Archive - 2016

The “Idle, Daydreaming” Brain
Are You Too Optimistic?
Your Strengths Are Your “Values”
The UpSpiral of Your Life
Positive Emotions, By Choice
The Sanctuary of Positivity
Positive Emotions: Inroads To Consciousness
Your Brain, Growing, Evolving…Or Not
The Higher Ground Of FLOW
The “Bullies” Of Our Emotional Playground

The “Idle, Daydreaming” Brain


The brain is never idle and never inactive.  The brain is always at work, especially when we sleep.

Today I went to one of my favorite places, the 99 cent store, to pick up one thing. I went in without a list and I spent $34.00 on 34 things.

I’m happy to report that I DID get the one thing I went to get.  I have gone to the store without a list and come home with several things except what I went for.

That’s a simple story, but the lesson is there -the brain needs a list or a specific goal in focus or it shops everywhere for everything.

We need to tell the brain what we want it to do, we need to have focus and attention, and we need to practice that focus and attention so we can stay on track.  That includes “idle time”.  We think that daydreaming is idle time, but the brain is still working.

Studies show us that idle time, where the brain can wander can be creative.  However, if the thoughts of the brain go in a negative direction, the result is anxiety, dread, fear or discomfort -the sense of threat at some level.  That moves us into the sympathetic nervous system of “threat” or fight/flight, our cortisol rises and the hormones of stress kick into gear.

Thyroxin, which is long-term adrenaline, can stay in the system as long as 4 days.  Idle time spent daydreaming that goes in a negative direction is not healthy.

My advice is that daydreaming is fine as long as you manage it and keep it going in a positive direction, and that will be more creative.

Daydreaming that goes off in a negative direction is like going to a store where there is nothing you need, lots of things you don’t need and bringing the especially bad things home.

My critics will say that the negative day-dreaming brings up issues that need to be resolved.  I disagree.  I think that’s not true.

Negative issues that need to be addressed are those that continue to rise up in us in one way or another.

If we get everyday needless negative feelings out of the way and build up a positive reservoir, the truly negative things will focus because you will have a greater sense of security (safety) in allowing them to do so from this more positive base that we have built.

It is often the negative feelings of an idle brain that creates rumination, worrying, dream and a sense of threat.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Are You Too Optimistic?


Can you be?

Some studies claim that too much optimism can be dangerous and cause overly risky behavior.

You can always find a study somewhere that will take the air out of your balloon.

So is the answer to be more pessimistic or more effectively optimistic?

How’s this?

Is it better to DownSpiral until you feel more negatively, find things wrong with most everything else in the process, and narrow your focus and your options?

Or claim that positive energy, and be more effectively and efficiently optimistic?

Pessimism or more negativity is not the answer. Your brain is more naturally optimistic than pessimistic; it’s necessary for evolution.

The answer to the research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you can be more effectively positive.

You don’t have to check your optimism at the door in favor digging for a little pessimism.

You don’t have to move from safety to feeling threat to manage your optimism.

If you are building castles in the air, use the same creativity and imagination to put foundations underneath the ones that mean the most to you.

Pessimism narrows your options and full access to your strengths.

And here is the key issue: do you know what your strengths are?

Optimism, especially high levels of optimism that might have a tendency toward impulsiveness, need to be grounded in one of your positive strengths that provide a balance for you in your life.

And you can be sure they are there if you know your scientifically tested strengths.

Your Strengths are your performance tools. You use them when you encounter challenges.

They are like the fuel in your car.

In certain situations, you may need to accelerate and use more fuel to increase your speed.

Your strengths provide you with that “performance boost” in any and every situation of your life.

How you regard your strengths and what you are willing to do with them is like the decision to eat or not eat good food.

You can get by on the junk food of your weaknesses, but what builds your sense of self and very directly the happiness you experience, is your decision to flex the muscles of your strengths, to use them more and more, and to put yourself in situations where they are used.

Strengths move you toward life and aliveness. Playing to weaknesses moves you toward deterioration.

It starts with feeling disconnected and moves to feeling disengaged, disenchanted, unappreciated, unseen, unnoticed. Feeling unappreciated appears as the State of Mind of loneliness.

