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Setting Paradoxical Intentions
January 5, 2023
Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake.
-Kurt Vonnegut, author, 1922-2007

How often do you wake up in the night, and find it hard to fall back asleep, your mind racing from one thought to the next? You might even feel stressed that you can't fall back asleep. What do you do? One strategy is to try as hard as you can to stay awake.

In a Psychology Today articleIlisa Kaufman, Ph.D., explains this notion of paradoxical intentions (PI), “a psychotherapeutic technique that instructs clients to continue or make the undesirable behavior worse. Although the premise is very counterintuitive, the goal is to make the client feel they have control over the situation. Psychologists Ralph M. Turner and Michael Asher used PI with those who had trouble sleeping. They would instruct people who had trouble sleeping to try and stay awake for as long as possible. They concluded that people who had sleep onset insomnia had high levels of performance anxiety, and by taking the pressure off of falling asleep, they were able to fall asleep,”

Dr. Kaufman ends the article with three ways to use paradoxical intentions to ease your way back to sleep:

  1. Tell yourself to not fall asleep, no matter what.
  2. Tell yourself that you need to feel as sleepy as possible tomorrow.
  3. Tell yourself to not close your eyes.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you — or what else you do to get a good night's sleep.


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