So many of my sessions begin by catching up on what has happened in the last week or two for my clients.
During this time, they discuss the events of those previous weeks. Also, the emotions and thoughts that have occurred for them during the week in relation to the events that unfolded. My clients have so much insight and understanding of what they are feeling and thinking, and sometimes it blows me away!! My clients show so much depth and understanding of their emotions and thoughts. However, they often struggle with one thing in particular. They want to stop certain thoughts or emotions. They that if they do so, they will improve their mental health and overall well-being. There are a few issues that arise with this avenue of “problem-solving.”
So, our thoughts and emotions are involuntary.
Yes, there are ways to examine our thoughts and emotions so we can better understand them. But we can not force ourselves to stop thinking of something. Most of my clients have gotten this speech from me. If I try to force myself not to feel or think something, I will generally think about it more. By trying not to, I bring it to the front of my mind. We can not will them away! But what I can do is use coping skills, distractions, and tools to change the way I react and act on my thoughts and emotions.
What can we do regarding our thoughts instead of trying to ignore them or force them out?
There are quite a few schools of thought on how to address them. It depends on your therapist, and what you are trying to change about your behaviors in response to your thoughts and emotions. There are options for what you can do or try. Something I have worked with my clients on involves sitting with their emotions and thoughts to really examine them. This is known as the lean into method. This is uncomfortable and difficult at times. But when in a safe space such as the therapy session, it can be a way to mindfully give your emotions the space to exist. This allows you to validate why you are having those thoughts. The reason this method is ideal is because often, after we give our emotions and thoughts space, they are able to flow again. Instead of being stuck in a never-ending cycle.
This is not an easy thing to do because it causes that discomfort.
Sometimes, it allows the thoughts we have been building a wall to keep at bay in. Now, though I say allowing the thoughts to flow, does not mean I am saying it is okay to act on them. Thoughts are thoughts, and they do not have to define how we act. We can have action urgers that come with our thoughts. These tell us something, but they are not involuntary. As out of control as we may feel regarding these actions, this is where we can find control. We can regain our ability to manage what we do in response to our thoughts and emotions.
Let’s use your actions as a way to empower yourself. Show our emotions and thoughts who is in control, and who calls the shots. Let’s validate the thoughts and emotions. Or, why they are occurring and take time to figure out the most appropriate and effective way to respond. Your therapist can help you determine if your actions are effective and appropriate to the situation. They will help you be safe so that eventually you can do this on your own.
Overall, if you have been battling those thoughts and emotions, try to shift your focus to your urgers and actions. What are they telling you and how can we create effective change there instead?