SGM June 2012 Insight of the Month: “Is A ‘Fog of Distress’ Hanging Around You?”

SGM June 2012 Insight of the Month: “Is A ‘Fog of Distress’ Hanging Around You?”

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Welcome to the June 2012 Edition of SGM. I’m Kevin Schoeninger. It’s good to have you with us.

Most of us are familiar with moments of doubt, fear, anger, or negativity that sometimes sweep us up and away from our best intentions. We’ve worked with many practices to recognize, release, and replace those experiences over the years here on SGM.


Now, there’s a much more subtle experience that may be even more common to you. I know it has been for me. That is a low-level, subtle stress, melancholy, doubt, or anxiety that lurks just beneath conscious awareness and colors how you perceive life—or takes the “color” out of life. This feeling could be with you when you wake up in the morning, making you want to stay in bed just a little longer. It could greet you as you head in to work on Monday morning. Or it could join you as you engage in a specific activity or relationship.

This subtle feeling makes you a little uneasy, or perhaps a little queasy in your stomach, or a little tense in your body. It might make you triple check things, or feel slightly pessimistic, or even sabotage what you truly desire. In this month’s messages we’ll explore the “fog of distress,” that can limit your expansion into the life of peace, joy, love, and purpose that you are meant to live.

Before we get into our discussion, I’d like to take a moment to welcome any new members that have joined us at SGM this month. Let me briefly go over a few details about our site, then we’ll move into this week’s content.
If you haven’t done so already, make sure that you visit our “Getting Started with SGM” page for tips on how to get the most out of your membership. The link is located in the top right-hand corner of the SGM website. Make sure to check out the “Toolkit” in the right sidebar which has a wealth of mind-body practices along with a Practice Log to keep track of your efforts.

Also, in the right upper corner of our website, you’ll find an “Ask the Instructor” link. You can use that to ask me any questions about your personal practice that you do not want to ask in the general Discussion under the Weekly Messages. You’ll also find a Client Support link in that same corner. Use that for any billing, site admin, or ordering questions. We’re here to support you in your personal practice . . .

Now, on to this month’s material.


The term the “fog of distress” comes to us from the book “Code to Joy,” (Harper Collins, 2012) by psychologists George Pratt, Ph.D. and Peter Lambrou, Ph.D. Pratt and Lambrou are licensed clinical psychologists who practice at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Lajolla, California. They specialize in applying mind-body techniques, psychotherapy, hyponotherapy, and performance enhancement exercises with professional athletes, top executives, award-winning performing artists, and thousands of people from all walks of life.

In “Code to Joy,” the authors share a Four-Step Process that has proven effective time and again to help people overcome the self-limiting beliefs that give rise to negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This month on SGM, we’ll explore these four steps, one per week, so that you can see just how powerful and effective this process can be for you.

Let’s begin with this idea that many of us experience a “fog of distress,” that seems to permeate our lives in general or some specific area of our lives. What is the “fog of distress” and what causes it?

“The fog of distress” often originates in experiences we have when we are very young. At that time, these experiences may or may not seem traumatic from the outside. Yet the way they feel to us on the inside leaves a lasting impact. These events initiate beliefs about “who we are” and “what is possible for us” that continue to run in our subconscious, influencing everything that happens to us and how we experience it. They become an “atmosphere” which hangs around your consciousness and becomes an invisible backdrop for your life.

As the authors say, “Typically, this vague sense of unease parks itself in the background, like the annoying hum of a refrigerator or air conditioner we have learned to block out from our conscious awareness. But whether we are aware of it or not, it pervades our existence like an insistent headache, interfering with our ability to have healthy relationships, to perform to our potential at work, or to have lives that are anywhere near as fulfilling as they could be.” (p.4, CTJ)

One thing that can be tricky about the fog of distress is that sometimes the early events that created it don’t seem like much on the surface. Yet, for some reason, at the moment they happened, we interpreted them in a significant way. They felt significant to us. They encoded a self-limiting belief that we identified with.

