It’s so easy to swing, letting our thoughts and emotions take us wherever they want. Up down, back and forth. We seem to be helpless over them. Of course, this is only true because we so completely identify with the thoughts streaming through our heads, because we so completely identify with the emotions triggered by the thoughts that seem to happen totally on their own.
I wake up in the morning and my body feels achy and I think, “Oh, I haven’t been taking care of my body. I shouldn’t have had that second margarita last night or eaten those chips filled with chemicals and gluten.” Instantly I feel upset with myself. Dissatisfied, not only with how my body feels but also now I have confirmed in my own mind that something is “wrong” with me. It’s my fault my body feels this way. I am lazy and careless, undisciplined and self-indulgent.
Following this chain of feeling/sensing, thought and emotion, within minutes of waking up I am now in a thoroughly unhappy mood. Disgruntled, I stomp to the kitchen and instead of drinking water, I make a cup of coffee to “give myself a little something” to try to shift my mood. I take my coffee to the computer to drink and end up reading a bunch of posts on FaceBook—soaking up the political discontent and social angst of the nation through the perspective of my friends.
Now I’m running late and decide against doing my morning yoga and instead start right to work—a decision that only strengthens the pain in my body. And I wonder, by the end of the day, why I reach for the Tequila bottle once more?
But I am not my thoughts. I am not my emotions. They move through “me,” flavoring the moment. And they have impact only when I let them define me. When I take them seriously. When I adopt the stance that “This is how it is because my mind tells me it is so.”
Here’s how to quickly turn the tide and take charge.
That voice in your head? When it speaks, treat it like an unpleasant, over-opinionated, bigoted neighbor—someone you’d never listen to in a million years. When it yaps at you, “You’re so irresponsible (or some similar clap-trap), ignore it. Take charge. Step in immediately. Notice where the thought is coming from (in this case, dissatisfaction with how the body feels.) Realize it is simply a default position thought—an automatic message from the brain like an auto-respond email into your inbox.
The thought has NOTHING really to do with you … IT IS SPAM … unless you accept it.
If you open that mental email and get caught up in the message, you’ve lost control. And the way the mind and body work together, the way thoughts and emotional reactions get entangled, who knows where that initial SPAM MESSAGE will end up taking you?
WHAT TO DO
- Notice the incoming message. (By noticing you’ve already moved into the Observer position in your brain and disentangled yourself from the SPAM message and any emotions it might trigger)
- Realize where it’s coming from and recognize that it is SPAM
- Then deliberately create a new thought. Something like “Oh, yeah. I bet I feel this way because of that second Margarita and all that gluten last night. I’d better drink a quart of water and do my yoga to clear out the effects.”
- Act on the new thought.
The trick with thoughts and their concomitant emotions is to TAKE CHARGE and jump on them right at the outset before the juggernaut is set into motion.
But even if you don’t jump on them at first, it’s never too late to step into the Observer position and put your thoughts in their proper place. Don’t let coming late to the party be the excuse to keep drowning!