Controlling your thoughts
It is impossible to control your thoughts indefinitely. The more energy you put into trying the more you will eventually suffer – either from mental or physical symptoms. It has been well-documented that more you try not to think about something the more you will think about it. In fact, there is a trampoline effect is that you will think about it a lot more. White Bears and ANTS So what is the solution? One of them involves simply writing down the thoughts that you are trying to suppress and destroying them. Somehow this act breaks up this process. To illustrate this concept I frequently have the following conversation with my patients in clinic.
People You Don’t Like
I begin with, “Think about someone that you strongly dislike. You don’t have to say his or her name, but get a clear picture of that person in your mind.” I give them a few seconds and then they usually nod that they have it. “You are being judgmental, correct?” They again will nod ‘yes’. If they are already acquainted with the DOCC Project, I’ll say, “Now, you have decided after some self-reflection that being judgmental is taking away from the quality of your life, and you don’t want to be that way anymore. So now you have decided not to be judgmental when you meet or think about this person. And yet, you’re being judgmental—what happened? Often, he or she doesn’t know. Much of the time, the patient has fallen into a trap. The pitfall is this: if you continue to be judgmental, you will continue to suffer, but if you try to simply will yourself to be positive or pretend to like this person, your suffering will be even worse. Taking up the attitude of “not being judgmental” really reinforces your judgmental neurological pathways. When I point this out, the patient always immediately sees the problem.
So what do you do?
WRITE THE ACTUAL JUDGMENTAL THOUGHTS DOWN!
The more graphically you can write them down, the more effective the exercise. You cannot get rid of those circuits, but detaching from them means that they are no longer running the show. Now when you interact with the person, you don’t have to like him or her. In fact, you may continue to dislike him or her. You just have become aware of your labels you have placed this person. However, there is now a little “space” in your brain that allow you to deal with the issue at hand. Also, the possibility now exists of developing a meaningful relationship with that person. With labels in place, there are no possibilities. You don’t like being labeled a “chronic pain patient.” Why should other people you come in contact with enjoy your labels on them? Finally, your interaction with others is a direct reflection of your interaction with yourself. No one is harder on you than you.
Bottom line: Let it ALL go.