What if your thoughts are just your thoughts? That’s it. Nothing more. Just thoughts. Little wisps in the air. Boats on a river. But meaningless.
For me – a person with anxiety this was and is a revolutionary idea. I remember when my therapist first said this to me.
She said, “But it’s just a thought. What if you told that little girl inside of you it’s just a thought and nothing more? It doesn’t mean anything about who you are as a person, as a soul?”
I had tears in my eyes and felt a momentary sense of peace. I think I must have had the look of someone who just realized they were in love because she then said to me, “That must be something really wonderful.”
My mind of course kicked back in, but I can still go back to that moment of realization, that moment of peace. A new part of me was listening, or rather an old part of me was awakening – shaking off the deep muddy cakes of what-other-people-think-matters slumber. A giant wave of peaceful excitement crashed over me knocking down the intricate walls of protection I had built around my heart. My crazed monkey mind swung wildly around on those walls for years making giant leaps from one thought to the next repeatedly weaving ostensibly dangerous and taboo thoughts that my inner little girl translated into believable nuggets of truth. Monkey mind whispering “you’re a bad person-what’s wrong with you that you think that-how disgusting you are.” All the sudden there was some space between the thought and my thinking about the thought.
‘Hmmm,’ my mind mused. ‘Probably wrong, I need to find other ways to torture you’ but the the little girl in my heart was suddenly and very contentedly eating a banana in her tree. La-di-di-da-di-da, she sang, you silly monkey mind you are just that, silly.
My monkey mind screeched!
That day with my therapist changed my whole world. I remember a day in college. A dreadful day in a long line of other dreadful days where anxiety was living my life instead of me, I had a tiny moment of remembering this same lesson. “It’s just a thought!” I said to myself. My whole body relaxed, but literally within seconds I forgot again, anxiety was back and I had a sense of loss. I could NOT recall the sentiment that allowed for that relaxation. I stumbled trying to feel my way back to that moment. “What was that?” I kept asking myself. Now I believe it was my soul singing to me – always directing me to the path I walk now. I am so grateful for that moment. And I’m grateful for growing through to the space that day in my therapist office because that lesson is at the forefront of my being now.
It is so simple, I can choose what I think about my thoughts. I may not be able to choose my thoughts or stop them completely. I’ve read many quotes and memes about choosing your thoughts. They all have a similar sentiment of ‘you better choose your thoughts wisely and pay attention to them because they manifest your reality’. For me this is like spitting whiskey on a fire. The sentiment about choosing your thoughts is not wrong, I just simply needs a deeper translation.
My translation: Intrusive thoughts come in and I can’t control them. I have to surrender to that. What I choose to believe about that thought, what I tell myself about that thought I have complete control and choice over.
It is simple.
…but not necessarily easy. It takes awareness and practice. Mindfulness. If I try to control my thoughts, resist the intrusive thoughts, tell them to go away, that they are wrong – then my dear friend anxiety is going to take over and do my thinking for me. Anxiety is going to tell me my thoughts are true and then start making conclusions about what that means about who I am. My monkey mind and inner little girl will fight. Monkey mind throwing fistfuls of shit while my inner little girl tries to hide crying in a corner, and I end up with a shit day and shit life.
Instead I practice. I live in a space of ‘ok that’s an intrusive thought, it is just there, and now I can choose what I do with it.’ In that space, when my monkey mind starts throwing shit, adult me is able to parent my inner little girl, coaching her to allow the shit to fly right past her, watch it hit the wall and go back to eating her banana. Eventually my monkey mind gets really bored and tired and decides to go take a nap. Yes that monkey will wake up and throw shit, and yes sometimes I will forget and throw it back causing a fight, but yes eventually I will remember to sit in my tree and sing, la-di-di-da-di-da while eating my banana.
Thank God for the la-di-das. For the tree. For the banana.
Maybe one day I can thank God for the monkey.