That’s usually the place where we start looking for someone else to fill the absence of ourselves that we have created.

When you engage your strengths in an UpSpiral of feeling good, you are meeting challenges head on, from the higher ground of your real self.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 





Your Strengths Are Your “Values”



Strengths are also called virtues and values because of their fundamental importance. They are your ways of “being” who you really are. They are your “mental compass.”

These superhighways of neuropathways are unique to you and they are the only ones that you can travel and be who you really are.

Your values, as your strengths, are who you are. Get off the highway and some voice within you, rst of all your feelings, will start to give you messages that you need to change your direction, make a turn, take the next exit and go back – just as surely as the GPS system for a car won’t give up until you’re on the right track.

The greater your alignment, your consistency and your focus is on your strengths, the more in alignment with your Real Self you are going to feel.

You will feel more in sync, more in control, more in harmony, more like you are “in your own skin.”

It is when we play to our weaknesses that we begin to feel “out of sync,” disconnected, out of alignment, anxious, frustrated, and in a state of discord.

The more you use your strengths, that are also your basic values and virtues, the happier you will be.

Restless, listless, out-of-sync, unsettled and out of your own skin; these are the word that describe us when we are not playing to our strengths. They are the things we experience when we are playing to our weaknesses.

When you know your strengths (because they have been scientifically tested) it’s easier to play to your strengths so long as you stay in an UpSpiral.

In a DownSpiral or when we are down spiraling, we will not play to our strengths, but rather to their opposites, which are our weaknesses or our character defects.

The opposites of our strengths are wonderful things because they warn us by feeling restless, listless, out-of-sync, unsettled, bored, irritable, and frustrated. The more we play to our weaknesses the worse these things get.

Your weaknesses that are the opposite of your strengths are uniquely yours. Only you really know what they are.

Take a piece of paper and list your strengths, then list what is the opposite of that strength for you.

How does the weakness side of the strengths show up for you?

What is your unique way of doing and “being” the opposite of your strengths, your VALUES?

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The UpSpiral of Your Life



What Is An UpSpiral?

It is living at a higher quality of life by managing the ups and downs of life more effectively. The research is overwhelmingly clear.

It is creating a mood predisposition and it is State of Mind Management (SOMM). It is living more up than down by using the power of your choice and learning the ways to do it.

An UpSpiral ranges from a conviction, a belief in a life imbued with optimistic, and being generally “on top of it.”

The DownSpiral is just the opposite, a belief in helplessness and victimhood. At its lowest point, it is despondency and despair, characterized by pervasive pessimism.


Most people live far lower in the UpSpiral than they need to be, and most people yo-yo between being somewhere in the UpSpiral and somewhere in the DownSpiral.

We have come to believe that this up- and-down is a normal part of life, when, in fact, it is just learned behavior.

We have far more choice and ability to remain in an UpSpiral that we usually know or believe.

Is it possible to be very high in an UpSpiral all of the time?

First, our research for the last dozen years shows us that people can live in an UpSpiral most all of the time, once they learn how to do it.

Second, it is also fair to say that we can live somewhere in the UpSpiral all of the time; that DownSpiral experiencing isn’t really necessary. We may not always be high up in the Spiral, but we can always be living life somewhere with the belief that we are indeed living an UpSpiral life.

Despair and the narrowing of depression aren’t necessary. It doesn’t have to be.

We live by this myth that there are ups and downs in life and that they are largely created by external events.

The truth is that, for the most part, there are external events to which we respond and our response to these events determines where we are in the Spiral, not the event itself.

Either you are a victim of a difficulty or you are stripping a problem of everything it has to teach you and becoming stronger and wiser.

Or you are learning to let one door close so another can open.

100% is the promise of our work. 100% of your time in an UpSpiral.

