Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Ace a Polygraph

This began as an email to a friend, but I thought I'd expand it to include a larger audience. I think the steps are applicable to any potentially stressful situation, from interviewing for your first job at McDonalds to initiating a break-up in a relationship, or orally defending your PhD thesis.

Step 1 - Take four deep breaths, breathing in your nose and out through your mouth. Feel the air going into your nose, and out through your lips. Observe your chest expand as you inhale, and contract as you breath out. Notice the short space of time between each breath. Do this right now, before you read the next paragraph.

What were you thinking about as you were breathing? The answer is Nothing, because it is impossible to think about anything else while being aware of breathing. It's easy to think about things while breathing - we do it all day long - but you can't think about something else while you are conscious of your breathing. As you wake up on the morning of your polygraph, practice the above exercise.

Step 2 - From the moment you get out of bed until you leave the house, be aware of each thing that you do. Taste the toothpaste as you brush your teeth. Feel the brush running through your hair as you comb it. Feel your stockings against your legs as you put them on, and notice the touch of your shoes against your feet. Feel your feet against the stairs as you come down the steps, and really taste that first sip of  coffee as it crosses your lips. This awareness will keep your mind from doing what it desperately wants to do, run to fearful anxious thoughts. If your mind does take off in that direction, pull it back to the present.

Step 3 - Continue this focused awareness on your way to the test location. Notice the colors of the cars as they pass you. Feel your hands on the steering wheel. Follow the lyrics or melodies of the songs you are listening to. Stay in the present, remembering to pull your mind back if it lunges off to anxious thoughts about the upcoming test.

Step 4 - As you sit in the waiting room, affirm positive qualities to yourself one after the other. For me it would be the form of I am Christ and I am confidence, I am Christ and I am strength. For a more evangelical Christian it could be in the the prayer, The spirit of God is within me and I am wisdom. For a Buddhist it might be, I am the Buddha and I am success. For someone else it could be, I am connected with the universe and I am freedom. Or you don't need a preamble at all - you can just repeat, I am peaceful, I am strong. You can also eliminate negative emotions by repeating, I remove fear, I reject anxiety. I think you get the point. By the way, you can begin this step even earlier to replace Step 3 if you like.

Step 5 - When you are called into the examination room, repeat Step 1 (well, your breaths can be through your nose this time, but be aware of them). Greet the examiner politely, without trying to please or humor him or her (in my experience, they have always been male). If he asks if there is anything you want to share before the test, allow a few seconds for any thoughts to come into your mind and if they do express them to him (Hopefully it won't be, I killed my mother-in-law last week, or Three men in black suits followed me into this building and I think they are after me!).

Step 6 - At the end of the text the examiner will probably ask you to wait while he leaves the room. Again relax, be aware of your breathing or the beating of your heart, perhaps notice the surroundings in the room. Pull your mind back if it begins asking itself how you did, or whether your answers were correct.

Step 7 - If the examiner comes back and says he needs to ask you a few more questions, or some parts of the exam were inconclusive, don't panic! Just say OK, and be aware of your breathing as he begins his questions. If he tells you they need to repeat the examination at a future date, again don't worry. It will just give you the opportunity to practice all the above steps on the second day! And I am sure you will do fine.


Anonymous said...

I don't want to sound obtuse, but did you just use this extreme example of a polygraph as a metaphor for living life every day?
The focused awareness, calming of life anxiety, and mindfulness of ones innate spirituality should be practiced daily.
Thanks for the reminder!

Quotable Quotes: said...

It was literally for taking a polygraph. I'm a recently-retired government worker, and have taken polygraphs numerous times over the course of my career. You are absolutely correct however - the same steps should be practiced daily whether or not your job will ever require a polygraph test.

Katie said...

Sorry to break it to you Uncle Ed, but you are not Christ.

Keith Andrew Massey said...

I've met you, Uncle Ed. In the field. THERE. You know what I mean. And you are Christ, by which we all mean that you are the a Member of the Body of Christ. I wish I'd read this before my first polygraph. But my second went fine.

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