Yesterday was a tough day. Not because anything bad happened — my family was fine…the sun was out…I got to go to the movies…I had a date night with the hub.
No…yesterday was a tough day because my I was knee-deep in dirty thoughts. (Not that kind of dirty thinking.) I’m talking about unpeaceful thoughts that come straight from a place of fear and insecurity. They’re called “dirty” thoughts because they’re not true and they don’t really serve any purpose other than to make me feel anxious, unhappy, and sad. And since it’s our thoughts that create our emotions, my muddy mindset was having a big impact on my mood.
I’ve got many different dirty thoughts that like to show up unannounced, including these greatest hits:
- Things are always going to be hard
- I’m all alone in this
- Other people should be more sensitive
- This situation isn’t fair
Yesterday, a circumstance happened that brought all four of these babies into my mind, and by mid-morning, they were swirling around in my head creating havoc on my mood, not to mention seriously impacting what I was hoping would be a peaceful and productive Sunday (my favorite kind).
So I coached myself through it. Here’s how it unfolds:
1. Thought creep begins. I know this has happened because I sense an unsettled feeling in my body and I realize I’m feeling annoyed.
2. Do gut check in. I ask myself: What’s going on…what is it that’s bothering me?
3. Situation realization. Oh yes…it’s that old situation again. Why am I surprised? This is a familiar circumstance that pretty much always brings up my “stuff.”
4. Thought recognition. I dig deep to uncover the core thought that’s causing me so much angst. (Again? Haven’t I already worked through that thought…like, a kabillion times?)
5. Let it Be. I know that what we resists persists (including pain we don’t want to deal with), so I resist the urge to push the icky thought away. I remind myself not to judge my thought (after all…I can’t keep it from popping into my head).
6. Let it grow. I let myself feel the anger and frustration that accompanies my icky thought, choosing to harness my anger to power a run. I know that when I let myself actually experience those painful emotions, they’ll move through much more quickly than if I ignore or suppress them.
7. Dissolve it. I get down to brass tacks and dispute my thought as a way to question its validity and lessen its emotional impact in my life. Is it true? What evidence can I come up with to show it’s not?
8. Replace it. I come up with a new thought, one that feels completely true but also positive and good, and write it down so I can remind myself the next time the thought creep begins.
So, that’s how it went down yesterday. And no, going through this doesn’t usually provide instant relief (oh, how I wish it did!). But what it does do is help me feel peaceful about the situation as a whole. I’m peaceful because I know my painful thoughts and associated feelings are temporary. I’m peaceful because I know I’m working through them the best I can. And I’m peaceful because I know going through this is going to help me grow through it. And if I can do that, it almost makes that dirty thinking worth it…
Where do you have dirty thinking in your life? Do you give your dirty thoughts room to be or do you push them away? Do you recognize them for what they are or let them drive the way you feel and the choices you make?