You’re learning the skills of the UpSpiral, you can learn them so well never to be in a DownSpiral. The oppression of the DownSpiral is a choice that is learned over a lifetime, but it can be unlearned and our time does not have to be spent there.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 


Positive Emotions, By Choice


Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a debilitating stroke and she talks about re-learning to “feel” positive emotion. She calls it her “stroke of insight,”

“One of the greatest lessons I learned was how to feel the physical component of emotion. Joy was a feeling in my body. Peace was a feeling in my body. I thought it was interesting that I could feel when a new emotion was triggered. I could feel new emotions flood through me and then release me. I had to learn new words to label these “feeling” experiences, and most remarkably, I learned that I had the power to choose whether to hook into a feeling and prolong its presence in my body, or just let it quickly flow right out of me.”

This is an astounding description of what we teach in our Emotional Gym, that you can create and choose what emotions you want to feel, you make them last, and you can intensify them, and, what is most important, you can teach yourself to do this and at any time during your life span.

Dr. Taylor could feel these experiences happening again in her body as she recovered and realized that they were there by her choice or not.

You can do the same except that you are fortunate enough that you haven’t needed a stroke to teach you that this is true.

Take one of 5 emotions and make each day of the week associate with an emotion.

Monday is peace, Tuesday is love, Wednesday is gratitude, Thursday is joy and Friday is hope. Your choice.

Then choose to feel those emotions all day long. You will be astounded at what you can create in your brain.

You will be even more astounded when you realize that you have the power to give a positive emotion the duration you choose, and that you can intensify that emotion by your choice and your practice.

The next time you feel joy, the promise here is that you can feel twice that amount of joy, if you will allow yourself to learn to go there.

The Dharmsala Monks are able to lower or raise their body temperatures by 15 or more degrees, “on-call” as a result of meditating. Think about the power of raising or dropping your own body temperature 15 degrees in the heat or the cold. It would be quite an energy savings over a year.

This is a startling example of our ability to direct and intensify “energy”. If we would increase the intensity of our feeling of love 15 degrees and direct it and measure its impact on a particular target “person” or target “situation” what we might find.

We are only beginning to understand the implications of what we can do with positive emotion.

But we know this, as surely as you can go to a negative emotion instantly and be “wounded”, and as long as you stay there nursing your wound, and as much as you can intensify the wound over time; so can you do that with positive emotion.

We can get to a positive emotion in an instant, we can stay there as long as we choose, and we can intensify it.

Admit it, you do it with negatives; this is the promise that you can do the same with positive emotions.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The Sanctuary of Positivity

A sanctuary is a place of reserve, of preservation, and of safety. We find safety in a sanctuary that is a place for the preservation of something highly significant, like personal freedom or rare birds.

A sanctuary of positivity is a wholly new concept because we haven’t yet revered positivity.

Positivity is something we squander, waste, and disregard as something like a fleeting experience we hope we might get, perhaps, so long as it doesn’t get in the way of several other things on our schedules of trying to make life interesting.

The Zeigarnik principle in psychology tells us that we have a lean of 9:2 toward the negative.brain-evolve

We have come to learn that this is because of evolution, because of our development as a human species.

Think about that for a moment. We have nearly conditioned out, in our evolution, the capacity for positivity. Yet it has persistently remained in our DNA.

Not only has it remained, but it is responsible for the creative, ongoing, emergence of the progress of the human species.

Positivity is a primal essential to ongoing creation and evolution. Without it, we die.

Without it we die not only sooner, we die less well, with greater misery and loss of meaning.

Think about it. This precious human resource responsible for the evolution and progress of inventions, great art, great music, great social movements, is the natural human resource that engages, emerges and allows the flow of creativity.

It is this precious resource that we have nearly succeeded in bringing to extinction, and yet it has survived. It is hard to imagine the human race without positivity, even though we have paid really so little attention to it. Positivity is the ground of flourishing.

How is it that such a great natural resource has gone so unnoticed and taken so for granted? We have done it with animals, we have done it with the rain forests, we have done it with energy resources, and we have done it with human life.

The fact that our evolutionary lean is 9:2 in favor of the negative is a staggering realization that we could have come so far. Yet it was not so long ago that one American president said that we would land a man on the moon in 10 years, and we did.

Had that not been said and done in what positivity is, there would have been no man on the moon.

Could we say with great intention that we will change the world in 10 years dedicated to positiivity, bringing such sanctuary to its presence that it becomes revered as the force that puts a man on the moon and ushers in a new world of consciousness not possible in a ratio of 9:2?

