The Power Of The Opposite Action Technique

The Power Of Opposite Action Technique

  • Exploring Change  Mental Blocks
  • Avatar  by The Envisionary

  • Whenever you find yourself falling deeper into routines, habits, or emotional traps then this opposite action technique can help you.

    Firstly, a disclaimer. Richly Wills is not counseling. If you need such then please seek a licensed therapist. There’s a difference between therapy and techniques. Therapy is needed when people feel overwhelmed, or need someone to talk to. There’s a lot of good places out there for people who need this help.

    We are all human and have challenges in life. Our emotions (such as fear, anger, guilt) can sometimes get the better of us. We may even have deep-rooted issues that go way back to childhood. For some things you need counseling.

    While Richly Wills is not counseling we have had great feedback on how some of our techniques have not only opened people up to be more adaptable and creative but have made a difference in how they perceive their life, their worth, and their values.

    How The Opposite Action Technique Helps

    Opposite thinking can be good
    Opposite action and thinking can be good for us to adapt and overcome issues.

    This particular ‘opposite action’ technique is useful in both counseling and to help inspire (and provoke) action in much more subtle, fun, and baby-step ways (where Richly comes in).

    Let’s say you are afraid of something. If our fear is so deep-rooted then this technique might not help (a therapist is needed first like at BetterHelp). Yet, if we aren’t paralyzed by fear then it makes sense for us to try to confront the fear so it can be overcome.

    Oftentimes we know we should do this but we don’t because the fear is telling us not to. It’s a battle in our minds in what we should do, so when we challenge our mind to ‘shake’ what it knows or think differently from what it normally does, then we can begin to change it and overcome limitations.

    You could call this immersion therapy to a degree, yet the power behind this technique in our daily life is in how it helps us more easily lead towards an ‘opposite action’ against what our automatic safe response would be, such as avoiding a fear.

    It’s amazing just how powerful this is, and how easy it is to do if we go with it and don’t give time for analysis paralysis to sink in.

    How To Get Started With The Opposite Action Technique

    To make things easier we don’t have to begin with such a huge emotional challenge.

    You could simply use an opposite action throughout your day to keep your brain engaged and adaptable. An adaptable mind is far less likely to fall into fears as it’s like ‘shaking away cobwebs’. It won’t settle to let them gather.

    Of course, using this approach whenever you find yourself becoming stale whilst also leading to progression is a balancing act. We can be adaptable in trying many new things but then not give our brain a clue about where it should be progressing to.

    We still essentially need a road map to head towards, but the point of using ‘opposite actions’ is to free our minds from deeply set emotions or habits. It’s a different kind of road map to the ones we usually follow.

    Tangled Headphones
    Tangled headphones might be less and less of a problem, but they can actually be therapeutic.

    This same practice can be done in fun ways to break our minds out of routine habits, set ways, bad moods, or fears.

    For example, if you are frustrated easily then give yourself a challenge of trying to untangle headphones in a minute. Keep at it until you do it calmly. Or if you want to be more adaptive then brush your teeth with a different hand whilst standing on one leg.

    It’s not about being stupid or daring. Don’t be reckless, just tease your brain into doing something else, even just for a short while – something that wakes it up, plants a seed that’s the opposite of what it’s used to. It’s the little moments where changes to our life take place.

    The Technique Helps You Take Charge Of Your Emotions

    If you’ve ever been in a really stressful situation that was ignited out of nowhere, like road rage, then you can see just how quick emotions can change, and guess what, they can be shifted to more comfortable emotions just as easily.

    The key is to not panic or fear more difficult emotions. Embrace them as part of your emotional entourage. It’s okay to be fearful, it’s simply about how you control your reaction to it.

    If you can get yourself feeling comfortable being uncomfortable, to do things anyway and use fear as a motivator to improve so you are in a place where it’s no longer fearful, and if you apply this to any area of your life where fear persists, then you will see huge improvements in many things that you had been putting off by sitting in a comfort zone for so long avoiding the potential pain.

    It doesn’t have to be just physical actions either. You can change a situation in your head by altering the tone of your voice, your posture, your expressions, or use different words or thoughts, or tapping your wrist 3 times as a trigger signal to calm down or persist anyway through the fear.

    It’s okay to be fearful, it’s simply about how you control your reaction to it.

    The reason opposite actions work is because it’s often based on current emotions that overwhelm or momentarily control us. The emotions will pass though so if we are able to channel them and do something opposite to deal with that emotion better in the moment (and therefore in the future), then we will feel be better for it soon after.

