One night, my little girl comes to my room, long after I had put her to bed. She says, Mom, I cannot stop my thoughts. They are over-running me.
There is a technique in training, the ELI5, “explain it to me like I‘m 5 years old”. The premise is, to master a concept or to understand an idea completely, try and explain it to a little child. Here was my chance to practice this.
So I start off asking her what is she thinking about. She relates to me an entire episode of Archies that she had watched earlier. And says I just cannot stop my mind…it is replaying everything.
I talk to her of horses and trainers. Of how each horse is trained with love and patience. Then relate our thoughts to horses, and our mind to the trainer. Our thoughts are not our mind. Our thoughts are not us. Our thoughts could become our best friends or wild strangers. It all depended upon how we train them. What they are not, is us.
The trainer in my girl got a measure of control over her wild horses that night. With some more hugs and songs and questions and answers… she went back to sleep.
If only it were so easy to re-assure us adults.
Let us talk a bit about our thoughts. How they over-run us without our awareness. Let us build a path to self-awareness. Let us name all our thoughts, but choose and empower only those that work for us.
Naming our Thoughts
What do we do when we are driving and the traffic light turns yellow ? We slow down and apply the brakes. That is the very first technique that we use on our thoughts. When we see them cascading… especially an anger, fear, disgust, or a nasty surprise… we slow down and apply the brakes.
How ? By naming our emotions to ourselves.
If I say to myself, Bindu, you are angry and your angry reactions so far have led to bad outcomes, I will have a far more considered response. As compared to when I am angry and I let my angry horses have their wild run.
As a people, we are not very emotionally literate. We do not have the right words for so many of our emotions. Are we experiencing a Rage, an Anger or a mere Annoyance ? Do we know the exact opposite of Amazement ?
We would not do well in framing equations like Love = Joy + Trust. What emotions does Joy begin and end with ? Where does Fear come from and where does it lead to ? We have been taught many things, but not these basics of emotional literacy.
To us it is a new journey… that can teach us on how to apply the brakes. The right words are powerful enough to stop any emotional avalanche and guide us to respond rationally.
Choosing the Right Thoughts
Our memory is built on association. Associations are based on our perceptions. Perceptions, unlike facts, are based on our understanding and our attitude. Where does all this leads to ? Our ability to re-build our positive self at any point of our life. Shall we learn the steps of this dance ?
Who is the person that we end up talking the most to ? Our own self. What do we tell ourselves about ourselves ? Are we as protective of our own self as we are of our loved ones ?
Choose the positive thoughts. Weed out the ones that we have named and framed negative. If you catch someone repeatedly harassing your best friend, or your family, with variations of “you are not good enough”…. will you stand by and watch ? Or challenge them ?
Then why allow your own thoughts to do it to you ?
Let us start the change…from the “No I am not good enough” to the “Not Yet but I’m learning” to the “Yes, today I can”.
Giving of Ourselves
The difference between who we are today and our most confident and powerful self is the right frame of mind.
Consciously, let us shift our focus away from anxiety and towards excitement. From ourselves to the situation we are in. Towards the people that we are part of.
Once we are confident enough in ourselves, we start the next leg of the journey – to be empathic to others.