In our lifetimes, we intend, by making a sanctuary for positivity, to change that ratio to a positive 3:1 at least, and 5:1 ideally.

There is no imagination capable of knowing what that would mean.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Positive Emotions: Inroads To Consciousness




Five emotional states are more than emotion- they are inroads to consciousness.

The positive thinking industry and the positive spirituality industry both make the same mistake.

You can’t get there by positive thinking alone.

The “mask” of positive thinking alone wears you out, makes you feel like a failure or a phoney, and creates denial of real emotions that can otherwise provide direction and contrast.

But emotions are not just “indicators” or “feedback.” They are much, much more.

We try to think positively to “feel better,” but there is a much more rapid way to feeling better and feeling good most of the time.

We can have a great deal more control over emotional states of mind that are faster inroads to inner state of consciousness.

The issue is not positive thinking, whether you spiritualize it or not. The issue is “positive being,” and that is grounded first and foremost in the issue of positive emotion.

Let’s call them “positive states of mind” that are absolutely linked to inner states of spiritual consciousness. Pretend that you have five balloons on the inside of you that are love, peace, gratitude, hope, and joy.

The inner balloons are the shells that hold the outward reality. You’ve got to blow them up and fill them with your outer intentions to feel and experience these things.

You can learn to feel what you want to feel.

Blow up those balloons from outside to the inside. Inflate them with what you feel everyday.

Teach your brain which emotions “rule” and build a reservoir of the positive states of mind on the outside that match the reality of you on the inside.

We call it the Emotional Gym.

What we feel and experience emotionally conditions how we know ourselves to be more than anything else in our experience. And how you know yourself to be is what attracts to you the basic realities of your life.

To discover that we have more control and can have greater mastery over basic emotions is really just something we haven’t considered.

The truth is that emotions and “states of mind” that are negative usually have us, rather than us having them. That’s what we want to turn around.

Positive thinking is not where it’s at, but positive emotional agility and mastery is.

‘Positivity being’ will lead to the inner states of joy, peace, gratitude, love, and hope that everyone wants to experience but has great difficulty getting “in” and staying there.

“Positivity being,” living from the core of the positive place in you, is what we are all looking for. You can learn to live from that place.

You can learn to feel what you want to feel.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Your Brain, Growing, Evolving…Or Not



Goals are the outward manifestation of our inward meaning-making system.

They are expressions of our own sense of personal significance.  They are signposts of personal development.

What we are wanting and desiring is directly linked to how we are “making meaning.”

Structures of reasoning in the brain, that are more highly developed expressions of consciousness, emerge as we are specific and intentional about our lives- at least they emerge much more quickly.

Every want and desire, every goal, fits a transition, a movement from a stage or a settling in to a new one.  It can also represent the deepening of a present one.

It is this business of desiring and attaching that moves us on and allows the developmental structures of reasoning to unfold.

The most exciting structures of reasoning aren’t even possible until after 45 or 50.

The Developmental Stages after 50 are not yet fully understood. But we know that they have to do with broadening of perception, as our brain continues to grow and evolve…or not.

We are designed to get the bigger picture in such a way that the depth at which we experience and appreciate life is greater, more expansive and more satisfying. Life is simply just richer because of our history and our story.

The great gift of aging is that it lets us apprehend life at a deeper level of appreciation and awe. Getting the bigger picture, which is really akin to wisdom, is the source of a great deal of peace and inner contentment and the key to a capacity to more greatly enjoy one’s own life.

But if we stop wanting and desiring, stop setting goals, and stop experiencing this broader and deeper learning, we interfere with the unfolding structure of the brain or the unfolding structures of “knowing.”

The extent of suffering and decline in the aging process is really a battle against greater and greater aliveness and a “sell out” to some idea that age means decline.

How many of the maladies in the second half of life are simply energy and aliveness that has nowhere to go except to create some illness or difficulty rather than continuing to grow?

We are living in an age that is reinventing the second half of life and growing beyond the fear of losing youth, but fear is always difficult to look in the eye in order to watch it wither.

What is giving you your meaning?

What are your goals?

Can you define them?

What is the source of your sense of personal significance?

