Is Your Thought Helpful?
The greatest suffering we have comes from the stories we tell ourselves about a situation, rather than the situation itself. For the most part, this relates to negative situations, where an event that is judged to be “bad” is then amplified by our thoughts to be just short of “catastrophic.” Then, believing our thoughts to be real/true, along with hitting the multiply-by-10 (or perhaps, multiply-by-100) suffering button, we put ourselves into an emotional flood that affects our functioning, our relationships, our lives.
Although we cannot stop these thoughts from showing up, we can give them the “quick exit” by stopping them in their tracks – by seeing them for what they are, merely thoughts. In therapy, I’ve had clients distance themselves from their thoughts via various techniques once they realized that a thought was not helpful – that ruminating doesn’t lead anywhere useful.
Photo - Creative Commons (Clare Bell - "Thinking Cap")
Your Next Best Steps
- Say “I am ___,” then focus on your thought and believe it to be true for 10 seconds. Then, shift to “I am having the thought that I am ___.”
- Bring into mind a negative self-judgement and believe it to be true for 10 seconds; then sing it inside your head to the tune of Happy Birthday or Jingle Bells.
- Name your story (e.g., “my life stinks,” or “I can’t do it”). It often helps to say: “The story I’m telling myself is ___.”
- Don’t take yourself serious (say “I am ___,” then “I am a banana” – remember, these are both thoughts)
- Thank your mind for the thought.
- Say your thought aloud using a silly voice (first say it in a normal voice, then say it like Donald Duck or Marge Simpson).
Choose one or more ways to help you to separate from your thoughts. Use these techniques to distance yourself from your thoughts – 5 to 10 times each day will help this to become habit. The more you do this the more you rewire your mind to ignore a thought-trail to leads to misery. My clients have seen that recurring thoughts often dissipate – occurring less often, lasting for a shorter period of time – across many areas of their lives.
Don’t expect to feel better doing this (don’t aim for the good feeling), but you most likely will!