Whether you have Mental Health issues or not, none of us are entirely loving of all the painful thoughts that roll through our heads.
In an earlier article on finding a way from Fear to Self-Love, a tip I gave was to simply tell the thoughts that I love them. Since then I have gotten positive reactions about the suggestion and find it important to delve into the concept a little further!
Thoughts of Loving or a Painful Nature.
Well wait, lets back track a bit! First of all, what in the world is a thought? Just Kidding! I’m not digging into that topic! there are plenty of different theories about what our thoughts are. I like theories plenty, but in this article, I am concerned only with the relationship I have with these thoughts.
Okay okay.. of course I am theorizing here when I say that I have a relationship with my thoughts. But it is an assumption that I feel safe with laying down here for you.
To say that I have a relationship with my thoughts lets you know that I don’t believe that I am my thoughts. I guess I also say that I have a relationship with myself as well. Does that mean that I am not myself? Whatever the case may be, I can love my thoughts, and I can love myself.
My thoughts feel like the closest thing to me. Sometimes when I dive too deep into them, I have a hard time differentiating myself from them. These thoughts of mine come in a wide array of loudness, stickiness, lightness and all sorts of other qualities.
Thoughts can be peaceful, they can be violent, they can be a reflection of whatever emotion I currently may be feeling. Sometimes these thoughts are loving, and sometimes they are ready to cause pain in myself and others.
It is these painful thoughts that I want to put the attention on here. The happy go lucky, grateful, or content thoughts are a treat to for me to have. The painful thoughts are what give the trouble.
What are the Painful Thoughts?
The painful thoughts are the ones that have me in self-protection mode, looking for the ways that my surroundings might bring me harm (even in trustworthy and safe situations). These are the thoughts that have me building resentments against myself and others, as a way to justify isolating myself.
These painful thoughts might say something like this:
- You aren’t capable of doing that.
- Who do you think you are?
- Who do they think they are?
- Why is everybody else so screwed in the head?
- They are out to get me.
- I am such an idiot.
- That person isn’t good enough to hang with me.
- That dude needs a punch in the face.
- Who does he think he is looking at?
- I think the world would be better off without me.
All of the thoughts in this list have at least one thing in common to me, they are all coming from a body that is hurting and seeking to protect itself. As I see it, the thoughts that are coming from pain, are coming from emotional wounds. Wounds that are going to wreak havoc in subtle or even blatantly obvious ways.
It is easy to love my thoughts that feel good. Often times the painful thoughts are the ones I BELIEVE I shouldn’t be loving. Over my years in recovery though, I have found those are the flavor of thoughts that need love the most!
I Talk to the Pain.
When I am stuck in this type of thinking, I know that I am feeling hurt for some reason though I may not immediately notice this. I also likely won’t know where it is stemming from. I could already be isolating somewhat or being snippier to those around me before this comes to my attention.
But once I see that I am not feeling too hot, I can’t afford to turn away from the painful thinking. The spotlight needs to shine on that pain. I need to let it see that I am paying attention to it, and that I am not here to condemn it.
Then I can ask it some questions like:
- Are you okay buddy?
- What’s wrong?
- You know that everything is okay right?
- How can I help you?
- Is there a reason that you are hurting?
Showing loving respect to my thinking like this, creates the space for healing. By communicating with my thoughts, the emotion that is fueling the thought gets a chance to tell me about itself. It can tell me why it is hurting, and what I can do to help it out.
Sometimes I will communicate with my thoughts on paper, by writing in a therapeutic way. Other times I take care of it entirely inside of my own skull. And yes, I will even do it out loud when driving in the car from time to time! There is no shame in having a conversation with these thoughts that need attention. Just be careful that you don’t let these thoughts take you on a ride that you don’t want to go on.
Saying I love you to the Painful Thoughts.
When I am having painful thoughts like the ones I wrote above, I don’t always need to do an in-depth inventory with them to have healing. I have come to the realization, that simply telling these thoughts I love them has a positive impact.
I’m not saying that it will immediately make me feel better. What it will do is keep the pain from talking too loudly and getting out of control. It puts my body more at ease, reminding it that we are safe. Saying I love you to my thoughts often enough has helped me stay more closely in touch with the feeling of safety. And a safe body doesn’t feel the need to be on edge, ready to fight or flee! A safe body can relax.
These emotions also don’t go to my head when I let them know I love them, and that is fantastic! I spent a lot of my life totally lost in my pain filled thoughts without a good way to snap out of them. These days I get to have a positive relationship with my thinking a majority of the time. Letting my thoughts know that I love them where they are at, seems to help keep them from guiding my behavior into directions that cause me excess guilt. It lets them know that I am aware of their presence and that they are welcome here.
Quit Resisting the Painful Thoughts.
As the Psychologist Carl Jung once wrote “What we resist, persists;” I understand that saying I will welcome and love thoughts that can be disturbing and might seem dangerous. I also realize that doesn’t mean that I allow these painful thoughts to allow me to create even more pain in my world and others. But ignoring these thoughts or acting out on them brings the real danger! Loving them and giving them safe housing settles them down and lets the hurt that is packed inside of them to be felt. This leaves me to state the flip-side of what Carl Jung said, that “What we don’t resist, ceases to persist!”
I have deep gratitude for having come to this point in my life, where my mental health issues seem to be in a balanced state. My history with mental illness and the strides I have been able to make leads me to believe that anyone that is willing and ABLE to do the hard work can find their way to more mental and emotional stability. Though of course I realize that this work is far from easy. It is painful but in the end worth it.
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Much Love, Travis Hagen
*Now if you are having difficulty condemning thoughts you are having, you are certainly not alone. If the thoughts are guiding you into acting out in problematic ways (excess chemical usage, bouts of anger or rage, self-harm, etc…), then PLEASE talk to a mental health professional. This guidance given here is not meant to replace support from a mental health professional or replace taking the proper medications.