I try to be kind to myself when I’m dwelling on something emotional that I can’t seem to chase away. You know the feeling, when you keep repeating something over and over in your brain, it keeps hurting you, and you can’t make it stop. It’s like getting a tune stuck in your head, you can’t stand hearing it any more, but you can’t stop singing it.
I was there this week, trapped on something an acquaintance had said to me. It was unkind and I knew she was talking about herself (that is generally the case), and still, it kept echoing in my mind. I did the things I knew I was supposed to do. I tried to distract myself by thinking about something else. It didn’t work. I tried forgiving myself in case I’d done something that needed forgiving. I couldn’t find anything so that didn’t work either. I tried forgiving her but that didn’t feel authentic. I voiced my upset in my head, I blamed her for my distress, and then I tried thinking kindly about her. None of that was useful either. I kept replaying those words over and over – until I found something that worked. “Get over it,” I scolded myself, and I started to laugh. That did it. I was on my way out of the brain loop
Sometimes we just have to get over it. I remember that classic movie, “Moonstruck,” when Nicolas Cage’s character said to Cher, “I’m in love with you.” She promptly slapped him hard twice across the face and said, “Snap out of it!” It made us all laugh because sometimes, we just need a Zen slap to get over something. A reminder that we’re stuck but we don’t have to be. I’m not suggesting we ignore our feelings or shame ourselves for having them. I’m not suggesting we ignore the sting, allow someone to abuse us, or pretend it didn’t happen. But I know the difference between feeling genuinely hurt and ruminating on it until it’s all I can think about.
We don’t always know the power of the words that we use, how they affect other people, and how they affect us when we say them. Sometimes we need to shock ourselves in order to break up a pattern of thinking that keeps causing us pain and upset. It’s about disarming the thought by taking away its power, understanding that the words themselves are neither good nor bad, and replacing them with something else. It’s pretty black and white. We either want to snap out of it or we don’t. We either decide to let our mind punish us or we let go and move on. But if we want to feel better, it takes time and practice. It takes patience. If you think about how many times you’ve repeated the negative thought, it’ll take a lot of positive reinforcement to reverse it. But you have to remember that it’s your thinking, no one else’s, and you can change it.
Change is a powerful catalyst that pokes and prods familiar patterns and breaks them up. If you introduce a new way of thinking into the current system, it’ll eventually take hold, but you have to be insistent and disciplined about it. You have to keep on doing it, keep your eye on the prize and keep your mind on the change you want to make. You have to care enough about yourself to recognize what’s hurting you, confront it in your mind, and finally, you may need to just snap out of it.
Do you get stuck in these kinds of thought patterns? What do you do?