If you have not yet read last week’s article, click here: Silencing the Inner Critical Voice to read it first.
“I do not try to let go of my thoughts. I question my thoughts, and then they let go of me.” –Byron Katie
Hopefully, you have now felt a loosening of the hold that the inner voice has over you. You are starting to recognize that isn’t you, and that it doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
I just want to say again: Nothing that you think ever comes from you. No thought is yours. If you are thinking, it does not reflect who you are.
All of our thoughts come from outside us, as we discussed last week. Since that is the case, there is no sense in engaging with them, and creating stories about them. Making up stories based on thoughts leads to comparisons and suffering. Either we judge ourselves, or we judge someone else when we listen to our thoughts and create stories from them.
It doesn’t help to judge thoughts or get angry at them. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of counseling, as well as many positive thinking gurus, try to get us to take this approach. Just replace the bad thoughts with good ones, these methods say. That only entangles us in the thoughts. We keep giving them attention and trying to change our thoughts to more socially acceptable thoughts, or more upbeat thoughts.
Most people are familiar with the saying, what you resist, persists. This is true of thoughts as well. Fighting with them, trying to change them, and engaging with them just makes our thoughts stronger.
Now that you are beginning to see that you are separate from your thoughts, stop engaging with them emotionally as well. When you have a thought enter your head, no matter what its content, just think “hello,” to it. Acknowledge that a thought has shown up. Don’t agree with it, don’t judge it, don’t start interacting with it. Above all, avoid beginning a story about it.
Wow, only a horrible person would think something like that!
Yes, I must be an awful parent/child/sibling/employee.
This IS making me miserable.
If only i had_________then I wouldn’t be this way.
And so on.
Treating thoughts as you would a total stranger walking past you on a crowded street. Smile and nod, but no engagement is necessary. That’s all a thought is– a stranger walking past. Feel free to picture them as just passing by.
If you get in the habit of seeing thoughts as random passing strangers, you don’t feel as if they are part of you, or as if you must respond to them.
If you do find yourself mentally engaging, just say, “No thank you, I’m not available for this,” and turn your attention to something pleasant, like interesting plans that you have, what you love about someone you know, or what you will cook for dinner.
Regular practice will have you experiencing thoughts as meaningless external noise instead of tormenting internal dialoguel.
If you struggle with personal stories that are painful to you, I highly recommend the Work of Byron Katie, which allows a gentle questioning of thoughts to set yourself free from long held beliefs.
You can find information at: The Work
Let me know how these exercises in seeing thoughts in a new way are going for you in the comments below.