Thursday, May 12, 2011


Dr. Ernest Mastria: TEST ANXIETY AND HOW TO HANDLE IT: "TEST ANXIETY AND HOW TO HANDLE IT By Ernest Mastria, Psy.D. For more information vis..."



By Ernest Mastria, Psy.D.

For more information visit:

I define intelligence as your contact with your surroundings. Attention or focus on our surroundings is how we maintain our intelligence. Attention is a quantity from zero to one hundred percent. The more focused we are, the more intelligent we are. An important characteristic of intelligence is the ability to see differences between situations.

When you sit down to take a test, negative thoughts that you will not know the answers to questions and fail the test and your entire life will be a disappointment creep in and distract your attention. When attention is paid to these thoughts, less is available to focus on the things in front of you, your test. Remember, attention in the present is how we maintain intelligence (contact with our surroundings). As a result of attention paid to the negative thoughts, intelligence decreases so that you can't read properly, find accurate information, and respond correctly. As a result of decreased intelligence, it’s important characteristic, the ability to see differences decreases. You become nervous since you see the negative thought as real and true. In this frame of mind, you have failed the test and your life will be miserable.

You question your initial response to a question with a second thought and go with it rather than your initial reaction. As a result, you get the answer wrong.

You failed the test even though you had studied and had the material down. Now you begin worrying about the next test, anticipating negatively that you will fail just as you did the first one.

How can you possibly do your best on a test with all this going on???


1. Study for the test and when you are completed know that you have studied and let the cards fall where they may.
2. Don't think about the test until it’s on your desk and in front of you. Get rid of your negative anticipation of it by saying to yourself, with your intelligence, "I'll handle it when it’s in front of me and I'm not going to worry about it now."
3. When you sit down to take the test, don't get yourself upset by trying to take in all the questions at once, you'll become overwhelmed. Remember how I showed you to handle multiple situations in class? One at a time while ignoring those that are not in front of you. You will want to use the same technique for test taking.
4. Look at the first question and ignore all the rest. Some students put a sheet of paper over the other questions so that they can focus only on the first question.
5. Read the question slowly and deliberately and word by word. Read it at least twice. Once you have total comprehension of the question, retrieve the information from the material you have studied.
6. Go with your first impression and answer. Second thinking most often comes from the bad habit that doesn't want you to be successful and insists on questioning your judgment. Answers from second thinking are most frequently incorrect. While your first impression answers may not always be correct, they usually are.
7. Use the same procedure with the remaining questions and when you've completed the test, realize that you've done your best and leave it at that.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dr. Ernest Mastria: The Importance of Energy Levels and the Concept of...

Dr. Ernest Mastria: The Importance of Energy Levels and the Concept of...: "By Ernest Mastria, Psy.D. For more information visit: Pressure refers to any conditio..."

The Importance of Energy Levels and the Concept of Pressure

By Ernest Mastria, Psy.D.

For more information visit:

Pressure refers to any condition that reduces your energy. There are four:

1. Illness and medical – Illness refers to any physical condition such as: colds, viruses, infections, headaches, fevers, muscle aches and pains, and any other condition with a physical cause. When you are ill, your body mobilizes against the condition and absorbs your energy to fight the condition. Since attention or focus requires energy, reduced energy will allow habit negative thoughts to be more frequent and intense.

If you don’t feel well, recognize that you are ill and attribute your negative thoughts and discomfort such as nervousness to the bad habit and low energy. If you can get rest, then do. If can put off things till you feel better than do. If you can’t and must do some tasks, do them slowly and deliberately. Many people tend to get racy and push out energy to accomplish things. This is the wrong thing to do. You will tend to waste energy. Instead, do things slowly and be sure that you’re focused.

2. Medical conditions - Are common to females and are not illnesses. Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are medical conditions that, when they occur, reduce a woman’s energy level and with reduced energy, the habit is triggered. The major symptom or reaction to this condition of low energy is irritability. When experiencing a medical condition, do as above. Get rest if you can. Put off what you can until your energy is recovered. If you must handle situations, do them slowly and deliberately, making sure that you’re focused and attentive.

3. Fatigue – We all know what it feels like to be tired. You can’t think, you’re inattentive, and you tend to make mistakes. At these times, do as stated above. Get rest if you can. Put things off till you’re rested. If you can’t, do what you have to slowly and deliberately. Don’t get speedy and waste your energy.

4. High Value – This pressure occurs when we put too much importance on a thing. At these times we will takes too seriously. Our thinking becomes racy and confused and we feel nervous. We often make our worst mistakes while in this condition.


1. Realize that you’re not at 100%. You don’t feel well, you’re tired, or you may be menstruating. (High Value will be dealt with separately).
2. Blame your Habit Thoughts and any discomfort on your physical condition.
3. Get rest to recover your energy of you can.
4. Put off things and accomplish them when you have more energy.
5. If you must handle situations, chores, and events, accomplish them slowly and deliberately. Do not push out more energy, you’ll waste it. Instead conserve energy, again, do them slowly and deliberately. Be sure to be focused and do one thing at a time. Don’t think about any other chore except to one that you are handling, that will only distract you and cause mistakes. Get the chore behind you and forget it, knowing that you were there to witness that you handled it, then do the next, SLOWLY, DELIBERATELY, AND FOCUSED.

