The Hot Potato of Negative Thoughts
I have long believed that we, as human beings, aren’t in control of much, but one thing we can most certainly control is our thoughts. A quick google search on books on this included titles such as “Change your Thoughts, Change Your Life” by Wayne Dyer, “Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow” by Karen Casey, “The Weight Loss Mindset: 10 Thoughts that are Keeping You Fat” by Sarah Patterson, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” by Daniel G. Amen, and the list could go on and on.
For me, the real question is not IF we can control our thoughts, but rather, HOW? How do we change our thoughts? Especially those really pesky thoughts that are holding us back in some way and keeping us from being all we are meant to be and do all the things we are meant to do. It’s one thing to subscribe to the belief that we are in control of our thoughts; it’s something all together different to put it into action. A couple years ago I went to see Eckhart Tolle speak and he was asked a question about how to let go of negative thought patterns. His answer was….you simply drop it, just like you’d drop a hot potato. After you drop it, if you find yourself holding it again you just drop it again. At the time, I didn’t find that answer very helpful. I wanted a more detailed answer with specific steps. What I know now is simple is better. I’ve been practicing dropping unwanted thoughts like hot potatoes, and guess what….It works!
Here’s a little story about how I recently dealt with one of those pesky little….Ok, pesky big unwanted thoughts. If I was giving it a title, it would be “Dental Phobia: True Confessions from the Wife of a Dentist”.
As a child, I can’t remember one single dentist appointment where I didn’t have a least one cavity. I would brush my teeth regularly. I would use the little red tablets that would show you where you weren’t brushing effectively enough and focus on those areas. I would rinse with nasty tasting Listerine – the one in the brown bottle that would come wrapped in paper. It was horrible! I was determined that my next visit would be cavity free, but to no avail. What made it worse is that my brother had no where near the oral hygiene that I did, but he would show up cavity free. As a result I grew to dread going to the dentist. Everything about it made me anxious. The smell of the office – that mixture of cleaning products and burning teeth, the cheezy Muzak that did nothing to soothe my young soul, the sticky vinyl of the chairs of torture all contributed to my absolute terror.
Fast forward to my college years. It was during this time that I met my husband. He was a biology major. You can do a million things with a biology major. Of course he picked the one career path that had I known that was where his biology degree was going to take him, I would have gone running in the complete opposite direction. You guessed it…He became a dentist. I now had a problem! I was in love with Bill Hall, but he was becoming the thing I feared the most. How did I handle it you ask, I pushed the scary thoughts about dentists under the rug and tried to remind myself that he loved me and wasn’t going to hurt me. I know in those early days, I was a nightmare of a patient to him. My fear caused me to over manage him when I was in the dental chair…”don’t do that”, “let me sit up for a minute”, “I hate that flavor of flouride”…blah,blah,blah! I was a chronic complainer at the dentist office. I was the person Lisa talked about in her blog last week. (Click here if you missed it) I didn’t like who I was in that environment. It was clear to me that my thoughts and fears were bringing out a side of me that I didn’t like. Then I remembered that I believe I am in control of my thoughts and decided to do something about them.
At my last visit, Bill told me that a lot of my fillings were getting old and were in need of being replaced. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to practice dropping the hot potato of negative thoughts about dental treatment. What I found was that it was easier to drop the negative thoughts when I could replace them with a different thought. “This is going to hurt” became “I’ve had 2 natural childbirths…I can handle this” or “It’s just a sensation”. What I found was that there wasn’t any pain. My brain was telling me that dental procedures are painful but the truth is, it wasn’t.
It was also interesting to observe how my body responded to my thoughts. About every 30 seconds, I noticed that my fists were clenching and my shoulders were tense. As soon as I noticed that, I would just remind myself to “relax”. I would try to slow down my breathing and let my body melt into the comfortable chair (NOT the chair of torture!).
This experience took a lot of focus on my part. My old thought patterns came automatically; the new ones took a lot of energy. By the end of the visit, I was exhausted, but I felt good about practicing being in control of my thoughts. I trust that just like building a muscle, the more I practice this, the easier it’s going to get.
So in answering the question of how do we change our thoughts? Here is what I observed in hindsight:
1. Awareness – notice the thoughts that are holding you back
2. Decide; make a conscious choice to change them
3. Replace old thought with new thoughts
4. Pay attention to your body; sometimes it speaks first
5. Repeat this process – moment by moment if necessary
The moral of the story for me is that what you think matters. Look at the areas of your life that you’d like to see changes in and work on changing your thoughts.
Over here at Wholistic Woman Retreats we are getting ready for our annual zip line retreat event. As I’ve been talking to women about joining us, I’ve run into a few people who say, “Oh, I could never do that!”. If that is you, I’d like to challenge you to consider giving it a try. It is really very easy, just ask Carol deLaski’s 80 something year old mother who has joined us on several occasions. Stop telling yourself your can’t and start telling yourself you can. What you think matters! You can find details on how to register by clicking here.
Laura Hall is an iPEC certified life coach whose business, Hall Coaching, was established in 2009 with the vision of waking women up from the nightmares of “How did I get here?” and, “Is this as good as it gets?”, so that they can begin creating and living the life of their real dreams, hopes and desires. She offers both one on one as well as group coaching services. She can be reached at [email protected] or check out her website at www.hallcoaching.com