Tag Archives: mindfulness

Over-thinking

“I over think everything”

“I wish I could stop over analysing. My mind is constantly racing”

These are things I commonly hear from my clients in the first session.

They believe that we can stop those thoughts.

There is nothing wrong with over thinking. In fact, try and think of nothing.

Go on…think of nothing…

You are thinking of the word “nothing” the number zero or an empty space. And I guarantee that empty space has a colour because you can’t think of a nothing colour!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking, analysing etc.

The problem is believing your thoughts and letting them stay in your head.

Thoughts are like a fast moving river. You can’t stop them. You can’t contain them. You can just smoothly direct them onward.

Your thoughts are lying to you. They are not real. They are an illusion created by your brain. And most of that illusion is caused by your subconscious. Your subconscious is in charge at least 90% of the time, so most of the thoughts you have are primitive and irrational. But they hide amongst your rational thoughts. I call them ninja thoughts because they sneak in and pretend they are real.

Imagine this scenario:

You are at work and someone gives you a weird look. You stop and wonder what it is about. You decide that they are not happy with you because you haven’t done that thing they asked for yet. And that’s really out of order of them, because you’ve had loads of stuff to do and you’ll get round to their thing as soon as you have a second. How dare they be offish with you! They have no idea what you are having to deal with. You glare back at them, projecting your anger straight back at them.

Now, we know we can’t read minds. So the weird look was probably because they were thinking about what to do for dinner later, or going over a conversation they’d just had with someone else.

You believe the first thought: they are not happy with you.

Imagine if you could recognise that it was just a thought and it wasn’t true. You wouldn’t go off on this whole story. You wouldn’t react to the thought. You’d observe it and let it go.

The problem is not having thoughts, it’s believing them.

 

You are not what you think

thoughts

When your subconscious thinks something is going to hurt you, the first thing it does is switch off your ‘thinking’ brain. Thinking is simply too slow. The best chance for survival is to know the best way to instantly react. Most of us know this as the fight, flight and freeze response.

In the first session with a client, I work with them to show their subconscious that they are not under threat. There are no sabre toothed tigers. Their survival is not dependent on them being in a state of fight, flight or freeze.

This means, by the time we meet 2 weeks later, my clients are beginning to experience an unfamiliar sensation – the ability to remain present. The ability to think and not react.

And yet, the thoughts are still there.

Most of us are used to believing our thoughts. After all, it’s a thought, so it must be there for a reason right?

Wrong.

Because your subconscious is in charge at least 90% of the time, at least 90% of your thoughts are what I call ninja thoughts. They are defensive, protective thoughts with no rational basis.

And it’s not the thought that’s the problem, it’s that we don’t separate who we are from what we think,

I think therefore I am is actually I think therefore I do

So in the second session I give my clients a small task to learn how to identify and dismiss thoughts.

It’s a challenge for most to do this.

Over the weekend I attended a conference with fellow Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapists. One of the speakers at the talk was a very entertaining guy called Sandy Newbigging, He talked about his approach to mindfulness which he calls MindCalm. It was interesting to listen to his approach to separating ourselves from our thoughts

He talks about a space outside of thoughts, where we can be aware of thoughts. He represents this as an infinity symbol. He then talks about thoughts as being like birds that appear around the symbol. The thought itself is not a problem, it’s the judgement of the thought and the belief in the thought being true that causes the biggest problem.

So how do you step away from your thoughts and see them as separate from yourself?

Option 1. I guide clients to identify a thought, allow it to enter your awareness, and then visualising it being sent away again straight away.

Option 2. Do you remember those ‘magic drawings’ where if you de-focussed your vision you could see an image (I never really managed)? Well Sandy teaches us to stare ahead and then de-focus our vision; to become aware of the sides and above and below whilst not directly looking at them. By doing that you can enter a space outside of your thoughts where you can observe your thoughts.

Option 3. Combine Option 1 and 2. Use the defocussing to become aware of the separation between self and thoughts and then see the thoughts as object (birds or something else) and then dismiss those objects rather than owning them

 

Mindfulness–a book review

Mindfulness is something I have been working on for the last year or so. Finding a way to move thoughts quickly through my mind has proved quite a challenge.

But it’s also something that I firmly believe is the key to finding true happiness.

Clients usually come to me thinking they over-analyse. They think they need to learn to think less. It is my belief that you can’t stop thoughts. You can merely transform them by shifting your perspective. After a few sessions, I often task clients with learning to let thoughts go. Through visualisation they can learn to accept their thoughts but not allow them to take up residence.

I have struggled with finding the best way to help them understand this. I have also struggled with doing it myself. Maybe that’s why I haven’t found a simple way of communicating it to them yet.

I have found some concepts that work for me. For example, thoughts being like an iceberg as I describe in this post

Then I came across the book “Stillness in Mind” by Simon Cole.

From the first page Simon’s easy writing style engaged me. Unlike many books I read, there was no judgement on what is right or wrong…just a suggestion of an approach that might work – if you want it to.

Simon has a background both as a psychologist and a guy who runs meditation retreats. He wrote this book because he found he needed a workbook to go with these retreats and the workbook became so significant it became a book.

I’m glad. I enjoyed this book immensely. I immediately began to integrate his ideas in working with my clients and also found I could apply them to myself. This was refreshing for me.

Let me give you an example:

I often task my clients with mindful eating. Once we have removed the subconscious “thing” that has created an emotional connection to food, I want them to truly notice what they are eating for the first time.

Cole refers to this lack of mindfulness as distraction. He gives the example of being given a chocolate. If you are given one you can truly enjoy it. But if you are handed a plate of chocolates, instead of enjoying the one you are eating, you are distracted by thoughts of the next one you will eat.

This is typical of the book where Cole explains a concept and why it’s important and then backs it up with very relevant and simple examples that make it impossible not to find yourself nodding in agreement.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.