As a Hypnotherapist, clients often ask me how they can ignore or switch off their thoughts and feelings?
But as a Therapist, I advise them never to ignore them, as they are vital and are actually trying to tell us something.
We don’t want to stop them completely, like we wouldn’t want to stop physical pain, pain prevents us taking a risk too far, for example if we didn’t feel pain when cooking, we could take things out of the oven like we had asbestos fingers, but those fingers wouldn’t end up looking too pretty or lasting very long.
Pain is our signal that something is wrong and needs our attention. If we ignore physical pain and carry on, it gets worse and we may miss something that needs medical attention.
The same with our thoughts, over time constantly ignoring them may lead us down a dark road to depression.
And we certainly don’t want to stop eating food to lose weight, because if we didn’t eat, we’d eventually die of starvation.
But that’s what clients think they want, to stop feeling the pain, or stop eating to lose weight, or stop thinking to feel good again.
Truth be told, we simply can’t ignore what we think and feel for long. Unless we listen and make changes, then those thoughts and feelings will persist until we do.
They are so useful in letting us know things need to change or we do.
Its not a case of eliminating the pain but addressing it, taking steps to ease the pain, and if possible, removing the source of the pain, so the pain disappears naturally.
We can’t stop those thoughts completely either.
Try now not to think of the colour of your front door.
Its impossible because you have to think of the thing first, that you don’t want to think about, to consciously try not to think about it.
Your mind doesn’t differentiate between the positive and the negative, the do and the don’t gets lost in translation, it just registers the image of your front door in your mind. Whether you want that image or not?
And anyone who’s ever gone on a diet will know that, the one forbidden food you are trying to avoid, is the one craving that’s driving you insane.
We have to make friends with our thoughts, feelings and pain, and thank them for bringing light to an area we have been trying to ignore for too long. They are, believe it or not, trying to help us?
You can’t always eliminate people from your life, just like pain you have to find out where the pain is coming from and why? Then ease it or remove yourself from the cause of the pain whenever you can.
But how can you make friends with unwanted thoughts, feelings and pain? Especially when they are so negative in nature and hard to understand?
Just like you would any person you wanted to get along with in life, that you didn’t particularly like or understand.
We simply need to listen. Really actively listen. Give our thoughts, feelings and pain our full attention.
To truly listen we have to become objective.
Listening and observing ourselves from the outside, like an outsider looking in. Here we’ll discover the lessons our soul urges us to know or understand.
But we won’t be able to hear anything, if we identify with ourselves and those thoughts, feelings or pain.
So, we must pretend they are not a part of us. They are just momentary experiences passing through, that have come to teach or redirect us in some way?
When we learn how to do this, we neutralise the emotions attached to our thoughts, feelings and pain.
And from this position, we have the power to challenge those unwanted, unwarranted, negative thoughts, feelings and perceived pain produced by the mind and body.
Replacing them with more loving ones, that support positive thoughts, producing good feelings and emotions, and easing some of that physical pain.
On Twitter last week I read a tweet that asked;
‘Do you ever want to talk to someone but you feel like you just annoy them so you sit there and don’t say anything and wait and see if they’ll message you first? ………’
And I felt compelled to reply;
‘If you annoy anyone that’s their problem not yours!’
And then I wrote this blog as a result.
Because what you think of yourself is your REAL problem.
Luckily though, it’s easier and possible to change how we think of ourselves but not so easy or even always possible, to change another person’s mind.
Writing down our thoughts and feelings every day in a journal, is the most beneficial thing we can do.
It may seem like a chore but how badly do you want to feel good?
I like to do a couple of sentences before bed each night, and again each morning. This way I recap on my day before bed, and wake up emptying what I don’t need to carry in my mind throughout my day.
You don’t have to be good at writing and no ones going to check your spelling, grammar, punctation or even the content you’ve written. Its just for you to write, read and reflect back on personally.
It can be one word or one hundred pages a day. There’s no word counting here.
