Thought Action Repertoire

How to Broaden Your Thought Action Repertoire

Thought-action repertoire: the collections of thoughts and potential courses of actions immediately available to us as possible ways of responding to a situation.

We’ve all been there. Hyped up with anxiety or anger. Or switched off in a depression. And when we’re there, we feel our options, our thought action repertoire are limited.

There are, principally, three emotions concerned. Anxiety – preparing us for the real or imagined trouble ahead. Anger – energising us to deal with the threat right now. Depression – withdrawing us from the present. These emotions arise from our limbic system. In evolutionary terms, an ancient system residing deep with our brains. A system we have in common with most other animals.

And what an evolutionary advantage these emotions gave our ancient ancestors. Those able to perceive threats were one step ahead to deal with or avoid them. Those able to energise themselves immediately were better placed to win the fight or escape. Those better able to know when to withdraw often lived to see another day.

Thought Action Repertoire


We no longer live as our ancient ancestors did. And, beyond the primitive limbic system – evolved to support us in surviving for longer – our brains have an additional evolutionary phase. The neo-cortex offers us the potential to not just survive, but to thrive.  So, if evolution has provided us with this potential how do we take up this offer?

The answer provides another example of the practice of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy being supported by the wealth of research within wellbeing psychology. In ‘Broaden and Build’ theory, Professor Barbara Fredrickson has demonstrated that anxiety or anger narrow our thought action repertoire. Equally, positive emotions broaden our momentary thought action repertoires. They lead us to have many new thoughts about a wide variety of possible courses of action that we could possibly take.

This broadening of our momentary thought action repertoire creates opportunities for building enduring personal resources – that is, for doing things that will have a long-lasting beneficial effect on our lives. This, in turn, offers the potential for personal growth and transformation by creating positive and adaptive spirals of emotions, thoughts and actions.

The experience of positive emotions opens-up a wide range of thoughts about many possible courses of actions. When we act on these, there is a high likelihood of doing things that will improve the direction of our lives in ways that will last well into the future and create opportunities for having more positive emotional experiences. Positive mood states broaden our thought action repertoire. Positive mood states also help people build enduring personal resources.

Thought Action Repertoire In Practice.

The practical application of this theory sits at the very heart of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy.  With Perma Hypnotherapy I support my clients in moving the balance of control to reduce the influence of their limbic system and increase the influence of their modern neo-cortex. This creates the conditions for the positive and adaptive spirals of emotions, thoughts, and actions to grow. In turn, these lead to the client thriving in the ways they have chosen for themselves.

I have written extensively about this in a comprehensive case study which you can get for free here

Thought Action Repertoire


And you can find more quick-read articles covering a wide range of wellbeing subjects here:

Thought Action Repertoire

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