Following up on my last post, I have had some enquiries on how to tackle the mind addiction and take control of our mind.
I was talking to a client about it, and she opened up on the fact she felt a bit helpless in regards to how to tame her mind. She does recognise that she’s an over-thinker and over-analytical, and she is starting to notice that it is indeed an addiction that is covering up for some deeper emotional issues.
And then she asked me: “But how do I stop it?”
And this is the key question. HOW?
Our mind is our most powerful asset. It can allow us to make plans for the future, resolve issues and reach our goals. But it is also the most effective tool our ego has to protect us from external threats. Robert Dilts, one of the most inspirational NLP Master Practitioner describes the ego as something being born out of our early wounds.It therefore tries to cope by creating an image of ourselves that will fit in, be accepted and validated – in other words, a persona designed to avoid once more the deepest pains we’ve ever faced: rejection, abandonment and feeling unsafe.
So the purpose of our ego is to keep us safe and away from pain. And the best tools it has to do so is our mind. By thinking, analysing, strategising, reviewing and planning, our ego thinks it can avoid pain and danger. But does that work?
How much of your thinking time is focused on dwelling on past painful events, ruminating, resenting or hurting? And how much is dedicated to worrying about the future, what may happen and how to avoid it? Both patterns are quite pointless if you think about it (but not too much! 😛 ) One is about dwelling on a past that has already happened and can’t be changed – the other one is spending all your energy worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet and despite your predictions – is actually not that likely to happen the way you expect it to.
And during all that time and energy wasted on the past and the future, you are not living in the present. You are stuck in repeating patterns from the past and that actually determines how you will respond in the future – as our basic mind can only do what it already knows – so the best way to change your future, is to let go of the past and allow new learnings. But as my client said – How do you do that?
Contrary to most addictions, the mind addiction is not one you can change by abstinence. You can’t actually stop the mind working, nor do you want to! After all, it can be a brilliant asset if you know how to use it properly. So instead, you need to take control of it.
So here are a few steps I hope that can help:
- Learn to train your mind’s focus: the mind tends to run wild by itself. It will jump from one thought to another without even asking for your permission! It will just think over and over on anything and everything, as long as it fills in the void that it is trying to distract you from: your past unhealed pain. So first and foremost, you need to take control. My favourite tool to train the mind is mindfulness. Learning to direct your focus to the present moment and not allow it to travel in the past or the future. It is a very good exercise for concentration and stress reduction.
- Discover the nature of the mind: One of the reason we get so engrossed in our thoughts and emotions is that we feel they define who we are. We get very involved in the voice in our mind because we believe what it says is who we are. But it’s not. Have you noticed that sometimes you don’t think – when you are deeply relaxed or intensely focused on something like a meditation, a book or a movie – yet you still exist. Your existence doesn’t depend on your thoughts: so Descartes was wrong: you don’t exist because you think. You exist despite of your thoughts. Therefore you can start detaching from them without losing who you are. I strongly recommend the book “The untethered soul” by Michael Singer, who explains incredibly clearly that concept. And one of the best way to discover this is to practice mindfulness meditation: Sitting very still in your centre, and watch your thoughts and emotions come and go, as if they weren’t yours – and learn that the nature of the mind is only transient. Therefore you don’t need to get too involved in it, if you breathe and are patient enough, soon enough the disturbing thoughts and emotions will be gone. And you’ll be at peace.
- If you want to remove the roots of the mind addiction, your next step is then to find the pain underneath. Behind every addiction there is unresolved pain. The constant chatter of the mind is designed to distract you from that pain, so you don’t feel it. But the pain is there and you do feel it in some ways even if you’re not aware of it. Any discomfort, anxiety or other unpleasant emotions you feel is likely to be that pain manifesting itself. So instead of spending your life trying to escape a pain that is there anyway and makes you unhappy through your entire library of unuseful and destructive patterns – face it once and for all. And the way to do so is to dive deeper into yourself. Once you’ve learnt to observe the thoughts and emotions pass by, if you sit long enough in stillness and silence, you will start to find the pain. And this is where you can heal it.
- Heal the pain: A lot of therapeutic approach – including traditional NLP – offer tools to get rid of unpleasant emotions and the general message in our society is “avoid pain at all cost”. However, I’ve discovered after many years of self-introspection and therapeutic work that the pain only disappears for good when you deeply heal it. And to heal it you need to face it. There’s no running away – that’s only pushing it down further, but it won’t heal. And no, if you push it down it won’t disappear by magic either. It will just find another way to manifest itself – through physical illness, control issues, panic attacks, anxiety etc. So the way forward to deep healing is to dive into the pain and process it until you heal. I don’t recommend you do this by yourself unless you are therapeutically trained – and even though – professional support is essential in my opinion when you undergo that kind of deep healing journey. I certainly wouldn’t do it without my army of various therapists and practitioners! Also this can help if your mind starts resisting and finding many ways to prevent you to dive into the depth of your subconscious. Some professionals may then assist you to elicit what is deeply hidden and needs to heal.
- Face the pain: So how do you heal that pain? I recommend you first connect with it in your body. Find where you feel it the most, be curious about its characteristics: is it a strong or mild sensation? Does it stay still or does it move? If it had a shape or a colour, what would it be? Then and as Pema Chodron says: “drop the story line” and simply sit with it whilst breathing deeply through it ; not around it, as we tend to do when we feel pain (in order to avoid feeling it), but directly through it. As if you could direct your breath into that place in your body, and allow the breath to gently bring healing into it. Make sure the breath is infused with kindness and gentleness as you do that exercise, and allow yourself to start noticing what changes as a result.
I hope that helps, and feel free to drop me a line if you feel you would like to explore this further! Wishing you all the best 🙂