May 5, 2016 by Angus
Alchemy, your unexpected psychological white magic


Funny concept, isn’t it?

Conjures up images of wacky medieval wizards working “magic”.

Turning lead into gold.

Getting something for nothing,

Ya, right!

But hold on.

These ideas have been around for a long time. They’ve been with us for a lot longer than the advent of Internet scams.

What if I told you that alchemy was potentially alive and well in psychology!

OK, before you say, “come on, Angus”, stay with me on this one for a minute.

Let’s back up for a moment.

Many years ago I was down at Bondi Beach on a Sunday. That’s in Sydney, Australia, for those friends of ours who live around the world.

They have a nice market down there on Sunday and I decided to go grab a second hand book to read on the beach.

So, I walked into the market and pretty much grabbed the first non-fiction book I came across. It turned out to be a book that blended Economics and a bit of motivation and self-help.

In that book, there was one passage that has always stayed with me.

The book itself was published around 1990. The author made the comment that ever since the 1970s, we have been constantly hearing about oil supply running out.

Now, obviously oil supply will run out sometime in the future (if we keep sucking it out of the earth and burning it up). But the author made this interesting point. He said that oil supply hadn’t even come close to drying up (by 1990).

It wasn’t because new oil fields had been discovered, he said. He made the case that the fuel efficiency of cars had doubled in that time and, therefore, effectively the oil supply had doubled.

A form of alchemy had occurred.

The oil supply was still what it was. But, in effective terms, it was now twice as it was.

Back to the present day …

Let’s put that idea into a different context.

Many people who are overwhelmed and stressed have trouble fitting in time for things that they know would help their stress levels.

They argue, “I’m going non-stop 24 hours a day where do I have the time to add something else into my schedule!”

Now let’s reframe that. Let’s put an alchemists hat on, for arguments sake.

Many people I’ve worked with have found a simple progressive muscular relaxation exercise done for 20 minutes in the middle of the day can actually reduce fatigue, increase concentration and efficiency. In the end, it effectively gives them a “free” extra 2 hours of time later in the day because they are in a much sharper state.

The 20 minute “time out” works to deactivate the flight or fight response. The “flight or fight response” is what we call in the clinical psychology business, the “sympathetic nervous system”.

What these people have done, in effect, is to invest 20 minutes to receive a 120 minute return.

They got a cool and satisfying return on their investment in productivity.

OK, so it’s maybe not really “alchemy” in a truly scientific sense, but I think you get the point.

Why not play around with some mindfulness alchemy yourself and see what gains you get.

Let’s have a little fun.

Open up Youtube and try a a progressive muscular relaxation exercise.

There are plenty available free, there.

Try it for a couple of weeks as your own personal experiment with “emotional alchemy”.

If you want some deeper advice on a good one to try, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Simply send your request via the contact form

Clinical Psychologist Sydney

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