For example, you went to share a school project with your parents, and they said, “Not now sweety, we’re busy.” This might not seem like a big deal, but, at that moment, you could get the message, “I’m not important.”
The important thing is not so much “what happened” as “how you interpreted it right then and there.” In addition, if that type of event was repeated, it may have been confirmed in your mind, and become all the more powerful as a belief.

The authors tell us that these self-limiting beliefs tend to fall into seven categories. Here they are (from p. 36-37, CTJ):

1. I am not safe.

2. I am worthless.

3. I am powerless.

4. I am not lovable.

5. I cannot trust anyone.

6. I am bad.

7. I am alone.

The first step in any personal growth endeavor is to become conscious of what is not conscious to you. You bring whatever is subconsciously controlling your experience into the light of awareness, so you can work with it. So, the first step in the Code to Joy Process is to Identify some version of one of these limiting beliefs that is plaguing you. Each of these beliefs has many variations, yet they tend to fall into one of those seven categories.

Let’s see if there’s any truth in this for you. Here are a few questions to help you get a hold of a self-limiting belief that may be creating a “fog of distress” in your life. If you are listening to the audio of this message, you can pause when I cue you to write down the first answers that come to your mind.

Five Questions to Reveal Your Personal Fog of Distress

1. Is there a recurring feeling that you have when you are feeling less-than-your-best? Do you experience a general “fog of distress” in any area of your life or in life in general? Perhaps it’s a feeling you have when you wake up in the morning or when you enter, or even just think about, specific types of situations. Do you have any recurring uncomfortable feeling?

Pause for a moment now to reflect on that and write down the first thing that comes up:

2. What recurring self-talk do you hear when you feel that way? Your self-talk reflects your beliefs. For example, “It’s not safe to be myself. What I am interested in isn’t worthwhile. I am not worthy of doing what I love. No one appreciates who I am. I can’t trust others to support me. Life is too much pressure! The world doesn’t understand me! I’m no good at this.”

What is your self-talk at the times when you experience the fog of distress? Pause for a moment now to write down anything that comes to mind:

3. What recurring events relate to your recurring feeling and self-talk? Are there any things that seem to happen to you over and over again? Can you describe what happens?

Pause for a moment now to write down any uncomfortable events that seem to happen to you again and again:

4. What is the earliest such event that you can remember, whether or not it seems related to these recurring feelings and self-talk?

Pause for a moment now and write down the earliest event that comes to mind whether you listed it above or not:

5. Your life experiences reflect your beliefs. What do these particular events being in your life tell you about a specific belief you may be holding?

After contemplating the feelings, self-talk statements, and events above, can you state one self-limiting belief that summarizes this uncomfortable recurring experience? To help you with this, you can refer to the seven self-limiting beliefs above and see if some variation of one of them seems to summarize what you experience.

Pause for a moment now and write down the first self-limiting belief that comes to mind, whether or not it seems exactly right on:

Now, my suggestion is to just sit with what you’ve written, what you’ve felt and contemplated, remembered and re-experienced. Rather than trying to do something about it, just be with it. If you feel in any way overwhelmed by this information, it’s O.K. Take a few slow, deep breaths to relax and come back to the present. It’s O.K. to see all this now. You are safe here, in this moment. A deeper guidance and support is with you—always.

Feel free to make any additional notes that come to mind as you sit with this information. You might find that more information will come to you throughout this coming week.

If you’d like to learn about muscle self-testing the accuracy of what you’ve discovered, check out this link on the author’s website:

Muscle Testing

In next week’s message, we’ll explore Step Two of the four-step “Code to Joy Process, which is how to clear your personal energy field to disperse the fog of distress. Until next time, when you notice the fog of distress, it’s O.K. Be present with it. Observe it. And breathe. You are safe here and now.

I look forward to joining you here again next week,