dealing with negative thoughts - thoughts are like passing clouds in the sky

IT’S AN UNPLEASANT THOUGHT, NOT A FACT

“My life is pathetic”

“Others are so much happier than I am!”

“I will never be able to make friends”

These are thoughts aren’t they? Often, we experience distress, anxiety, discomfort and a lot of pain because of our thoughts. We have a thought or a belief about something, which causes us stress.

In the course of life, our mind is flooded with thoughts. If you take even a minute to be aware of your mind, you will know just how active your mind really is. It is constantly evaluating, judging or making sense of events around it. Such is the nature of the mind. The mind as a faculty thinks and interprets events.

However, what happens when our thoughts begin to distress us? When this mental chatter begins weighing us down? For some of you, your mind thinks certain things over and over again. Or, it thinks in a certain way over and over. It keeps going on about how lonely or unwanted you are, or about how you are uncertain if you are heading in the right direction in life. How then can you deal with it?

Most of us deal with negative thoughts by trying to shut them out. We do not want to think about it and we feel helpless because the mind keeps going back to it. Shutting negative thoughts out doesn’t seem to be working as a strategy for most of us.

Well, what about the way we see our thoughts? What about the relationship we share with our thoughts? Can that be changed to help us deal better with our thoughts?

Let me start out by asking you:

What is thought?

Is thought a conclusion?

Is it reality?

Is it finality?

No. It isn’t any of these.

What then is thought? For me, thought is but the way I conceive an entity, an event or a feeling at a point in time. It is my interpretation of something.

And ‘my interpretation’ is subjective. It could be influenced by several things, right from my mood to my past experiences, my needs, demands and expectations.

This is true for most of us. Yet, how do we treat our thoughts? Do we really see them as something that is being experienced in the present moment? Or do we get attached to them, and somewhere see them as final conclusions?

A thought is not a fact. A thought is but how your mind sees something at one point in time. The first step in dealing with thought is to see thought in this respect.

For example, see the difference between “my life is pathetic” and “right now in my mind I am thinking that my life is pathetic”

Both thoughts are negative. However, the first thought is a conclusion. In it, there is no distinction between thought and reality. In the second, there is acknowledgement that –

  1. This thought exists right now. It may or may not exist in later moments
  2. I think this way, because of a number of factors. These factors are emotional and therefore could be biased.

Acknowledging thought as an entity in your mind, rather than your reality is often the first step to being less distressed by it.

How Can One Create Such an Orientation to Thought?

To see thought for what it really is, detach a little from it. When we attach ourselves to our thoughts we miss acknowledging that this is but thought. We are unable to distinguish our selves from our thoughts. Yet, you are different than your thoughts. Your thoughts are a part of you. But you are much more than your thoughts. This distinction exists; just that many of us are not in touch with it. Gentle detachment from thoughts makes this distinction seem more real.

Detaching from one’s thoughts does not mean ignoring or suppressing it. It only means, creating a space where you are able to observe your thoughts and watch them as they come and go, like clouds in the sky. It means to acknowledge that your thoughts are different than you. I do understand that this shift would not be easy to make initially. However, it is worth all your effort, since it puts you in a much better space to deal with your thoughts.

I am linking this to an article that describes how we can watch our thoughts and emotions as they arise, in a detached, yet compassionate manner. The next time some negative or unpleasant thoughts come up, use this approach. Go slow. Even if you do not manage to do this initially, it will slowly become easier and clearer, especially if you understand the logic behind the attempt to ‘watch’.

The article: Detached Observation Meditation

For those of you who are interested in knowing more, this approach is also known as being ‘mindful of your thoughts’. Over the last few years, this approach has gained a lot of credibility in helping in dealing with negative thoughts. Read more about Mindfulness of Thoughts here.

Do let us know how you see ‘thought’ through the comments section. Also, if you think anyone would benefit by reading this article, please do share it with them.

Image Credit: Fabio Marini

 

Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan

Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she worked with adolescents and young adults at Inner Space, from 2010 to 2015. 

 

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