Making The Choice For The UpSpiral

This week's blog is an excerpt from Dr. Larkin's new book, 

12 New Steps For A New Millenium

Order your copy here from Amazon.


Step 2

“Made the decision to stay in an UpSpiral

regardless of events outside of us.”

“What is an UpSpiral?  An UpSpiral is a term that describes ascending and increasing positive emotion that has an energy, and that energy is always increasing. Once you are in the spiral, you can go higher and higher. The top of the spiral is “feeling good.” It is simply feeling good. You can go higher in the spiral to states of bliss and ecstasy, but that is not our goal.  The UpSpiral is characterized by increasingly better positive emotions that lead to a stable sense of “feeling good.”  The energy of the UpSpiral is one that increases health, problem-solving ability, life-satisfaction, well-being, attention, creativity, and intuition. It is a place of optimism and hope. It makes it more possible to play to your strengths. The energy of the spiral pulls you higher in mood and feeling state.

You will feel “on top of it,” in control, in charge of your own self, and empowered to be and do the things that make you feel personally significant. The UpSpiral describes increasing positivity being, which includes positive thinking, positive feeling, positive moods, flow, positive planning, visioning and living the well-lived life.

In a DownSpiral just the opposite is true. It is the experience that is cumulative, that things are “on top of me.”  It is an experience of an increasing sense of oppression.  The DownSpiral probably starts with some innocent complaining or negativity, which moves to judging someone, then to blaming someone else, then to thinking about who has crossed you, to anger, then to mulling and nursing this feeling of anger. Your face has dropped, there is no smile, your eyes are probably not focused on the outside world, and there is an internalized sense of heaviness. The DownSpiral is different for everyone, but it expects that things are bad and will get worse. It is focused on problems and not solutions. It is filled with worry, dread, and anxiety. Eventually it leads to depression, flat lining, the sense that nothing has any real meaning, and at the bottom there is a sense of despondency and dread.  The DownSpiral is a place of dread and disease.  People who live in the DownSpiral more than the UpSpiral have twice the chance of a heart attack or stroke.

If you spend a lot of time “yo-yoing” back and forth between highs and lows, you spend more time in the DownSpiral.  One of the reasons may be that you are easily “overwhelmed.”  It takes only a few things to create the sense of “it’s on top of me.”  People can feel “oppressed” by feeling a little down when they get up, then dropping the toothpaste in the toilet, dropping the soap the third time in the shower, and having to bend over, then spilling the coffee grounds on the counter.  But when you find that there is no coffee creamer, that’s the last straw –the whole day is down the drain. That is simple oppression from cumulative stress, and everyone has it in one way or another.  

However, our response to these situations, on the outside of us, does not have to affect us on the inside. The truth is that we are too easily oppressed by things that don’t matter, and we have not learned really good recovering skills when things do go wrong, which they will.

We can always make the choices that keep us in an UpSpiral rather than a DownSpiral. People who cannot make that choice are in therapy, and perhaps medicated, to be able to make that choice better or at least not sink further into a DownSpiral.  

Aren’t there some events, like grieving a loss, that have to be done in the DownSpiral?  No, there are not. Even grief and loss can be experienced in an UpSpiral of positivity, when it is not clouded with guilt. It simply depends on how we choose to view death and how we grieve the death of another. All of the feelings of love, peace, gratitude, joy and hope especially belong to loss. There may well be feelings of sadness, anger and loss, but they don’t have to be the only feelings. If the focus is on memories of goodness, there can be gratitude. There can be a focus on the things that give us joy.

The longer you remain in an UpSpiral and the more practiced you become, and have the agility and mastery of positive emotional states, the more you realize that all of your life can be lived there by your choice. But it takes time and learning and practice.

The more you decide that outside events will not determine whether you are in an UpSpiral or a DownSpiral, the more you will be able to do so. Every thought you think and every feeling you feel are affecting the structure of your brain. We are becoming what we think and feel. We are always growing neuropathways according to our experience. In learning to live in an UpSpiral, you are changing the structure of the neuropathways in your brain. They will begin to line up differently. As you develop and use new more powerful neuropathways of positivity, the old ones are going to find themselves in a kind of “neuroplastic war.” The old neuropathways die a slow death.  Literally they are deprived of oxygen and glucose as they cease to be used, and they will fight back to live.

Once you encounter the concept that there is an UpSpiral and a DownSpiral, and it can be quantified by your own subjective experience, life is never quite the same in terms of how you view it.  That is because you now have a way of seeing your experience that you didn’t have before. You know whether or not you are in an UpSpiral and you know when you are in a DownSpiral, and are not doing the things you need to do to get out of it and stay out of it.

Your choices have been increased by a new way of looking at your own experience. And once you have spent more time in the UpSpiral, you aren’t going to want to be anywhere but there again. You will learn what you need to learn to stay there and you will do what you have to do to be in a better-feeling place that is within your grasp. This is an enormous piece of personal empowerment. You always know that the choice about where you want to be in the UpSpiral is yours, not external events.  Even though there can be things that drag us down, we know we don’t want to stay there.”


1) This blog describes a foundational piece of our research and training. Reflecting on your personal journey, what do you consdier to be the TWO most fundamental shifts in your thinking and experience which are the direct result of living in a sustained UpSpiral? Give us a detailed description of both, with examples which illustrate your story. Then go to your copy of 12 New Steps For A New Millenium and read the rest of Step 2, from which this excerpt is taken.


1) As you learn here about the concept of both an UpSpiral and a DownSpiral, how do you see your “natural UpSpiral” at work in your daily life? Hw much do you normally “yo-yo” up and down between the two? What tools do you naturally employ to bring you “up” when you are headed into the DownSpiral? Tell us your story.

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute