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Do You Know Your Own Mind
by Michele Germain, LCSW
Our mind contains a steady flow of thoughts, which are filled with experiences, memories, images, judgments, desires and expectations. We can get up in the morning and look at the clock and think; I am not going to get everything done I have to do today; Gosh, I hate this weather; I wonder if I am going to have enough money to pay the bills this month; etc. Or, you can get up and look at the clock and say; I have a good day planned and I am going to move through it the best I can; I know I will figure out how best to budget my finances this month, the weather will help me move slower today; etc. Given these two scenarios, what kind of a day are you likely to have?
Just as you heal and develop a relationship with your body through awareness, you can and must develop a relationship with your mind. By understanding the nature of your thoughts, especially your negative thoughts, you may understand why you are feeling hopeless and helpless. You will learn about your fear-based message that somehow suggests, “you are not enough; not smart enough, pretty enough, outgoing enough, fast enough or whatever enough. With this mindset you can become defensive and have an attitude about life and yourself that perpetuates failure or self-defeating behavior. You want to be able to create positive thoughts that give you a sense of trust in yourself and in the world.
There are three common negative themes that can create restlessness: persistent worry, catastrophic thinking and self-critical thinking. This type of thinking is fear based. The first step is to identify the kind of thinker you are.
Worrisome Thinker Distressing over a situation for a long period of time. An obsessive and incessant thought that is intrusive and persistent.
Catastrophic Thinker Looking at a situation and immediately taken it out of proportion and anticipating an extreme misfortune or utter disaster.
Self-Critical Thinker Whatever you do, you tell yourself it is not good enough, or you should have done it differently, or could have done it better. You judge yourself in a harsh manner without compassion or acceptance of your imperfections.
No matter what type of negative thinker you are it is “fear” based. This means underneath the thinking is fear of making a mistake, fear of something bad happening, fear of others, fear of self, fear of life, fear of the future, fear of not being happy, fear of being on your own, fear of rejection etc.
Here is how to begin to change your negative and fear based thinking.
Learning to Listen - For the next week, pay close attention to the thoughts that are occupying your mind. Do this as you get up in the morning and proceed through your day. Listen while you are driving to work, taking the kids to school, cooking, shopping, or waiting in line at the coffee house. Instruct yourself to stop, turn your attention to your thoughts and make a mental note of what you are telling yourself at that moment.
Vary the above technique by giving yourself ten minutes to sit in solitude and stillness without any distraction and just listen to the thoughts that are running through your mind. Are they positive or negative? Are they repetitive, confused, critical, or catastrophic? Are they about the past the future?
As you do these two exercises for a few weeks, you will begin to see five basic negative themes and fearful thoughts that occupy your mind most of the time; and probably have been there since you were a child (in fact it is the hidden fear of your inner child). Write them down. Now when they come up during your day you will be able to identify them quickly.
Honor, Update and Change Your Thinking. The first step is to recognize the negative theme, stop the thinking and honor the fear by being compassionate with yourself. Do not berate, yell or get angry with yourself. Then tell yourself you are not going to go down that thinking path. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, compliment yourself on the things you do well, tell yourself you will find the good in every part of your day and experiences. Even if you don’t believe it tell yourself you are going to try and see this differently and let go of the negative thoughts.
Under your fears, self-doubts, and negative thinking lies the strength of your spirit. Do not abandon yourself. As you learn to regularly give yourself support and encouragement, you will begin to see that strength, courage and wisdom that lies deep within your being.
Michele Germain, LCSW, author of The Jill Principle, published by Llewellyn Worldwide, has a master degree in Social Worker from Wayne State University and is licensed as a Clinical Social Worker and Marriage Family Therapist in California. She is a Certified Bioenergetic Analyst, offering an approach that that resolves the emotional pain remaining in the body, increasing the individuals well being and capacity for pleasure. She conducts workshops and seminars on a variety of mental health topics and life changing issues. She has appeared on radio, cable television and in print media, and has lectured aboard major cruise ship lines such as the Pearl and Royal Caribbean.. More information on her work can be found at www.thejillprinciple.com.