Have you ever had thoughts that just keep repeating, and repeating…and repeating?
You try to stop them. You try to distract yourself, yet they just keep looping.
– Nope. Me neither. (Oh, how I wish that were true.)
If you are like most (read all) humans, you sometimes have thoughts that just won’t go away. It happened to me today, which is why I am sitting at my dining room table at 8 o’clock at night, writing this newsletter.
I got triggered and the story started. It is an old story, one I’ve played again, and again, many times in my life.
I tried distraction—e-mail didn’t work. I tried thinking of things I am grateful for—the intrusive thoughts kept shoving those thoughts aside. I went for a walk in nature—nope.
None of it worked.
So I brought out the workhorse of tools—filling my mind with a statement that is even more repetitive (because it was all I let myself think, and repeat without stopping) than my intrusive thoughts.
It worked, thank goodness, because the story I was running in my head was making me miserable. Here’s the thing though. It didn’t work after 5 minutes. It didn’t work after an hour. It did work after several hours. Remember, this is the work horse of tools, not the race horse.
Here’s what I do.
I choose a statement and proceed to repeat it like a mantra, without stopping.
I flood my consciousness with statements that bring me peace and calm instead of allowing the ones that create misery.
And I keep repeating them.
And repeating them.
And repeating them.
If I stop and the pain-causing thoughts come back, I repeat my statement some more.
I keep doing it until I break the stranglehold of my old story, and I have a choice over my thoughts again.
I have several statements I use to bring me into the present vs. the story that is bringing me pain. When working with clients, I help them craft good statements for them. Since you are reading this and not sitting in my office, I will give you three of my favorite ones to use in general.
- I am loving myself.
- Even though I am having these thoughts, I am loving myself.
- The Loving Kindness Prayer I adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh:
May I be at peace.
May I be free from suffering.
May I be well.
May I know the light of my own true nature.
This practice is not a quick, easy fix. It is not sexy. It takes persistence. It can take awhile to stop the intrusive thoughts, and it uses all your brain power. That is the whole point. When you have intrusive thoughts they hijack your thinking anyway. So you might as well choose what you want to think.
You can choose to think thoughts that bring you pain, or thoughts that bring you peace.
Sometimes change happens one thought as a time.
If you are interested in gaining more tools, that are a little more fun, and just as effective, see below for the on-line course I will be offering in January called the 7 Powerful Practices for your Inner Perfectionist.