In a previous post we looked at some ways to practice letting go of thoughts, but it can often be difficult to let of thoughts because they have such a powerful pull, especially when the thoughts are related to a strong emotion.
In this post we’re going to look at some things you can do to get some separation from your thoughts when your emotions are particularly strong and you’re having some thoughts you’re finding hard to let go.
Steven Hayes, who developed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), coined the term “cognitive fusion” to describe times when we are so tightly stuck to our thoughts, we become “fused” to them. When we’re experiencing cognitive fusion, we can’t separate ourselves from our thoughts. Our thoughts become our reality. We feel removed from the world outside of our thoughts, removed from our senses, from what we’re doing, and even from the people around us.
In a recent post we looked at how mindfulness can help us let go of our thoughts when we get caught up in ruminating or worrying or just thinking in circles. Letting go of thoughts is never easy, however, and in this post we’ll look at how simply watching our thoughts can help us let them go.
Thoughts pop into our heads all the time, and usually we don’t pay any special attention to them: they enter and leave our minds all on their own, just like a car that drives into our line of sight, remains in our field of vision for a few moments, and then drives along and passes out of our line of sight again.
It’s easy to get swept away by our thoughts, especially in the face of strong emotions. We get stuck ruminating and dwelling about the past, filled with guilt or regret. Or our minds start racing and we can’t stop worrying about the future and imagining all the things that could go wrong. Or we replay conversations over and over again in our heads, trying to make sense of them or figure out what we could have said differently.
When our minds get going like this, not only is it exhausting; these patterns of thinking tend to make us feel bad, intensifying the emotions we’re already feeling and generating additional negative emotions as well. Because this experience is so unpleasant, it’s natural to want to these thoughts to stop, and to be able to prevent yourself from even having them in the first place. We often wind up trying to make these thoughts go away, and shut them out completely and make sure they don’t come back. But just like we can’t control our emotions or suppress our emotions, neither can we control or suppress our thoughts.
In a previous post we looked at some signs that suggest your relationship or marriage is in trouble according to relationship expert John Gottman. Gottman also describes seven principles that can help you get your relationship or marriage back on track.
1. Enhancing Your Love Maps: Love Maps are the part of your brain where you keep information about your partner’s life. The more familiar you and your partner are with each other’s world, the more detailed your love maps. You know each other’s histories, day-to-day life, friends, values, interests, dreams, etc. You know how things are going in in their life, at work, whether they’re having a bad day or week, what’s been on their mind, anything that’s troubling or worrying them, and important things that are coming up in their life. You also know the little details like their favourite foods, books, movies and tv shows. You keep track of what’s important in each other’s lives, and in so doing become closer and more intimate with each other. Read More
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or distressing emotions, it can be diificult to know how to manage these feelings.
Often we allow our stress and anxiety and emotions to build and build all day without doing anything to calm them, trying to just ignore them and hoping they’ll go away. Then, when we finally can’t take it anymore and start feeling overwhelmed and desperate, things have often accumulated too much and begun to spiral downwards and it can be so hard to get any relief.
In a previous post we practiced Following Our Breathing By Counting Breaths. Now we’re going to learn how to follow our breathing by measuring our breaths.
Measuring Your Breaths: Each time you take a breath, silently measure the length by counting to yourself:
Out … two … three … (four)
Becoming mindful of our breath is one of the cornerstones of mindfulness, and a practice that benefits us in many ways. Learn more about Following Your Breath Mindfully, and before trying this practice, you may wish to ensure that you’re using Abdominal Breathing, where you’ll also find a link to my posts on following your breath mindfully.
In previous posts we‘ve seen that many of the ways we try to deal with unpleasant emotions—such as trying to problem solve, control, or avoid them—don’t work. In fact, they tend to make our unpleasant emotions even stronger.
So what can we do when we’re experiencing difficult or painful emotions? Since emotions arise spontaneously and outside of our control we really have no choice but to practice acceptance of our emotions, be they pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
One of the most effective ways to help us accept our emotions is to validate them. In this post, we’ll look at why learning to validate our emotions is important, and how we can start doing it.