Getting the better of those negative thoughts
By Caitriona McMahon
You’re not who you think you are.
As a statement it may seem a little crazy but believe me when I say it’s true. You are not who you think you are.
One of the greatest addictions on this planet is an addiction to thinking. The constant nattering of the mind. Buddhists refer to it as ‘Monkey mind’.
As we pack a bag or walk the dog an internal dialogue is in full swing – kind of like a commentator covering the Sunday game – the inner natter doesn’t miss a beat.
It is believed that humans have between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts a day. If a lot of these thoughts are destructive, can you imagine the pain it can cause?
I’d imagine that amount of thoughts looks somewhat like a room that hasn’t been cleaned in about 50 years and each additional item or thought creates further pressure on the door before it explodes.
But what’s important to note and not forget is that thoughts are learnt patterns of behaviour, influenced by our past and other people, among other things.
Suffering is not possible without a thought pattern creating it. Let’s think about that for a second.
Say as you get up from the kitchen table, you accidentally knock a cup of coffee over your college work. All of a sudden your world starts to fall apart.
Thoughts like what will I do? How will I explain it? They will never believe me. These are all thoughts. Can you see what’s happened as you experience these thoughts? These thoughts are what’s creating the suffering you’re experiencing at that very moment.
If, instead of giving into those learnt thoughts, you face the reality and are prepared to take on what ever lays ahead then no suffering is experienced.
Anxiety is one such disorder that ignites thoughts and not in a good productive way. Anxiety lights a flame under a negative thought then runs leaving us to deal with the aftermath.
Everything is catastrophized and panic inducing. Nothing is clear or simple. What you’ll be glad to know is that you are not your thoughts.
In fact, you reside in a place much deeper than that, in a place that witnesses thoughts as they happen. So if you are aware of your thoughts then you can’t be them.
Becoming aware of the difference between witnessing thoughts and identifying with them can be life changing. Suddenly thoughts like: “If I do this everyone will laugh at me” will subside because you are now aware that is just a pattern of behaviour talking.
Years of inner dialogue and natter has created a pattern and unless we break the pattern nothing will be different.
Try jotting down what evidence there is to prove people will laugh. Or even care for that matter? More often than not there is none.
How do we break these false thinking patterns?
By taking that first step into the unknown and trusting in yourself, knowing that you have come all this way in life and deep down, you have been equipped with all the tools you need to cope.
If someone else said some of the things our thoughts tell us we would say, “Okay, I’m going to stop you there because that’s a pack of lies.”
So why is it any different if our inner dialogue is saying it? We may not be able to turn and walk away but we certainly can let them pass through without stopping. Waving goodbye as they disappear in the distance.
Another important thing to note is that these learnt patterns of thoughts trigger certain emotions which can be terribly distressing.
Remembering a particular person, situation or place can give rise to confusing emotions. Instead of reacting to these emotions, try and just observe them.
Allow them to flow and find their own level. Just like thoughts, they will reintegrate once we refrain from reacting. With practice they will no longer be triggered as before.
If you have a hive and you continue to scratch it, what happens? It gets worse doesn’t it?
The same goes for thoughts and emotional patterns. They are waves passing through and it’s up to us to practice surfing them without breaking the flow.