From an early age, I tended to be a “thinker” and “in my head a lot”. My mind, like most, can be quite busy with many thoughts like the status of my wellbeing, interpersonal relationship standing, interpretations of external stimuli and distractions, daydreams, and conditioned beliefs. I’m fascinated by the power of the mind and the many facets it holds. For example, how a single thought or belief can create your internal reality thus manifesting your external reality. The mind is the filter you perceive the world both internally and externally, so it is crucial to become aware of the type of filter you are using.
First understanding this filter is necessary in disentangling the mind. I will offer my understanding of the workings of the mind to provide a platform for breaking any cyclic energy of suffering. Feel free to develop your own understanding with the intention of gaining compassion and discipline for the mind’s brilliance.
Based on my own investigation of the mind and spiritual growth, I believe it is actually a neutral mechanism to aid in creation of our experience. The mind is directed by your soul experience in creating either ease or suffering pending the types of thoughts present. It utilizes three states for its creation: a neutral state, higher (Divine) state, and ego state. A balanced, disciplined mind harmonizes the three states of mind.
The neutral state is the void of thoughts or detachment of thoughts lasting seconds, minutes, or longer. Ultimately as an observer of your thoughts, you can completely detach yourself from them realizing in that void of neutrality your thoughts are NOT you (Divine Spirit). A sense of peace and quiet may be experienced during these neutral voids. It is helpful to be familiar with a practice of mindfulness, meditation, or contemplation to further gain understanding of this detachment.
The mind in its higher state is aligned with Divine source and your heart. It generates positive and flexible thoughts creating experiences of bliss, joy, and ease. You expect the best and are able to gracefully maneuver through any set-backs; knowing each set-back is an opportunity for growth and learning.
The ego state has roots in the primitive mind of wanting to be the “protector” and the need to feel “special” hence trying to make you feel safe and accepted. When the ego is functioning from clarity, it serves an important role of helping you make appropriate judgments and decisions to avoid danger; find safety from actual detrimental threats; and setting appropriate boundaries. It activates the nervous system to execute the fight, flight, or freeze response. Ideally, once the threat passes the mind returns to a balanced state.
The ego state becomes problematic; however, when the mind becomes chronically displaced from the balance state and stuck in a perceived threat; clinging to its role as “protector” and carrying the heavy attachment of negative storylines. Your nervous system may be chronically activated as if the original threat is happening in real time, even though the “threat” was triggered from internal or external circumstances (i.e. memories, similar interpersonal relations, or similar environmental situation [sites, sounds, smells, etc.]). Examples of internal emotional threats potentially keeping you stuck may include: feeling victimized, desperately wanting acceptance and/or approval from others, feeling abandoned, fear of rejection, feeling unworthy, and so on.
Unfortunately, we may have trouble reminding the ego, due to the attachment of preconditioned or conditioned negative storylines, the threat already passed. These negative storylines cling to painful emotions like heavy concrete blocks pulling you further into the spiral of suffering. The spiral may cause reactions/behaviors with anguish and not allow the emotion to naturally flow and dissipate. Common consequences of the spiral may include experiences of dis-ease; feeling spun out of control; feeling run by worry or doubt; and/or feeling consumed by intense emotions of fear, anger, sadness, or guilt; basically an entangled mess of thoughts, feelings, and body discomfort.
The use of the term preconditioned is referring to thoughts/belief developed and learned from an early age during upbringing, potentially forming self-defeating core beliefs. The term conditioned is referring to thoughts/beliefs learned due to existing life circumstances such as traumatic events. It can be easy to “hate” the ego for creating such an experience of hell, but this reaction only perpetuates the cyclic energy of suffering. With deep healing and love of self, it is possible to develop compassion for the ego’s existence because of its desire to “protect” even when it spins out of control from time to time, like an adolescent needing direction.
The primary reason some storylines are considered negative or self-defeating is they are distorted (not 100% true) and maladaptive. Maladaptive meaning, as these thoughts are cycling in your mind, you typically react to your environment with negative emotions and behaviors rather than respond with grace and ease. Examples of distorted thinking may include using extreme words (always, never, etc.), catastrophizing outcomes, expecting the worst, and/or feeling a certain way so it must be true (i.e. I feel obligated to help others before my own needs so that must mean I am obligated). There are other types of distorted thoughts so I recommend researching distorted thinking under the intervention, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
In order to interrupt this cyclic energy, you need to first become aware of your thoughts/beliefs and the associated feelings, body sensations, and behaviors. It is helpful to take an unbiased, curious approach to your mind and internal state as if you are a neutral observer conducting an investigation without attachment to outcome. Awareness of feelings, body sensations, and behaviors associated with distorted thoughts/beliefs offers a signal or cue your mind is displaced from its balanced state (like the “check engine” light in your car). When you identify a thought you may want to explore it deeper to see if it has any roots in a core belief (i.e. I’m unworthy, I’m not good enough, I’m a monster, I don’t deserve love, etc.).
Once you feel comfortable with this practice, then the disentangling and disciplining of your mind may begin. An effective way is to challenge the thought/belief. Challenging distorted thoughts/beliefs has origins in CBT and more extensively in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Also, spiritual teachers such as Byron Katie in her book, I Need Your Love— Is That True?, have also demonstrated the power of challenging self-defeating thoughts.
The skill is quite simple. I recommend practicing this skill in a written format until you gain a level of mastery. Create a worksheet including the following: 1) Identify the distorted thought or core belief; 2) Identify feelings, body sensations, and behaviors associated with the thought/belief; 3) List what makes the distorted thought/belief “True” in your mind; 4) List what makes it “Not True”; 5) Identify a more realistic thought/belief based on your analysis; and 6) Identify any change in feelings, body sensations, and potential behavior associated with the new realistic thought.
