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Transforming Stress
Into Positive Energy and Creativity
Through OptimaLearning's Mental Technology

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Ivan Barzakov, Ph.D.
Too many people in our modern world live with negative stress. They seek relief through pills, therapy, exercise and even mind-numbing hours in front of a television. While negative stress may be reduced, it returns because people have not learned how to address the underlying causes of negative stress. OptimaLearning® provides a specific mental technology that helps individuals not only reduce negative stress, but also transform it into increased motivation and working capacity which lead to super productivity.

Let me highlight several unique and systemic processes in OptimaLearning which create this transformation:

Methods of Coping with Negative Stress

Various psychotherapeutic approaches for coping with negative stress and related diseases exist. Some are purely intuitive; the lack of a theoretical basis is an obstacle to their wide application. Other approaches are borrowed mechanically from Far Eastern religious and philosophical systems like Yoga, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and others. They are veiled by mysticism, which also restricts their universal use.

Some methods of stress control are logically grounded and possess a solid scientific base. These approaches are usually limited to reduction of negative stress and when properly applied yield very good results. Most of them do not include transformation of negative stress into positive stress, or to use Hans Selye's term "eustress." Selye is widely recognized as the progenitor of 20th century stress theories. The Relaxation Response appears to be one of the best techniques of this type. The well-known scientist, Dr. Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School, developed it.

Other approaches rely on autogenic training, biofeedback or progressive relaxation in order to reduce the impact of negative stress. If these methods are appropriately used, they also produce good results. However, their impact on contemporary destructive stress and stress factors is considered incomplete.

Many authors of self-help literature give various recommendations, instructions and rules for eliminating negative stress and related complications. These recommendations, although sometimes useful by themselves, are not systemically connected. They demand usually too much time and considerable effort to perform or sustain. That is why they are rather inapplicable. Such "pieces of advice" and "admonitions" often rely on giving up some "pleasures," which have become or are perceived as harmful. These benevolent pieces of advice conceal some threat and bank and usually remain in the realm of good wishes. A great part of these pieces of advice suggest behavioral changes but do not show the way these changes could be achieved. A great effort of self-control is needed in order to overcome the emotional barriers. Such barriers usually remain and the person continues to "explain" and excuse the failure to follow such valuable advice.

These shortcomings are overcome to a great extent in the OptimaLearning system. Also the OptimaLearning system is not bound by any religious or philosophical beliefs. It is universally accessible and creates a spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding in interpersonal relationships. It has been accepted enthusiastically by thousands of people of various ethnic origins, religious and philosophical convictions or educational background.

OptimaLearning Method for Stress Transformation

OptimaLearning can be described as a "specific mental technology" that is scientifically based, harmonious system of techniques, methods and strategies, that helps people activate mental potential. It enhances their productivity and creativity and thus improves the quality of life.

First and foremost OptimaLearning reduced negative stress and transforms it into increased working capacity and motivation. It should be emphasized that this approach to negative stress is comprehensive, multifaceted and systemic. This creates a wider psychological base for elimination and transformation of both stress factors and negative stress itself.

The OptimaLearning system has been successfully demonstrated and utilized in seminars, teacher training, consultations and public presentations in more than 15 countries on four continents during the past 16 years. These experiences show its effectiveness in a wide age range and its potential to achieve positive results in a great variety of ethnic and religious cultures.

One of the most substantial features of this system is the unique integration of musical, visual and other artistic emotional stimuli into the rational-cognitive process. In this way "global and dynamic activation" of the whole brain is achieved, that is, a simultaneous activation of the neocortex (with its left and right hemispheres) and the subcortical areas (the limbic system and the reticular formation).

This purposefully orchestrated and synchronized brain activation releases hidden energy. The released energy is then directed through special techniques towards the individual's productivity and creativity, to better thinking and increased motivation. This enhanced productivity or super productivity, additionally reduces negative stress and transform it into positive stress, known as eustress.

Super productivity is a very important outcome of the OptimaLearning system. It distinguishes this system from other methods of relaxation. This phenomenon has been observed in practically all cases of successful application of OptimaLearning. Super productivity is defined here as the acquired ability to accomplish more in the same or less time, with a better quality of work, with less effort and with more creative inspiration and desire.

Super productivity is attained in OptimaLearning not just through the complex integration ("orchestration-synchronization") of rational and emotional stimuli and processes. The integration of acoustic, visual, kinesthetic and tactile modalities plays an important role also. The development and interrelation of the complex intellectual processes such as analytical-rational, intuitive-rational, artistic-intuitive and others are of special significance. All these elements stimulate mental activity globally, in addition to the physiological brain activation, which is strictly dynamic. The formation of an optimal environment as well as the acceleration of the unlocked creativity (creative potential in action) and the rising motivation contribute significantly to the optimization of the working or cognitive process.

How does the OptimaLearning System approach negative stress?

