3. I don't want to be pushed around by my thoughts and feelings anymore. What can I do?
A comedian once said “I used to think that the mind was the most amazing organ in the body. And then I realized what was telling me that.”
Our minds are very good at convincing us they are right, even when they aren’t. They’re so good at it that we rarely question them. But even so, we know they’re flawed. Can you remember some things you used to believe strongly, but later found out weren’t true?
Maybe the day you were diagnosed, you thought “I can’t handle this”, and yet here you are still dealing with it. It may not have been easy, but you are still getting through – even if it feels as if you are just keeping your head above water and your legs are frantically doing doggy paddle under the surface.
We occasionally catch our minds being wrong just by sheer luck or chance. This section is about shining a steady spotlight on our minds to find out exactly how unreliable they can be.
Minds are like roadmaps. They describe the area we’re about to drive through, but they can miss a lot of detail—and sometimes they’re just plain wrong. The thing is, for a lot of purposes, our minds are pretty good roadmaps. They’ve helped us learn how to talk, got us through school, and helped us solve all sorts of problems in the outside world. Because of this, we tend to trust them completely, and believe there’s nothing to be gained by putting the map down and taking a closer look at everything that’s really on the ground around us. The problem is, the maps (our minds) have often fail us when it comes to navigating through the distressing thoughts and feelings that face us.
Our minds tell us, for example, that anxiety, self-doubt, and sadness are roadblocks that prevent us from moving forward. But what if they are wrong? If you could just put the map down every so often—just not follow your mind’s instructions for a while—maybe you could see that the ground around you is sometimes different from what your mind is telling you. This section is intended to help you learn how to do just that.
Think of your mind as a salesperson. It is constantly throwing thoughts at you, trying to get you to ”buy” them.
In the metaphor, this salesperson is your mind. The first pile of thoughts in the picture is"I'm not good enough." The second pile says "I'm letting everybody down."The third pile says "I can't do anything"
Unfortunately, it’s one of those pesky salesman that just won’t shut up, even when you really want him to. And, since your mind is always with you, he’s always trying to sell you thoughts you don’t want and don’t need. Fortunately, even though you’re forced to listen to what he has to say, you don’t actually have to buy anything. So, this sets up the following distinction:
Buying a thought : When you buy a thought, you really believe it, or you let that thought dictate what you do. The thought is hooking you like a fishhook, pulling you to act in a way that is consistent to it.
Not buying a thought. This occurs when you have a thought, but you don't let it dictate what you do. You listen to the salesman’s pitch, but you choose what to do next.
The image below illustrates someone buying a thought. The thought is "My Life is Nothing." By buying into this thought, she’s paying very close attention to it but not noticing many of the other things going on around her. Normally she would notice the flower, the trees, the grandchild that she adores. She would usually play with the grandchild, and might often enjoy it.
The woman is so drawn in by these black and white words that say her life is nothing, that she doesn’t notice the full-colour, “3-D” world around her. If she could just ‘unhook’ from the thought, she could learn to focus in on the full depth of what’s really around her, rather than taking her mind’s word about what’s going on.
Fortunately, unhooking is a skill that can be learned. Let's do some exercises that let you practice that skill.