Imagine seeing the thoughts in your head presented as people walking around you on a busy street. Each person (thought) passes by, staying for a couple of minutes and continues to fade away, distancing themselves as life continues to happen. You might stay vigilant with those people in the moment of the close encounter, but eventually you’ll forget that they even crossed your path.
The same goes for the thoughts and emotions in our minds that we experience with each situation. We might give heavy reactions in the moment of the incident, with tons of intense ideas flowing around. Yet, a couple of seconds, minutes, or even hours later, we’re not going to have this thought anymore. We won’t feel these reactions with the same intensity anymore. We move on. It is a process though… to be able to grasp the concept that you and your thoughts are two completely different things. People have the privilege to live every day and experience a lot of what life has to offer, unlike people’s thoughts that come and go and are considered temporary. That’s why trying to imagine thoughts and emotions as motions flowing right in front of your eyes could help make you feel that they do not define you. That they are present at a distance, impacts us in the moment, then finally fades away for other ones to come.
Sometimes we might catch ourselves involved in negative self-talk. This happens when we have these inner-dialogues that usually diminish any positive attributes we might have, eventually lowering our confidence and limiting our own abilities in ourselves. Let’s take a moment of anger. When situations that trigger this emotion happens over and over again, we are bound to have this inner conversation that can look something like this:
- “I am an angry person”
- “I always react this way when this situation happens”
- “I will never recover from this”
- “You know I’m an angry person, so stay away”
- “I’ll always be a loser”
These are examples of certain narratives in our lives that we associate with on a daily basis. We tend to overidentify with the thought or feeling that causes us to feel that way and may even label ourselves as such. Remember that thinking that you are an angry person is different from feeling anger in certain moments. Feelings pass, they are temporary, but the act of identifying yourself as being an “angry person” sticks. And although this overidentification happens effortlessly, always try to remember that you are not your thoughts. That moments after the happening, you will end up with completely different ones. That the narratives we associate with come and go and we have the tool to distance ourselves from them.
Ways to practice “You are not your thoughts”
Mindfulness is a kind of meditation where we become fully aware of what we’re feeling in the moment. The key here is to avoid using any interpretation or judgment about the situation and your emotions/ thoughts about it. This technique can help you take a step back, dissociate, and choose a different route from overidentifying with what’s going on in our heads. “Situations are neither positive or negative, they are as they are”
When you spot yourself identifying heavily with your thoughts and feelings, you can try spotting the reasons behind it. Perhaps certain people, places, or situations trigger the investment you put in your thoughts. Not only that, but knowing triggers that bring you joy can help you rely on them in moments of need. ““Joy triggers” will help you avoid negative ones”
Whether you choose to write it down or say it out loud, using positive affirmations can help you turn your negative self-talk (if there is any) to positive ones. Choose the ones that make you feel powerful, motivated, and positive while focusing on those feelings. Instead of “I’ll always be an angry person” –> I can sometimes feel angry and think that I will always be that way, but these are momentary, temporary ideas. I am not my thoughts.”
A Word from o7therapy
We understand how it might be difficult to understand the concept behind “you are not your thoughts”, that you and your thoughts are two different things. Yet, practicing mindfulness, identifying triggers, and participating in positive affirmations are new ways to try and cope with negative, heavy thoughts that affect our daily life situations.