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The Higher Ground Of FLOW


We have not been trained to go to the “higher ground” of our strengths, of feeling good, of living in an UpSpiral.

Where is the positive emotion?

Where is the positive thought?

What is the strength that works best?

What do I really want?

We are not trained to “go to the higher place.”

This is what will pry you loose from the judgment of the ego, which, in its appearance, is simply telling you to go “GHP.”

Your ego is hard at work keeping you just exactly where you are. It doesn’t like to attach to new things.  Your ego holds you to your associations with your old strengths. You play to your strengths or you play to your weaknesses.

Judging is a way of playing to your old strengths to keep yourself fixed where you are and so that you do not have to face change in your life.  It creates a stagnant, fixed life given to DownSpiral movement.  This is the kind of judging that has a negative emotional content to it.  It’s about the people you react to, don’t like, bother you, irritate and rub you the wrong way.

The negative that you see in another person, that also produces with it a negative reaction in yourself, is judgment.  It is also projection.

What you project is something within yourself that you have not come to accept and grow through.

Judging causes you to play to your weaknesses because you have to be coming from a weakness in order to get this “judging” thing going.

What you don’t like in another person that bothers you emotionally is what exists on the inside of you in some fashion or another.  It is a key to your greater inner freedom.

We are creating a new mythology, and it is not characterized by “living in the now.”   That is just the best present cultural solution we can accept.

It is characterized by finding your autotelic center that generates your personal sense of discovery and satisfaction.

It is the core of “flow.”

There is no dragon to slay on the way to “manhood” or enlightenment.

There is, however, the way to the permission-giving center which allows us to experience pleasure and novelty.

“Flow” is a description of one aspect of this new mythology of the essential journey.

Pay close attention to those places where the ego is raising a fuss.

It’s goal of course is to get you to go to a weakness, to become frustrated and oppressed.

However, it is also a laser pointer to GHP.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The “Bullies” Of Our Emotional Playground


Angry twenty something couple yelling at each other

Negative hits of emotion are stronger than positive ones.

This is because negative emotions have usually followed strong negative events, and we learn them more deeply and quickly – the impact in the moment is felt more strongly.

But- and this is a big “but”- negative feelings have less impact and you feel them for a shorter period of time when you have a reservoir of positive feelings. Negative hits do just that- they “hit” in a way that knocks the emotional air out of us. They are quick or they are sudden, and then they grow.

They are the bullies in your emotional playground.

Depending upon the degree of the threat which the negative represents, the hit varies, but negative emotion is stronger in its immediacy than is positive feeling because it is an alarm system. But this alarm system goes off too much and it’s too loud.

Everything is not a tiger or a truck headed in our direction.

A negative emotion screams at us, “learn this now, this is very, very important,” and we do it.

Negative emotion is very linear. However, here is the good news. Positive feeling is nonlinear. That means that the more your reservoir of emotion is filled with the positive, the more readily it will appear, especially when you need it. You can draw on positive experiences and emotions forever, if you will choose to do it.

If you will make positive feelings a low grade, chronic, ambient background, a sound track of your life, it will take over the negative more quickly and the negative will last less and less time.

Think of those times when a negative thought, feeling, or reaction was something that hung around all day long until you slept it off. The antidote to the toxin of negative feeling and thoughts that are unwanted, and the “hit” they seem to give us out of nowhere, is to practice positive feelings.

Rehearse them, live in them, say them, think them, journal them.

Make a list everyday of what you’re grateful for. You don’t have to produce a big load of positivity here. You’re not being asked to be so cheery and bubbly and always so perky that someone would like to stick a cork in your mouth.

As you experience increasing positivity, you are changing, through the neuroplasticity of your brain, how your brain is wired, and establishing the reality of your own neuropositivity. New circuits of learning and being are being built as you do this.

You are tipping an inner scale, something like an inner teeter-totter, and instead of going up and down, you are moving the fulcrum of the teeter-totter so that the emotions with the most weight are positive.

There is NOTHING in your life that doing this won’t affect.

When you get to a positive place, you are much more capable of figuring out what the negative feelings are about, and what to do with them.

You never solve the negatives from a negative place.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute