I want to write a little something about the nature of thoughts, specifically the more negative ones, and how to potentially get yourself out of ‘dark places’ where your thoughts begin to swirl round and round in what seems like an uncontrollable manner.
Firstly, I feel compelled to mention that I struggle quite badly with negative, seemingly all-consuming thoughts. Therefore I feel like I am not the best person to… advise others on how to get out of those states. However, I am a believer in that every person, no matter what their situation at a given time, has at least some kind of wisdom or knowledge just from where they are currently standing.
In addition, as much as I see myself as a pretty subjective person in some ways, I can still look at things from a point of view that is not completely coloured by my own current emotional state, or the kinds of thoughts I am experiencing in general at that time.
You can still talk about how experiencing your own birthday feels – even if it is not currently your birthday (that seems like a good topic for another time actually, as someone who often struggles with experiencing my own birthday!)
On a personal level, I feel like my negative thought states have intensified relatively recently. From about 2015 or 2016 onwards, my thoughts and feelings have become significantly more… chaotic, than I remember them being previously. I am realizing more and more that it is time to do something about it.
One thing I have learned is that most things do not happen overnight. There is such a thing as “mental laziness”, which in my case, is characterized by my stubborn unwillingness to make true, lasting changes in my own inner life. I enjoy meditating and even reading some self-help every once in a while, but in order to make a firm, lasting change – or rather, to sustain it, takes conscious effort on the individual’s part.
People often recommend going for a walk to clear one’s head. While I definitely believe that walking outside can be great in many ways, this activity also happens to be one where my thoughts often start to spiral out of control.
There is a keyword here: start.
What I mean by this is – they do not start before I leave the house (the vast majority of the time). They start because I allow them to start while I am walking.
Is this because while walking, your mind doesn’t have as much to immediately engage with? Because you’re not in your comfortable surroundings? Because you’re in the “outside world”? Who knows. What I do know is – there is a seed in my head that I allow to grow. The key is to stop it as quickly as possible.
Awareness is also key. Allow yourself to immediately recognize when you are about to go into a state that you know all too well – it may be extremely personal to you. I know mine very, very well. So what I have to do is, again, to stop myself falling into it, as quickly as I possibly can manage.
The thoughts may appear again and again and again – but if I don’t “hang on” to any of them, and begin to add weight to them, to blow them out of proportion – I’ll be fine.
There are specific methods to stop yourself from falling into the trap and I have experimented with many. You may imagine taking your thoughts, putting them into a big bin bag, and throwing them into a bin. That has actually helped me feel better, at least for a little while! You may also imagine putting a specific thought, or thoughts, on a leaf, then placing the leaf on a river and letting it float away peacefully… This way you are actively applying the wisdom that thoughts come – the same thought may come many-many times – but they also go. You don’t need to hold on to any of them.
Doesn’t it feel better to just allow them to come and go, without… exaggerating them? You may not be able to help the fact that they come, but you don’t need to interact with them in a way that makes you feel awful.
All this may sound extremely simplistic but like I said, I myself struggle with this and what I have described is basically the level I am at currently.
Take control of your own internal interactions with your thoughts, as much as you can.
And do it at your pace.
This is a topic that I will probably revisit in the future.