The Importance of Living in the Present Moment
In his book, THE POWER OF NOW, Eckhart Tolle stresses the importance of living in the present moment and avoiding thoughts of the past or future. The Dalai Lama states clearly that compassion and altruism lead to Happiness. Compassion, the Dalai Lama explains, is a mental attitude based on the rationale that all human beings have an innate desire to be happy and to overcome suffering, coupled with a desire for others to achieve this as well. He is quoted that to live in the past is to be depressed—to live in the future is to be anxious. Therefore the only place to be in in the present. That is all we have. In his book, THE UNTETHERED SOUL, Michael Singer says that we are not our thoughts, leaving the reader to wonder if perhaps Descartes quote, “I think, therefore I am” may be the reverse of “I am, therefore I think!”
Negative Thoughts Can Be Counterproductive
The thoughts that flood our minds and create counterproductive states of well-being during our days and nights can drive us to depression, anxiety and misery. They can, and do become a source of stress weighing us down with despair, self-doubt and chronic fatigue, and depleting our self-esteem. Often they swallow us into a dark place that keeps us from experiencing the joy that feeds our life force resulting in spiritual bankruptcy. If not corrected, they take over our lives and destroy our chance of happiness and serenity. Without reparation, we become addicted to our thoughts. Our brain and central nervous system shifts into a paradigm that dictates our behavior and controls our moods. This eventually robs us of self-control, self-determination and impacts our relationships, too often leaving us in a state of hopelessness, apathy and powerlessness.
How can we stop our thoughts from controlling our brains?
So how can we stop our thoughts from controlling our brains? The answer is simple. The process a bit more difficult, however, doable! We need to take control of our thoughts. How? Not unlike treating any addiction we must start with behavior modification. We have to STOP THINKING! This takes full consciousness and the ability to force ourselves to find alternative behaviors to counteract the thoughts. NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming), suggests that there is a positive intention for ALL behavior. It is one of the presuppositions in their thesis. One must identify the positive intention in order to find an alternative behavior to satisfy that intention that doesn’t imbibe the negative results.
This is not easy as every individual can’t understand how there can be a positive intention in destructive behaviors. However, if given guidance, it is not as difficult as it may seem. For instance, in the case of nicotine addiction, the positive intention for most smokers is that it “relaxes” them or gives them something to do with their hands or stops them from binge eating. In the case of obsessive thoughts, the positive intention of ruminating on negative thoughts must be identified in order to find an alternative behavior that will satisfy the positive intention without negative outcomes. For example: If you are ruminating about the loss of a job, relationship or a self-imposed mistake you might have made to cause these losses, then you would need to find the positive intention of obsessing on the same thoughts.
How Therapy Can Replace Negative Thoughts and Behaviors
In therapy, I can call upon that part of your unconscious that dictates the negative behavior to negotiate a deal with the creative part of the unconscious to replace it with a positive behavior that would satisfy the same intention. NLP defines this process as “A Six Step Reframe.” You may be wondering, what could the positive intention of ruminating about negative thoughts be? Well, think about the idea of keeping the thoughts alive that just might keep the subject matter alive, whether it’s about business, a broken heart, or trying to understand some part of yourself that you are blaming for the loss. Keeping the thoughts alive helps keep the subject alive even though it may causes suffering and anguish. If it continues over time to where is becomes chronic, then addiction is installed into the brain cells and neuro-transmitters at which time one becomes an object of contempt to themselves. Toxic shame and guilt become the overwhelming content to fuel the addiction. In order to break the addiction, the behavior must stop. It takes deeper therapy to achieve the results.
Modalities such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) are employed to benefit the client. There are other experiential modalities applied as well by trained therapists. I will go into these modalities in Part II of my next blog. All these approaches are “experiential” as opposed to talk therapy. Being that this is a process and not an intellectual event, it needs several therapy sessions to achieve the results. Reading about it is like reading a book on how to swim. The only way to learn how to swim is to get in the water.
Stay tuned to the next blog on how to stop these intrusive thoughts from cycling in your mind like a mice cage and what modalities might be best for you. In my next blog, Part II, I will site true life examples of how this was accomplished and the modalities used to achieve success.
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success, to be released October 11, 2020. Visit her website for more resources on managing stress and anxiety or to schedule therapy via phone and online.