You've seen it all around lately: "What you think becomes your reality" ... "Everything begins with your thoughts" ... "Success begins with a state of mind" ... "Your reality is a reflection of your thinking" ... etc.
And if you feel these things are true, but don't exactly know what to do about it so that it means something to you personally, I am writing something that might help you jump on the bandwagon of those who agree.
This isn't about bypassing your actual feelings or denying or stuffing them. This is about, whenever possible, taking a moment to understand that you choose how you think, and what you do and do not do, and who you hang out with and don't hang out with, and what you read and don't read, and what you dwell on and what you drop, and what you ignore and what you focus on, every, single moment of your life. And your feelings are simply indicating how these choices are going for you--or not.
This is not to say that you choose how you feel. Because you don't. You choose what you do. You choose how you think about it, and you feel how you naturally feel given those two factors.
When you feel something, it is the thought associated with that feeling that allows you a chance to change your actions, position or perspective so that that feeling is no longer triggered in your life so profoundly.
Here are some approaches that help me get into the mental tapes that are playing and edit or change them, completely.
1. Pause. When you are ready to react strongly to something, pause. Wait to see how that feeling turns into the thoughts. This is very, very hard to do when you are overloaded or heated. I fail sometimes, but compared to the times I succeed now, it’s a small percentage. This pause may be five minutes or five days, however long it takes for the feeling to subside into the thoughts.
2. Check in. Keep checking back with yourself. How are you feeling? If the feeling is still there, what do you think about it? Is it still too painful or upsetting to think about it? Then leave it. Is it still confusing and bewildering? Raw? Wait (see step one, because you are still at that step!)
3. Reframe your position. Most times, when we are triggered by what someone says or a situation, it is because we feel helpless. Most times, we still have the residual mental tapes from childhood. We may think we are justified in, say, raising our voice with the service attendant at a store, but most times, we are not. We need to look below that feeling to the thought. The thought reveals all. Beneath that justified and irritated rant is the thought "you never listen to me ... you never take me seriously ... I don't matter to you ..." Beneath those hurtful words spoken to a lover during a fight are the thoughts "You think you will abandon ME? Well I will abandon YOU first ... I'm not good enough and never have been but I am ashamed so I don't want you to know this and I'm going to blame you ... you never pay attention to what I really need ... you don't know me at all or make an effort to ... "
You see? These are the deep thoughts. Now, once you get below the reactions and feelings, you see them. Once you see them, you have to ask yourself "Is this truly applicable to my situation right now? Or are these extreme carry-over tapes from my childhood projected onto people who trigger them?" The answers to these questions will help you see what to think and do the next time.
4. Forgive yourself and move forward. The people who love you will rejoice that you have found these answers but, if you notice, they will not have required you to do so to love you. And your own love for yourself needs to be this powerful. You need to love yourself despite your past mistakes. Because everyone else actually does. And the fact is: WE ARE ALL LIVING EXAMPLES OF HUNDREDS OF MISTAKES THAT TAUGHT US WHAT WE NEEDED TO KNOW TO GROW--YES, ALL OF US! Beyond a sincere apology, this step of actually going inside and transforming your own mindset and behavior will help heal rifts.
5. Meditate. Okay, not really. Meditation is technically the state of Samadhi. But it's a popular term used to describe the act of sitting still. Sit still, if you can every day. Try 10 minutes, then 15, then 20. In a chair. Keep your back away from the chair so that your spine is long and your sit bones root into the seat of the chair. This practice helps you develop a sense of slowed down time and opening of space. This is a great way to replace reactive patterns with responsive ones over the long run. But you have to do it regularly for the results to start to show themselves.
Life is not about perfect. It is about process. And we are all hear to reflect each other's process in a range of ways--comfortable and uncomfortable, helpful and discouraging. When we find out what is reflected, we have a choice to continue with that or change it--in thoughts and actions.
PS: Here are a couple of resources that might help as well. An amazing lecture I heard after writing this blog, which echoes the main points very well. And a playlist of vibration sounds to relax and open you to the present.