Whenever you put too much importance on a thing, you will tend to take it very seriously and you will be pulled inside your head with your negative thoughts to keep you company, having you worrying about making mistakes, failure, and negative consequences.
Your ability to decide whether to have chocolate or vanilla ice cream and your ability to decide to buy a house are equal and the same in that each reflect your taste (likes and dislikes). A decision to buy a house is more significant than your choice in the flavor of ice cream so that your intelligence (contact with the world) is important. You must decide whether you like the neighborhood, school for the kids, taxes, a mortgage, and more. You can only make good decisions with clear and accurate intelligence. Again, being slow and deliberate are key characteristics to have your decisions be good ones rather than bad.
Of course, decisions concerning very high valued situations that may pertain to your family, friends and the future are important. More the reason to be slow, deliberate, and as intelligent as possible so that you may make GOOD DECISIONS.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


By Dr. Ernest Mastria

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The Premenstrual condition has been joked about and used as an insult toward women for many years. It has been employed to reason away differences of opinion, strong points of view, and even an “off day” in some women.
But what is PMS? The Mayo Clinic, ( defines PMS as a wide variety of symptoms, including mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression. Concerning its cause, the Mayo Clinic writes; “Exactly what causes premenstrual syndrome is unknown…”( syndrome/DS000134/DSECTION=causes.
However, I write about this condition in The Habit of Living, p. 136. I see the experience referred to as PMS as the interaction of two conditions. The first is the normal periodic menstrual flow. The second is the decrease of energy that I refer to as pressure.
To me, pressure is any condition that results in a decrease of energy. I site three: Illness and medical, fatigue, and high value. I define medical as normal conditions that women experience such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
When a woman menstruates, her body mobilizes for the event. The woman’s energy is directed and absorbed by the menstrual process. This decrease in energy has the effect as any other pressure. With decreased energy, the body, for economy, goes back to what it knows, the habit. With the habit influencing a woman’s thinking, she will tend to think too much, anticipate negatively, dwell in the past, mind read, procrastinate, take differences personally as angry acts or criticism, avoid expression, and will experience any or all of the symptoms that are employed by the habit to reduce contact with the present.
The woman avoids doing as she would like because of low energy and habit thoughts so that depression, a condition to do as she does not want rather than as she wants is triggered. However, the symptom that is most associated with PMS is irritability. Here, irritability is not seen as attributable to what is called PMS but rather, a normal reaction to the condition of low energy or fatigue.
When energy is reduced, the woman is less able to tolerate frustration and irritability is experienced. It is this low frustration tolerance and the resulting irritability that is seen as the chief symptom of PMS. However, low frustration tolerance and irritability is also experienced as a result of illness, fatigue, and high value. These conditions, like premenstruation, result in decreased energy levels. It is this decreased energy that triggers the irritability that is associated with the premenstrual condition.
As a normal result of low energy, irritability may be dealt with as with any other pressure:
First, recognize that energy is reduced as a result of premenstruation, menstruation, or postmenstuation. Attribute any difficulties in thinking and behavior to the cyclical condition rather than to deficits in yourself.
Second, slow your behavior and thinking down. Racing thoughts can be controlled by reporting to yourself what is occurring in the environment. In this way, you may structure your thoughts with reality and dispose of or prevent habit thoughts.
Third, conserve your energy. Many times, individuals with decreased energy levels will push more energy out in order to handle pressure. It’s if they believe they can “muscle” through situations and responsibilities. Actually, I believe this to be the wrong approach. To me, pushing out more energy is inefficient and only wastes energy. I suggest that when energy is low, conserve it. Rest if you can. Consciously put things off if you can. If you can’t, do them slowly and deliberately. Be sure to witness the event as you behave. This will help to guarantee that you are in the present and focused.
Lastly, don’t anticipate that the next cycle will be difficult to handle. Every situation is new and by using the techniques suggested in this paper, you will be more able to control the next event. There are two ways that you can live through your cycle, comfortably or uncomfortably.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


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Attention Training is an educative procedure that employs the innate or born with characteristics of the individual to eliminate distraction and to have focus directed onto events in the here and now. It is with focus in the present that the individual may experience the pleasure of sensory stimulation.

There are three concepts that I believe to be the cornerstones of the procedure and set it apart from other theories of comfort and discomfort. These important concepts are: Intelligence, Attention, and Discrimination. For a more detailed description of these concepts, please see, The Habit of Living, pp. 31 – 34.

To me, Intelligence is not IQ or being smart. To me, intelligence is one’s contact with the environment. Simply, intelligence is awareness of what is occurring in the moment and in the here and now. Intelligence is an extremely important characteristic since it is the only one that has the individual be in contact with the environment through the five senses.

