To fight or not to fight?
Unhooking from unwanted thoughts & feelings
Good morning fellow readers and personal development enthusiasts! Hopefully, by now you are applying the tools to manage procrastination. If not, you still have the time. 🙂
If you didn’t notice - procrastination got the best of me last week. So I decided to make a piece on whether it’s a good idea or not to struggle with your thinking (negative that is).
I’m not saying that it was the case for me, but just an example, ofc.
How many of you are at the computer right now thinking that if you could just make your mind shut up for a bit you could concentrate more?
How many of you have minds that just won’t shut up with the criticism?
How many have wrestled with negative thoughts before an important event in your life?
How good are you are making negative thoughts, and emotions go away?
How is that going?
If you are like most people probably efforts to get rid of unwanted thoughts & feelings is going well for some time, and then you have to do it all over again.
Some common techniques:
You distract yourself - Hello social media.
You focus on the positive - positive affirmation or “At least I got the dished done.”
You debate them - “Hei, but it’s not true that I can’t do it right. Look at how many I’ve done right.”
You remember positive thoughts about the same situation
Here’s a secret (not such a secret actually) from therapy - you don’t have to fight these thoughts & feelings.
There is no winning in the game with thoughts and feelings.
The problem is not that these thoughts & emotions appear. That’s human living.
The problem is that we usually get hooked on them.
They make us do what they want.
What they tell us. Just like we are puppets.
“I am a failure” - says your mind - and getting hooked means that your mind starts to look for contexts in which you fail or don’t get the results you want.
“My colleagues don’t like me. I am not interesting.” says your mind - and hooked means that you start avoiding them. Or your anxiety is so high that you cannot get a word out.
“It’s too hard to do this.” says your mind - and hooked means you open your phone or you just get a coffee and then your mind says “Well, see, you are lazy. You are unmotivated.” and you start to feel angry & depressed.
“I can’t stand to think that I made this mistake,” says your mind, and hooked means that you start looking for solutions immediately.
Getting hooked sometimes means doing things to distract yourself.
You scroll social media.
You tell yourself that it will go away.
You tell yourself that it’s a false and limited belief (btw, there is no such thing as limiting beliefs - they were all useful at some point. Just not anymore.)
You put on some music.
By hooked I mean that when these thoughts & emotions appear, we tend to get stuck in them, ponder them, make plans on how to manage them, make efforts to get rid of them.
What happens meanwhile you do this?
Well, you probably overthink and miss out on life.
Or you get angry at yourself and then sad and then critical and then the cycle begins again.
Now you can start arguing with your mind, bringing arguments to contradict these thoughts. And sometimes this works.
But most often, the thoughts just come back. And you have to do it all over again.
So the jist is - and the tool that we are talking about -
changing your relationship with them.
Getting unhooked, making room.
That doesn’t mean that you accept a life of misery. No!
But it does mean that you can learn to make room for them, to learn how to just notice them, while you are engaging in what matters to you.
It may sound a bit counterintuitive, I know.
But just notice the efforts that we make just to get rid of something so immaterial - our thoughts.
In our minds, we treat negative thoughts & feelings just like we would treat a tiger lurking in the shadows in prehistoric times.
We fear them. We avoid them. We fight them.
While that was all good and true and useful for a tiger (getting eaten is not exactly a recipe for a good life), our thoughts don’t eat us.
But the reaction is the same.
That being said, the next substack will bring you a tried and tested tool from therapy to make room for your thoughts.