Often clients ask me how they can get rid of their thoughts. The short answer is you can’t. The same goes for feelings. They are part of the experience of being a highly evolved being with a complex and ever active brain.
The thoughts you have can be either helpful or unhelpful. Thoughts either assist you in life tasks and goals or they get in the way of doing activities that you value. Examples include allowing negative thoughts stopping you from trying out a new hobby or giving a presentation at work.
When you are having negative thoughts, especially about yourself, you have the choice to listen to and get attached or hooked up on them which will result in you giving all your attention to them. This will take your focus away from what you are trying to achieve. Alternatively you can see negative thoughts as white noise produced by the brain. The more attention you pay to negative thinking the stronger it gets.
Feelings can feel overpowering too. Sometimes they are telling you something important such as sadness at loss or anger at being treated badly. You then have choices as to how and when to address these feelings and take appropriate action. However, feelings can also be deceiving such as anxiety when you are not in present danger. If the fear relates to past experience it is important to use Grounding to bring yourself into the present.
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT JUST YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS.
Your identity is also about your values, goals, relationships and dreams for the future as well as your memories.
Your 5 senses which are sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell will all help you to discern when and how action can be taken. If you are in touch with the present then dealing with thoughts and feelings is easier as you can discern what is real and what is an internal conversation or a distressing memory from the past.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is premised on this idea of accepting your thoughts and feelings compassionately without getting hooked up to them so strongly that you lose sight of what you are committed to in your life be that as a good parent, a success in your career, or any other human activity that you value dearly.
So thoughts and feelings are neither friend nor foe but are just part of being human. Also, your 5 senses can help ground you to benign present experience or they can tell you something is happening that you need to attend to.
Mindfulness meditation is one way to develop the capacity to manage thoughts and feelings if they are stopping you from living more fully in the present.
Stay tuned for my next post about mindfulness.