Intelligence is automatic. We are born with awareness and it develops with time. Intelligence is automatic. You don’t need to consider and decide to be aware of what is happening around you, you simply are aware. The parts of intelligence include the higher abilities such as creativity, problem-solving, humor, etc. and the physical abilities of the senses. These include the abilities to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

The second important concept of Attention Training is Attention. Attention is how we maintain contact with the environment and, therefore, maintain a degree of Intelligence. Attention is a quantity that vacillates from dull awareness to sharp focus. Attention or focus can be low as in drifting and unaware in front of the TV or sharp and crisp as during a visit to Yankee Stadium to witness the Bombers destroy the Boston Red Sox. How attentive or focused we may be results in how intelligent we are at that time.

The last important concept of Attention Training is the major characteristic of Intelligence: The ability to notice differences among situations. These three concepts form the basis for the value of the Four Points and Taking Back Small Times and provide the logic behind Attention Training.

The Four Points provide four different ways to increase Attention in the present or the here and now. With increased Attention directed toward the environment, Intelligence is increased. With increased Intelligence, the ability to see differences or to Discriminate among situations is increased.

The relationship among Intelligence, Attention, and Discrimination is vastly important and sets Attention Training apart and separate from current thought as to where discomfort originates.

It is the degree that an individual is attentive or focused on the environment or on his/her surroundings that determine Intelligence and the resulting ability to Discriminate or to see differences among situations.

With decreased Attention and intelligence, Habit Thoughts cannot be fully seen as simply thoughts but are reacted to as if actual in reality. The result is discomfort for the individual.

The fact that decreased Intelligence renders the ability to Discriminate or to see differences weak and vulnerable to Habit Thoughts is the basis for reflexive Attention Diversion (RAD) and provides a logical explanation for the origin of discomfort that does not exist outside of Attention Training.

I see this inability to Discriminate to be the basis for all learned discomforts in individuals and the Four Points and Taking Back Small Times to be the remedy to alleviate the discomfort.

In future papers and articles, will examine the relationship between decreased Intelligence, Attention, and the ability to Discriminate and specific human discomforts as well as the simple manner to remove the source of the discomfort, and as a result, the discomfort itself.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Some Characteristics of Habit Thoughts

By Dr. Ernest Mastria

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Habit Thoughts include concern for the future, dwelling in the past, worry of what others think, and dazing off in low activity situations. While some intelligent thoughts, such as planning and memory travel outside the present, they have a firm anchor in reality, always lead to a decision, and there is no resistance to return to the present.

In contrast, Habit Thoughts do not have a firm anchor in reality but are fabrications and distortions of reality, prevent decisions from being made since these reflect the individual’s taste, and resist a return to the present.

However, the easiest way to determine an intelligent thought from a Habit Thought is to see that intelligent thoughts are positive in content and result and that Habit Thoughts are negative in content and result.

Habit Thoughts are negative since the intelligence employs them to "Identify the Enemy". The intelligence, confused by the discomfort of holding back expression literally leaves the present to fabricate a justification for the discomfort. Since discomfort is negative in quality, any justification that the intelligence fabricates must also be negative since the thought is believed to produce a negative emotion.

However, there are other characteristics common to habit thoughts. First, they must be personal to the individual who experiences them in order to capture his/her attention. Second, they must be of some importance or value to that individual. It is the value of the content of the thought that determines the intensity of the discomfort experienced. Should the content of the thought be of low value, the individual may not attend to the fabrication and focus would maintain in the present. But high valued content is taken seriously by the individual and demands that attention be paid for fear of negative consequences.

Although Habit Thoughts at times have a specific content to capture the attention of the individual, most often they will not. At these times they are attitudes (reflexive interpretations of perception) or thoughts without words or pictures attached to them. Most frequently, the attitude will convey that something will happen that the individual will not be capable to handle with disastrous consequences to follow. These attitude (thoughts) are most frequently associated with an anticipation of pending doom and are the most frequent Habit Thought experienced by individuals.

There are occasions when Habit Thoughts may be extreme and produce intense discomfort for the individual. At these times, the intelligence will fabricate a justification for the discomfort of “hold back” that is in direct contrast or opposite the character and values of the individual.

For example, I had a student who happened to be a Jersey City Policeman. He came to me with concern and discomfort over the persistent thought that he would remove his revolver from its holster and fire at pedestrians. Another student believed that he might touch his children inappropriately while another believed that he was capable of hurling his young son from his shoulders where the boy was riding into a brick wall triggering the man’s concern for his violent behavior against his son.

The behaviors mentioned above are directly opposed to the characters and values of each of the students who experienced them. Although each realized their incapability to engage in these behaviors, each suffered extreme discomfort as a result since each believed that there might be a hidden, darker side of them that lurked in their personalities and could emerge at any time.

Each was vigilant during situations when such behaviors were more likely to occur. So that the first student was extremely cautious while on duty and the other two were cautious when with their children.

However, in situations where the feared behavior was not likely to occur such as off duty for the policeman or when each was away from their children, relief was meager. During these times each was preoccupied with thoughts of the feared behavior and distracted from the moment so that spontaneous expression could not occur.

Habit thoughts have one purpose, to distract the individual from the present so that spontaneous expression may not occur. In this purpose, Habit Thoughts fit my definition of a symptom. A symptom, regardless of the content has the purpose of distracting the individual from the present, where they may express tastes and find happiness.