Thoughts and Emotions: Friend or Foe
Some Thoughts on Thoughts
Bad things happen to good people. There is no real ‘why’ to this, other than the obvious fact that sometimes there are, (to use the correct psychological term), assholes, wandering around with little or no regard to others. Psychopathology, the ‘hurt one’ acting out to hurt someone else, the ignorant disconnected isolated wounded or neglected ones, or those who haven’t learned or been taught the value of empathy for others – is a topic for another day.
Sometimes we are victims – despite our best intentions, best vigilance, best hopes, best efforts. It is not your fault! And it is still a trauma.
It is sometimes useful to consider that trauma work, is work on yourself – to limit and stop the emotional effects from being carried on and on as some ‘very heavy baggage’. Having a look at your own thinking and resulting beliefs about yourself, is vital for recovery. Your therapy, whether formal or informal, needs your active help. This active choice of how you interpret things is primary self-care focused on recovery and freedom from what has happened to you.
What other people say about you, is not an accurate reflection of who you are. What you say to yourself about your self however – has great power – to either prolong the hurt or to shrink it. You may have heard the phrase ‘charity begins at home’, and in this case it translates into being kind to yourself, to forgive yourself for unusual burdens – and to basically to act as if you are your own best friend.
It has been said that an almost perpetual putting yourself down (any self-blame, self-shaming because something awful has happened to you) is often a situation where ‘a person has come to the wrong conclusion about herself.’ The interpretation that you are unworthy, tainted, unloveable, contributes to an inevitable increasing anxiety and deepening of depression. Q: What if your conclusions, in this case, are wrong?
A victim feels deeply vulnerable, grappling with perhaps the most difficult deepest fear of being fully alone in great danger and yet unable to do anything about it. That fear is often carried for years as very heavy baggage. Talking with others in a form of reaching out to another to bear witness to one’s suffering, is part of good therapy and a form of self-care. Taking an active role in one’s own recovery, like the Phoenix fire-bird rising up out of the flames and ashes of defeat, is taking on a self-valuing stance and is using your own innate drive to survive. There is great value in finding your strength, starting with choosing to be stubbornly determined and refusing to be defeated. Willing yourself to not give up or give in to the effects of one’s trauma – is a large leap toward finding new strength and power! Living well is often the best revenge.
The good news is that we humans have the ability for reflection and thought and projection into the future — and to learn. Essentially we have the ability to consciously change. So, make your choices consciously and deliberately to shape what you think of yourself.
The conclusion that there is something wrong with you because something very bad happened TO you – is simply wrong!
We know that thoughts and feelings do not exist in isolation from each other, as if they are separate disconnected things. It has been said that ‘behind every mood, is a thought’ and many times our thoughts take the forms of assumptions. We have the ability – and the responsibility – to take care of ourselves, by taking care with our thoughts. Choosing what you say to yourself about yourself can be very effective and very important.
Now for some work. A focus of your attention on your thoughts gives you an opportunity to make some decisions. Q: Is this thought (my self-talk) building my strength; Or is it contributing to me feeling weaker, more miserable, more vulnerable, and reinforcing my feelings of continuing to be a victim?
Asking the question, leads to making a choice. Up or down?
This is good therapy for your self, by yourself – and something for you to feel proud of when you take on the attitude and actions of ‘being your own best friend’.
Sometimes it is useful to do an inventory of beliefs that feed thoughts that reinforce beliefs that feed thoughts that reinforce beliefs that feed thoughts that reinforce beliefs….
The work part entails writing down the discouraging self-talk – partially to get it out of your head and into another form so that it becomes an object that is subject to change. Use a piece of paper divided by a line down the middle. Left side is reserved for the self-doubt, shame reinforcing, statements that might be rambling through your thinking. Right side is reserved for the much more positive constructive counter-balancing thoughts that will be ready for you to ‘try on for size’.
We are now entering the realm of habit-change, that entails catching old thought patterns and replacing them into a more constructive and supportive narrative. What you say to yourself can have great power.
If you have the ‘ability’ to be stubborn, then now is the time to use it. The task is to deliberately flood your thinking with a different type of message with the goal of weakening the negative and strengthening the positive. Feel free to give yourself a figurative ‘pat on the back’ for choosing and acting to treat yourself as if you truly deserve that kindness from you, your own best friend.