capture. This way I could see how much my state of mind improved as a result doing the Reversal protocol.

As another example of how the reversal works, I had the story that a person I was interacting with was overreacting and creating an unnecessary emergency. When I reversed the thought I wrote that I was creating the emergency. When I did that I realized that I had called the meeting and was the source of the discussion. When I saw this reversal as true the Upset evaporated. My first mood score was 2. My second score was 4. That incident has a 2 point improvement in mood.

What I Learned

Reversing a thought was as effective as Glass Half Full thinking and significantly more effective than regrounding in Sensations. Here is a graph of the improvements delivered by the Sensation versus the Reversal protocols:

Reversing Thoughts Reverses Upsets

The average improvement in mental state when resetting to sensations was .94, when doing a reversal protocol 1.64. Doing a Student’s TTest between the two data sets gave a p value of .0034. Anything under .05 is considered a statistically significant difference. Doing the reversal protocol gave a significantly better results in the improvement of my mental state.

Looking at these results and the results of the Glass Half Full study, we see that engaging with and altering the source thought that lies beneath an Upset reduces its energy. Both finding a positive in the situation and reversing the thought’s content work successfully.

When Upset trying to divert attention to a thought not associated with the Upset or sensations, the offending thought seems to remain “stuck” in the mind and continues to source Upset state. So these protocols that do not address the underlying thought are not as effective.

When you are Upset or feeling down, addressing the underlying thought using a variety of methods will likely unwind the source of the emotion.