…I’ve been on a big “mind” kick lately which is only appropriate because I’ve been working on my grey matter a lot recently.
As I’ve said here before, what I write is as much for me as it is for you – my VERY public diary.
We all have anxieties and insecurities though some of us have more than others – whether through habit or neurochemistry (same thing IMHO.)
Everyone has problems that no one knows about. Everyone has insecurities that they mask and everyone has pain that they hide from.
And many times, they stem from the undue comparisons we unfairly make in our own lives against the lives of other people.
Tom really has his life together and I’m a mess. Why can’t I just be more like Tom?
What we see is Tom’s beautiful wife and happy kids, his sports cars, big house, big toys and Titleist gear. We see the bright and shiny. We see the Instagram filter.
We want what Tom has because we perceive that Tom “has it all.”
What we don’t see is that Tom is a serial cheater in the middle of a messy divorce, has kidney stones the size of golf balls and binge drinks himself into oblivion on the weekends. Tom is crushed under the weight of someone else’s perfect.
His life all the sudden doesn’t seem so instafilter perfect, now does it?
The fact is, the grass will never anymore green than it is under your own two feet. And if you want greener grass all you’ve got to do is fertilize and water it.
Movies and books have covered this fact of life from nearly every angle for decades but we still buy into the lie.
“They” have the perfect life.
No. They don’t have the perfect life because no one does.
Aspiration is never a bad thing but if you’re chasing someone else’s perfect you’ll never build your own.
God, if we were just more honest with each other about our struggles we’d probably get along so much better – we spend so much time fearing the judgement and condemnation of others when in reality, they’re struggling with the same crap we are. But vulnerability, while so beautiful, and so endearing is derided as burdensome, at best, and as weakness, at worst in our society. Be venerable.
If only we could change the way we think – the way we relate to our lives, and each other.
Well, there is a technique used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy called “Thought Stopping” which can be profoundly useful for reframing the way we deal with our own anxieties AND the way we think of others.
When we experience any negative thought:
like a worry:
I’m terrified that X will happen.
Or a negative self talk:
I’ll never be good enough.
Or a distorted thought:
I know Jim hates me. Why wouldn’t he?
Now, this technique, when used properly can help you overcome negative thinking if it’s done correctly. However, if it isn’t performed correctly it can make things worse.
Performed improperly, thought stopping looks something like this:
➡️ Negative thought occurs
➡️ Distract Distract Distract
We move from negative thought into distraction to get our mind away from the issue via the TV, a book, whatever we can get our hands on.
We ignore the thought hoping it will go away. Well, like our bills, they always come due.
You can’t weed a garden by ignoring the weeds. Leave one weed and over time you’ll have 100’s of the same weed.
Similarly, you can’t “weed” your mind by ignoring your negative thoughts.
Another way we tend to get it wrong:
➡️ Negative thought occurs
➡️ Resist Resist Resist
And it sounds something like:
➡️”I’m so stupid.”
➡️”No, I’m not stupid!”
On the surface this seems like a good way to go; however, what we fail to recognize (and this is true in so many ways) is that what we resist persists. Where attention flows, energy goes.
To properly utilize the “thought stopping” technique it’s important to engage a positive, affirming thought after the negative thought as arisen. Ultimately, the positive, affirming thought will override the negative one over time. But, this takes practice. Because negative thought patterns are ingrained, so too must positive thought patterns be ingrained.
But before we can override the negative thought we must first acknowledge and accept the negative thought – not as truth but rather, simply as it exists -no resistance, no ignoring it. We simply let it be.
It looks like this:
➡️”If I go to this party I’m going to have a terrible time. No one likes me.”
Now get still and quiet. Acknowledge and accept the thought for what it is: “I’m worried about being rejected again.”
Now play out what the worst is that could happen…give yourself a few minutes to really figure that out. Is it the end of the world?
➡️”Stop. I have been anxious at parties before and still I had a great time. My friends love me and will be happy to see me.”
Playing out the worst case scenarios often help us see that our anxieties and fears are often quite irrational.
Another example might be:
➡️I’ll never be good enough for him.
Now get still and quiet. Acknowledge and accept the thought…”I fear that I’ll never be loved.”/”I’m afraid I’m not attractive enough.” What’s the worst that could happen?
➡️Stop. I am good enough. I’ve always been good enough and whether or not he sees that is his problem.
Still another example:
➡️My life is a mess! I can’t seem to do anything right!
Now get still and quiet. Acknowledge and accept the thought…”I’m frustrated and worried right now.” What’s the worst that could happen?
➡️”Stop! I’m a little overwhelmed right now but that doesn’t mean I always will be. Things will get better.”
One key consideration here is the repetition of these positive thoughts. Try to practice them for at least 3 minutes at a time when a negative thought intrudes.
I’ve heard that it takes around 16 seconds of thinking a thought before it will pick up steam and attract “like” thoughts. I don’t know how true that is but I frequently practice positive affirmations from 5 minutes to 15 minutes at a time and once I finish a session I always feel uplifted, more happy and better in tune with my core being. So, as you begin this practice keep that in mind. Practice makes “perfect.”
Our friends and families are a precious source of comfort and reassurance when we’re in our feelings but they cannot be our only resource. They have their own problems and insecurities they deal with.
True assurance, security, confidence, happiness, joy, peace, can only come from within – because it all comes from within. Some people have easy access to it and some people don’t – that’s ok. But the people who do have it in abundance didn’t magically acquire it nor were they likely born with it. They built it up from the ground up and so can you. You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy. The choice is always yours.
Be mindful of how you talk to yourself because your mind believes everything you say to it. Also be watchful of how your allow your mind to talk to you. Thoughts are just thoughts. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true.
So, speak kindly to yourself with encouraging, life affirming words. And trust this practice.
Our thoughts create our reality. When you change your thoughts you change your reality. Make it a beautiful place… and water your grass.
If you find this technique isn’t helping after a few weeks please seek out professional help. You’re worth it.
Om, Baby. Om!