    If you were annoyed at another driver for cutting in on you then you could express your anger and just let it out at them. You might think this gets rid of the anger but it actually just promotes more anger. It seethes within. You develop a victim mentality and seek to blame others or other things for anything that doesn’t go your way.

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    An alternative approach could be to try and slow down your reaction. Count to 5 seconds to access your neocortex to process a more logical response, rather than reacting with your limbic system.

    These instant meditations are very useful in switching your emotion, or just noticing the emotion. It’s fine to be angry, but it doesn’t mean you have to react to it. It might’ve been an accident, it is probably out of your control anyway, so you have the moments pause to reflect and decide whether to allow it to affect you.

    Richly’s 3 Week Challenge To Continuous Self-Improvement may also help you!

    Why We Need The Opposite Action Technique As A Daily Tool

    The beauty of the opposite action is that humans often think the grass is greener on the other side. A lot. Even when life is going really well, we wonder about something we aren’t doing or haven’t got. This is a mountain-top mentality that is often ingrained in us through societal expectations.

    We all do it at times, but what if we used this ‘grass if greener’ mentality to our advantage, and get used to moments of ‘flipping the switch’, then we would find that we are able to switch our minds both on and off to our advantage.

    When we were able to just switch our minds to not worry about what the other side holds, we instead seek an action that is helpful rather than harmful. We tell ourselves what is good about where we are now or where we are going.

    This helps us focus. It helps us be assertive too.

    Humans often think the grass is greener on the other side (so let’s use it to our advantage).

    It’s not about just being tolerant of our emotions. Through actively getting more used to be assertive in dealing with them and we will enjoy the challenge of trying to tug-of-war with our current opposite emotion.

    What if taking the opposite action fills you with fear or dread?

    Let’s say you are socially shy and you have to suddenly go on a speed date. Your mind is trying to convince you not to go. It’s talking you out of it. The precursor to taking the opposite action is to understand that it’s going to help you, even if the initial step is hard.

    You aren’t seeking to make yourself unwell or to dare yourself into doing something you don’t need to.

    Remember, it doesn’t even have to be heavy emotions. Any hurdle or apparent brick wall can be moved one brick at a time. It takes small steps to start with, but opposite actions to what you are currently feeling.

    Opposite Action Require One Brick At A Time
    Opposite action helps you remove one brick at a time. Another tip – get creative with each brick. Treat each one as a fresh opportunity to create something new.

    So, if you are sad right now, then do something that will flip the emotion and make you happy. Watch a funny comedy or eat dark chocolate. If you are angry, then take a second to cool off in some space away from the trigger of the anger.

    Unlock Your Superpowers



    Stepping out of your comfort zone can be daunting at times, so we naturally try to avoid that discomfort. It might stop us from growing though, so when something feels overwhelming in a particular moment or emotion then adopt the opposite action to ‘change the record’, to recharge, realise everything is still fine, and then push one again.

    If the doubting emotions return, then just repeat until the hurdle seems manageable to overcome without trying to take the easy way out and not take action at all.

    Examples Of Opposite Action In Use

    Let’s say you are socially awkward, then think about why. What is missing? We often express through our words and lack of actions what it is we are worried about ourselves, and what it is we really actually want.

    Try giving a hand to someone else. Offer to volunteer for an hour or a day. Do something that will make the other person appreciate your effort instead of trying to engage in a cold call conversation that is more likely to be shut down.

    If you have a fear of failure, then write down what it is you are successful in, and that feeling fear is completely fine. It doesn’t make you a failure for simply being afraid, but taking no action at all would so act on that.


    CHALLENGE: Today try 3 things that get you thinking the opposite. 

    You can think of them yourself or follow the suggestions below.

    • Let’s say you are always eating the same chocolate, then take the opposite action there too and mix it up to make it a creative challenge to eat it in a different way, or just eat less the next day.
    • If you never wake up early, then try one morning.
    • If you are sick of the same routine then try a different walk to work the next day.
    • If you are always lying down then get up and move around.
    • If you are burnt out then take a rest with a book one night.
    • If you don’t think you are creative, then pick up a pencil and just draw something.
    • If you think you can’t make money then go outside and sell lemonade.
    • Look at an opposite source of news today without bias if you always read the same stuff.
    • Do your morning routine in a different order.
    • Wear some opposite fashion than you normally do.
    • Write down 20 positive words if you are in a negative mood.
    • React differently to other drivers who you think are at fault for poor driving.
    • Fear failure? Make a list of many reasons in what you are competent and capable in.

    The opposite action technique is very simple. Just do the opposite to what you are doing and your mood will likely change. It brings variety and spice to your day, so give it a go.

    What are you doing right now that is a bit of a grind? Do the opposite. Good luck!