Freedom From Our Own Thoughts
As we are planning our weekend celebrations for America’s Independence Day, I wonder how many of us really felt independent. I’m not talking about the religious freedom or freedom of speech that we enjoy in this country, but rather the freedom from our own anxiety producing or tormented thoughts.
Do you compare yourself to others and then suffer because you feel you have fallen short? That you’re not good enough, smart enough or never be as good as they are? Perhaps your suffering comes from finding yourself superior in the comparison and then thinking that it makes you better than that other person?
Maybe you are too self-critical and your thoughts are filled with how you should do better. How you messed that project up and you just know you’re about to get fired. Or how you have convinced yourself that you are never going to meet someone to have a meaningful relationship with.
Does your mind race wondering how someone else sees you, if they think you are nice enough or smart or good enough?
Wayne Dyer advocated that we live “Independent of the good opinion of others.” And while I whole-heatedly agree, I suggest that we take it a step further and also live independent of our own good opinion.
I say it is time that all of us stop considering our self worth based on the degree to which we measure up to someone else. That we stop listening to the recurring loop of thought in our minds that sounds just like our disapproving parent or teacher and stand up for ourselves. It’s time to break the chains holding us down and free ourselves from the emotional bondage created by our critical mind.
That sounds great, doesn’t it? Everyone wants that, right? If we only knew how to do it, though.
It doesn’t have to be difficult, yet it does take persistence and commitment. There are a lot of practitioners that offer a variety of change work to help, I do myself as a hypnotherapist. And while I believe that hypnotherapy is the fastest and most effective way to experience long-lasting permanent change, I also understand that not everyone is in the place where they can or want to do that kind of work with themselves.
So what to do? How can you begin to shift your thinking and start freeing yourself from your own enslaving thoughts? What is one small, manageable action that you can take to begin to shift your thoughts?
You first have to train yourself to be aware of your thoughts. Now don’t get overwhelmed, I’m not talking about being aware of each of your thousands of thoughts that run through your mind all day long. I’m just suggesting that you start listening for the ones that are holding you back or producing ill effects in your life. The ones that make you start experiencing any kind of nervousness or anxiousness.
Once you hear yourself think something negative about yourself, just stop and consider that thought. At first it may seem true, but really look at it. Is it even your thought? Did it actually come from you or is it simply regurgitated judgment or negativity that you heard as you were growing up? Does it even really sound like you, or does it sound like your Mom, or your Dad, or your ninth grade algebra teacher? Or anyone of the many people that could have influenced you as a child?
You see that’s the thing about our thoughts. Almost all of them are not actually original thoughts. They are ideas or beliefs that we accepted from someone else and they are completely false or invalid in our lives today.
Once you start becoming aware of your thoughts and start looking at them you can begin to consider their origin and you have a chance to transform them or just let them go altogether. We have thousands of thoughts every day and while some of them are innocuous, some of them can be extremely damaging and for the most part we don’t even know it.
So when you hear a thought that is not in your best interest, take a moment and ask yourself if it is serving your greatest good to continue to give this thought any credence. If the answer is no, then re-frame the thought in your mind to one that is supportive.
Say you are walking through your office with a stack of papers in your arms and you stumble a little and drop the papers. You might mutter to yourself as you start to collect the strewn documents, “Oh, Man! I always do that!” That is the moment to make a change. Look at that statement and ask yourself if that is really true. Do you always drop your papers? ALWAYS? If there has ever been a time that you walked across the office with a stack of papers and did not drop them, then the statement is false. While it may be true that you have dropped a stack of papers in the past, or done something similar, it is highly unlikely that it happens every time you carry a stack of papers.
Now you get to re-frame the thought. Take a breath and just stop for a second and be aware. You might re-frame the thought “I always do that,” to something like “I have been known to get the dropsy’s at times and now I am becoming more aware and graceful.” Be careful not to make your re-frame complete opposite of the original thought. Doing that could cause your mind to completely reject the new thought. Make it one of small change. One that is easily accepted by that critical part of your mind. Now every time you head across the office with a stack of papers you can affirm “I am becoming more aware and graceful.”
You can use that same technique when you hear yourself put yourself down. Re-frame the “I’ll never succeed” thought to “I have had some difficulties in the past, but now I am stringing my small successes together and improving my life.”
And in doing so you will begin to set yourself free.