Above all, directly. The OptimaLearning approach consists of specific relaxation processes and techniques. The most important are:

  • Contemplation of some pleasant place or thing such as landscape or imaginary object selected prior to the given task or activity;
  • Super Relaxation (a light meditation);
  • Observation of a rhythmical body function, such as breathing.
  • As a physiological outcome, all of the above techniques yield a very pure kind of relaxation response (relaxation reaction).
The direct approach is especially important because it is the most immediate one and does not depend on other factors. Its beneficial impact on health has been confirmed in numerous independent scientific studies in different countries and the results have been published in specialized editions.

One of the key OptimaLearning techniques, the Super Relaxation (reduction and elimination of accumulated stress) yields the same results as those by Dr. Benson mentioned above, that he labeled "the relaxation response." Benson has demonstrated that during a relaxation response (relaxation reaction), the oxygen consumption always goes down and remains at a lower level even after the meditation procedure has ended and until the end of the relaxation reaction.

During sleep, the oxygen consumption goes down more slowly than during relaxation of this type. The difference is due to physiological reactions related to relaxation, slowing of both heart rhythm and breathing, lowering blood pressure and muscular tonus, distinct presence of alpha brain waves. All these are important stress reducing factors.

This technique gives us a very good tool for acting upon and normalizing key physiological functions. Also this has been confirmed in the studies of Rossner, Benson, Marzetta, and Klimtchuk as early as 1978.

Many positive effects are also observed in another type of meditational relaxation, "with tracking out the thought" (John Kabot-Zinn, director of preventive and behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts. It is very similar to the OptimaLearning technique "contemplating the thought," and produces practically the same results. This technique enables us to effectively act upon fear and pain syndromes. Fear and pain are known to dramatically increase the negative stress in many instances.

Critical Difference from Other Methods

One must note here that the OptimaLearning System differs substantially from the Silva method and from other techniques and methods that use auto hypnosis. The most characteristic difference between OptimaLearning and the Silva method is that the emphasis in the Silva method is on programming of consciousness. By contrast in OptimaLearning and the other methods of pure relaxation response type, the emphasis is on relaxation and consciousness programming is contra-indicated.

It is interesting to note that the "hypnosis with suggestion of deep relaxation" (the Silva method, for example) yields, according to Benson (1975) inconclusive results with regard to important factors, such as lowering blood pressure. In contrast the relaxation response consistently shows conclusive results in lowering blood pressure.

Enlarging to Transform

The psychological techniques for transformation of negative stress into positive stress or eustress are even more vital with rising demands of contemporary global economical production and expanding demands on individual performance. In the OptimaLearning system one critical strategy is enlarging the perspective of the individual in relation to a given distressing event or factor. This is achieved through an "invitation" to introduce positive stimuli to balance negative stress, rather than to struggle against it or try to suppress its distressing emotions. Original phenomenological techniques of shifting the focus of irritation or changing the subject's perception are also used. This results in gradual reassessment of the events in the subject's life and in expansion and transformation of the emotional context of these events. The end result is the transformation of negative stress into positive energy.

Other techniques are also used to accomplish this, such as:
  • Immediate or gradual (step-by-step) change of the point of view of a subject, patient, or client;
  • Expanding the subject's understanding of global meaning in life vis a vis the distress produced by a single event.
These help people find a new meaning in work and life that contributes substantially to the transformation of negative stress into eustress.

Educative Feedback™

Other OptimaLearning techniques address the elimination of stress factors that may emerge in the process of learning new information or skills, assimilation of new behaviors, or accomplishing what one has set out to do. The following principles are applied.

  • Optimization of the learning environment;
  • Improvement of performance through the technique of "expansion" versus replacement;
  • "Minimal possible interference" technique once the training process gains momentum;
  • Optimal support by the trainer or teacher combined with non-threatening, creative challenges to students' achievements.
The special OptimaLearning technique called "Educative Feedback™" plays a central role here. If focuses on improving the performance, not the person. Without criticizing the current behavior, it molds new behavior. In other words, it does not "destruct in order to create." People do not feel attacked, belittled, or bad. In this way, OptimaLearning eliminates some crucial stress barriers in the process of work, learning, or therapy. The Educative Feedback technique has an extremely vast application in the whole field of education, in health care, in the workplace, in interpersonal relationships, and in family relationships including children's upbringing where stress factors are very sensitive.

Furthermore, this OptimaLearning technique allows the individual to mesh the emotional and cognitive dimensions of professional improvement and to marry new physiological and psychological strengths. OptimaLearning helps persons cope with life's changes. Statistical studies carried out in different countries around the world have demonstrated that one of the most crucial stress factors nowadays is change or more precisely the anxiety caused by change.

The potential to attain an ascending spiral of wholesome and dynamic development of personality is also fostered. The more effective the reduction and transformation of negative stress, the more productive and creative the person, the better the quality of life. Motivated, creative, positive people become highly productive, super performers. The energy of negative stress is freed to move into super productivity.

(For consulting services and OptimaLearning training available, see Services)

© Ivan Barzakov, 2001. All rights reserved. Do not quote without permission, as this is a draft.

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