Most likely you will find the distorted thought/belief is not 100% true due to the “not true” statements; prompting you to develop a more realistic belief. Now imagine how you would behave with this new belief. Hopefully, you imagine responding with ease rather than reacting with dis-ease.
Practice, practice, practice are the key words for this skill to be effective. Also, the ability to regulate intense emotions via some practice of mindfulness, diaphragmatic breathing, grounding, or prayer is recommended. Keep in mind, disentangling our minds can take time and practice so be patient with yourself. It also takes persistence practice interrupting prior habitual and conditioned maladaptive thinking with the new realistic thought. The more you remind yourself of the Truth, the more you will believe the Truth; therefore, shifting your experience from suffering to peace.
MY EXPERIENCE USING THE COPING SKILL
As I engaged in my morning routine, I noticed feelings of anger, low energy, and a cluttered mind spinning with incoherent thoughts and confusion. Hoping during the morning run with my dog, I would ground myself enough to begin disentangling my mind. However, I was becoming increasingly angry with my dog as she made numerous stops during the run. Note: a lab nose is a phenomenon and I’m assuming quite difficult for the dog to ignore the scents along their path.
Never the less even with this insight, my anger was increasing because the stops were not quick. It was as if she picked up the scent, analyzed its origins in her laboratory of a nose, and developed a conclusion by urinating on it. By this time, my heart rate decreased to almost a rest state and I was thinking “I’m not getting my work out”! So I reacted, by pulling on her leash and pushing her behind to get her going. She anxiously looked behind her with fear not realizing it was me who touched her and then sprinted forward. I didn’t like going to that measure to get what I wanted. I realized my feelings, body sensations, and maladaptive behavior were cuing me my mind was displaced from a balanced state. So I investigated my thoughts further during the remainder of the run.
I noticed the thought: “I always have to stop for you” came forward, but it actually went a little broader to: “I always have to stop for others’ needs”. But I knew, based on my own internal work, these thoughts were linked to a familiar core belief: “I’m unworthy” and in this case: “I’m unworthy of getting my needs met or taking care of myself”.
When I arrived home from the run, I challenged the beliefs. For the sake of the post length, I included an example of challenging both beliefs simultaneously. You may want to start challenging one thought/belief at a time as you learn this skill. The process unfolded as follows:
1) Distorted Thought/Belief:
“I always have to stop for others’ needs” and “I’m unworthy of getting my needs met or taking care of myself”. Note the extreme word always.
2) Feelings, Body Sensations, and Behaviors:
- Feelings: primarily anger with sadness.
- Body Sensations: clenched jaw, low energy, pain in left shoulder and neck.
- Maladaptive Reaction: pulling and pushing my dog.
3) True Statements (for the Distorted Thought/Belief):
- I do stop for my dog at least 3 x during the runs.
- I always feel obligated to meet other’s needs prior to mine.
- I’m always the listener.
- I always have to sacrifice my time and energy for others.
4) Not True Statements (against the Distorted Thought/Belief):
- Basically all the statements above using always are not 100% true.
- I’m still getting a work out even if I stop during the runs. I have the option to leave my dog home if I want a more intense work out.
- My dear daughter, family, and friends would be delighted and happy to listen to me IF I reach out to them.
- I’m learning to establish boundaries like saying “no” without feeling guilty.
- I’ve made major life decisions such as moving states two times and my daughter graciously flowed with the change and adapted well to each location. Thank you my Love :).
- I’ve taken care of myself by slowing down my life; pursuing a creative endeavor that I feel absolutely passionate about; offering myself plenty of time for grounding outdoors; creating a beautiful sanctuary in my home; meditating and praying; receiving massages and energy healing; and going to movies.
5) Realistic Thought/Belief:
“I am worthy of having my needs met and taking care of myself” and “I’m able to meet both my and others’ needs with balance”.
6) Feelings, Body Sensations, and Behaviors:
- Feelings: excitement and actual joy.
- Body Sensations: jaw, neck, and shoulders relaxed, felt lighter in my body, and increased energy.
- Adaptive Response: I was able to develop a plan that equally met my and others’ needs during the day. I asked myself “does this bring me joy?” in developing this plan. Knowing 100% reciprocity may not be the case every time, but just taking care of my needs in some manner during the exchange felt good!
Thank you Spirit for providing an opportunity for healing.
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The purpose of this blog is to share with you how I integrate my professional mental health experience, personal experience, and spiritual awareness in the form of coping skills. By sharing my experience, it is my hope it will provide a practical example how to interrupt and eventually resolve the cyclic energy of suffering and to elevate your energy! Please visit my Facebook page: Divine Healing: Poetry and Coping Skills (https://www.facebook.com/DivineHealing.Poetry.Coping) or my website: http://divinehealingmastery.com to learn more about me and to read my poetry.
PLEASE BE ADVISED
The coping skills provided in this blog are meant as a tool to aid in healing and not for psychotherapy or social work practice requiring a contractual, professional relationship. If you need consistent therapeutic care and/or crisis intervention due to being at risk of harming yourself or others, then seek professional and/or emergency services immediately.
These skills work best when you are ready to heal. It is OK if you are not quite ready. Please be gentle and patient with yourself. You will heal when you are ready. Sending you so much love, warmth, and compassion.
© Stacy L. Pintor 2016. All Rights Reserved.
(No part of this blog may be reproduced without written permission from the author.)