Just write down basically what you are thinking and how you are feeling. This can help us process the events of the day and the interactions we’ve had with others. Writing things down also puts things into perspective. Things that in the dark of night can keep us awake with fear and worry, can seem trivial when we wake in the light of day, and write these thoughts down. Nothing is ever as bad as our mind likes to magnify things.
Your mind though may resist this new journaling habit, as the minds function is to keep you safe, keep you on alert, and alas, keep your worrying and analysing the past, present and future.
When you write things down, there’s less in your head clouding your judgements. Your mind may worry about losing its control over you and purpose in your life. It’s a faithful friend and servant, but the more friends we make on our journey the merrier, and of course, the easier life becomes. So, introduce your mind to the power of the pen and get those thoughts out of your head and down on paper.
But you can reassure the worrier in you that, you can still have moments in your day to ruminate over the debris of your mind, when you re read your journal and reflect on what you’ve written and what you are going to do about it?
That’s the journals purpose, to show you patterns in your thoughts and behaviour, highlighting when pain is heightened or joy expressed?
Keeping a journal of our thoughts and feelings, can really help us to understand and notice all the above, in our daily lives. Writing down each time we over react, feel angry, stressed, anxious, sad, frustrated, happy or calm, and recording the circumstances that led up towards that reaction, will help us to understand, not only our own reactions, but other peoples too. Including how they felt as a result of how we behaved?
That’s why it’s not only good to understand how we feel, but it’s also useful to know how the impact of what we feel, is having on others.
In the heat of the moment, it is hard to think clearly. On reflection, it’s uncomfortable to see how that has made us behave, and the impact that has had on other people, especially those we love.
This can be shocking when it’s written down and read after some time has elapsed and we have cooled down, but knowing our motives and why we react as we do, helps us to positively change.
When going about our daily business, it’s difficult to decipher what and when exactly we react unconsciously? That’s because much of what we do on a daily basis is unconscious. We live out of habits. Often responding on auto pilot mode. We are in essence oblivious to what is going on around us much of the time.
But when we keep a journal, we notice those responses more and can look for any patterns forming. For example, do we get angry with our children first thing in the morning when we are in a rush to get to work, or last thing at night when we are tired and want to relax?
Armed with this knowledge of why and when, we’re likely to react on Auto Pilot, we can become more aware of when it’s about to happen?
Noticing ourselves getting to that boiling or breaking point, before we erupt or crumble, allows us time to stop ourselves, and decide not to over react.
Then we can start to shift our focus to a more, conscious in the present moment mode.
Writing down how we feel may not come easy, but everyone thinks. So, sometimes when I find a brave, courageous soul in need of help, I ask them for one whole day, to think out loud.
That means instead of hoarding all that negative, mental chatter in their mind, and tightening their muscles with physical stress and dis-ease, to say out loud every thought that they are thinking.
This is extremely hard, as we are so used to thinking inside our head, often the automatic habit goes on unnoticed.
But this exercise helps us to stay present and conscious and to take notice.
It’s good to do when around other people that we interact with on a daily basis. It’s a bitter honesty pill to swallow, both for the giver and receiver of the honesty!
If lived this way everyday as some do, not from choice, others from choice, we’d have no friends or family left. I mean, honestly replying to your wife ‘Yes your bum does look big in that dress!’ Never helped any man or woman ever!
So, choose a day to do this ‘Thinking Out Loud’ exercise, when you won’t be in this position if possible?
But this exercise is good because it means we must either be honest or think nothing at all (which we know, not thinking is impossible)
This can clearly show us who we no longer need in our lives, because we will try to avoid those people on our ‘Thinking Out Loud Day’ through fear of what we might say aloud to them.
Normally, our emotions usually do this job for us, they do the talking without us, especially whenever someone makes us happy or upset. Its illustrated by how angry, upset or happy we react.
But thinking out loud frees our pain, emotions and thoughts, eliminates those negatives we no longer need, and keeps us present in the moment, which in itself, is the best gift to give or receive!