As the last post was so popular and received 3 times more hits than any other post I decided to expand on it, also this comment below from the last post is so true and encouraged me to write a more detailed post.
“Kristina thanks a lot. You are right, I have to change my attitude to my thoughts. My problem is that I believe a thought and in believing it, I accept it as a reality and thus become afraid of it. I need to not respect the strange and abnormal thoughts. That is the key.”
The post is really to express that you are not your anxious thoughts, you are separate from them and it is your choice if you wish to believe them or not.
A lot of people are a slave to their thinking and see it as the truth and follow it without question, with the attitude of “if I think it then it must be true” and all decisions and actions are then based on what they think.
Your past experiences create many of your thinking patterns
It is like someone who has been cheated on in their last 3 relationships, they will then be much more inclined to have thoughts about the next going wrong and their new partner and the relationship may have to suffer because of this. The thought may be ‘He will just do the same to me’. She may then question where he is, continually seek assurances and drive herself silly through her insecurities until the relationship finally breaks down. Now there was nothing wrong with this thought appearing as it came through a belief created through past experiences, but she became identified with the thought and saw it as the truth. It is always the association to a thought that makes it seem real.
If this lady could have caught the thought and realised it was part of her past experiences and not fact then she could have put her insecurities to one side and enjoyed the relationship instead of letting a thought destroy it. Those insecurities may have still popped up, but she could have seen the truth behind the thought and why it was there and not to treat it as fact.
This is the same as when someone may go to a supermarket and have a funny turn and then their mind creates the thought ‘Hey danger, don’t go back there’ this is in no way true as what danger is there in walking around putting groceries in a basket? If the person can see past the thought and do it anyway, then they will see the truth that it was just a thought and not based on fact, just a past experience.
This is where the old saying ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ comes from as it is basically saying recognise your fear, but do it anyway, as it is a false fear and by doing it you will find out for yourself. Once you do it and you survive fine (even if you do feel uncomfortable) then the thought process next time is ‘Hey I got through fine, no danger there’ again your experiences are shaping your thought process.
There are many people in that supermarket with no concern whatsoever, as they are all fine and safe, just as you are too, it is just that you had a fearful thought and they didn’t. The supermarket doesn’t become more dangerous because of a thought you have, it stays the same safe and peaceful place it has always been, only your belief in that thought can disguise that fact.
Thoughts are not reality, they are illusions brought to life by your belief in them
Remember thoughts are not the problem, you can think whatever you wish, it is your reaction and your belief towards them that is.
This is true with my anxiety and how I used to see thoughts as fact. I was very bad socially when at my worst and when I came through I carried a lot of my old fears and experiences around with me and thoughts like ‘People aren’t interested in what you have to say’ or ‘I will just feel awkward all night’ or ‘I don’t fit in socially, so why bother going out?’ with this belief system I would hide away in the corner or make excuses not to talk to others or try and rush the conversation, totally believing my thoughts about who I was and how others saw me.
My faulty thinking was totally wrecking my life and the decisions I made and how I acted. This was not me, it was my thoughts based on past experiences that I decided to believe that were causing me all this pain and restricting my life so much. I had chosen to believe my thoughts about who I was and how I would perform and so tried to protect myself by hiding away in the corner or not going out at all. This had to change as I knew I was being a slave to my thinking process and I needed to regain control back and live the life I wanted. I needed to separate myself from my thinking process and to no longer see thoughts as fact.
Learn to observe your thoughts, rather than take them as fact
On realisation of the above, I also started to catch what I was thinking and would see the silliness behind it. An example would be a neighbour approaching and the thought then would be ‘Oh god don’t let her come over, I will have to chat and then I’ll make a fool of myself, quick indoors’ I would habitually run indoors and then think phew got away with it. Thinking, right I just need to find the answers, wake up one day and all this will be behind me.
I never truly looked at the silliness of the thought process, to me it was a real threat, it was just a case of it must be the truth because my thoughts say so. I had a realisation that my life would never change whilst I was controlled by my current thought process and following it religiously was only making the problem grow. I realised that the thought was absurd, what danger could there possibly be talking to the woman four doors up? I also realised that in this and other occasions that my mind thought it was keeping me safe, it was making a right hash of it. In reality, it was doing a bloody damn awful job of it, as all it was doing was restricting my life.
I then realised that my mind wasn’t to blame, I was, I was the one who had created all these faulty beliefs. I was the one who created them through my past actions and then in believing and following them, they had become deeply subconscious.
So the next time the neighbour approached or there was a social gathering I may have had the same thought, but dismissed it as false and did it anyway, it was actually quite amusing at times when I looked at what my thoughts came up with and the absurdity behind them.
Things did not always go great feelings-wise, but as usual, I just went with how I felt, all thoughts and emotions are fine and after years of conditioning I did not expect things to go perfectly in the situations I had previously avoided. But there was a big shift and in time through no longer associating with my thoughts and by no longer seeing them as fact, my restricting negative thoughts began to disappear and my life started to change.
I did not need protecting from the woman up the street or a gathering of friends, it was absurd later to think I did. My confidence in every aspect of my life began to grow and the old confident me came back and all because I decided to no longer believe or become associated with my old and conditioned thinking. I could think anything, but I did not have to believe it.
To no longer associate with or believe my thoughts whilst understanding why they were present was such a big part of my recovery.
I hope I have explained well enough what I am trying to get across and I am not trying to simplify things as nothing happens overnight, but I hope people find the above helpful.