The Spirit Of Therapy Blog
Last week we spent our quiet moments surveying the contents of our minds; our thoughts. Without judgment, we noticed what thoughts continue to swing around in our awareness when we aren’t paying attention. Perhaps you were surprised with what you found, perhaps discouraged, perhaps overwhelmed. Whatever your reaction, accept this as your starting place.
Identifying our thoughts gives us leverage. If we know they are there, we can disengage from them. How, you may ask, can I disengage from a thought? Don’t thoughts come from “me?” Who am I without my thoughts?
Marsha Linehan, the founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, asserts that thoughts are not “facts.” They are experiences to be noticed, but not believed. If thoughts are not facts, then they certainly can’t define who we are. Yet, many of us spend our lives dominated and defined by the thoughts that arise within us. We respond and react to them as if they constitute the only reality.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Men are not prisoners of fate, but prisoners of their own minds.” So, how do we find freedom from our endless thoughts, assumptions and perceptions? I propose three ways.
1 One way to find freedom from our thoughts is to give them our attention. Blow-ups, fights and conflicts are often subdued when people felt heard. The same can be true of our minds. If you notice yourself being bombarded with thoughts this week, consider setting aside a small amount of time to pay attention to them. Just listen and acknowledge or write them out. You’re likely to find that given some attention, they become less persistent.
2 Ultimately, we want to disengage from our thoughts; to stop identifying with them. Linehan teaches that a thought is “just a thought.” No more, no less. In DBT, participants are often encouraged to imagine a flowing river or a sky of moving clouds that they can “throw” their thoughts into over and over. In your quiet moments this week, practice noticing your thoughts, accepting their existence, and giving them up. Over and over and over.
3 Disengaging from our thoughts means we are back in control. As you learn to stop identifying with your thoughts, decide which ones you want to react to and which ones you don’t. A thought cannot cause you to react. You decide to react from a much deeper place. Freedom from thought arises with the realization that we can choose which thoughts to respond to, and which thoughts to simply notice and let go.
Rejuvenation is about discovery, not about a final destination. No matter what your experience is like this week, congratulate yourself for just noticing it.
Photo by Bet Mercer
The Spirit of Therapy
Where psychotherapy interacts with our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and relational wellbeing.