Have you ever been hard on yourself because of your thinking? Have you said to yourself, “Why am I doing this to myself?” Let us explore thoughts and how they affect our human experience. This topic comes to me from one of my influencers, Eckart Tolle. Eckart Tolle is a spiritual leader and author. His best-known readings are The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awaking to your Life’s Purpose. Thoughts are self-serving to each individual human. They are formed based upon an individual’s past experiences as well as familial, societal, and cultural norms. Tolle claims that thoughts happen to us, and most of the time serve no useful purpose to our well-being and well-keeping. Yet the majority of us will totally identify with our thoughts even though thoughts are merely the illusion of our reality in the present moment.
Thoughts can swirl in our minds, working to keep us safe and working to control life that is to come, possibly causing feelings of anxiety and stress. Thoughts can also keep us stuck in the past, possibly leading to feelings of guilt and depression. Unhappiness is produced by the narrative in the mind.
Beyond our thoughts is our being, our true self, our soul. Awareness guides us beyond our thoughts and feelings. Awareness is not thinking; awareness is seeing the thoughts and feelings that are happening and practicing acceptance. In psychotherapy the practice of Mindfulness can guide us to Awareness. The Oxford dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”. Marsha Linehan is a psychologist and author who developed a specific psychotherapy treatment called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is known for it is a unique approach to managing unhelpful behaviors.
Let us review a DBT mindfulness skill called, “Nonjudgmentally”. SEE your thoughts or feelings and try not to judge them as good or bad. ACCEPT each moment, like a blanket spread out on the lawn. Sun or rain and every leaf that falls upon it. ACKNOWLEDGE the difference between helpful and unhelpful or harmful thoughts. Don’t judge, merely notice. ACKNOWLEDGE your values, your wishes, your emotional reactions. Remember no judging. Lastly, when you find yourself judging, don’t judge your judging.
Barriers that prevent people from practicing mindful awareness are many and include fear of unpleasant emotions, fear of painful memories, and fear of trying something new. For some people it is easier to give responsibility of success and happiness to someone or something else. It is tough to break old habits. It is comfortable doing what’s always been done, no matter how unhealthy. When it comes right down to it, awareness takes a lot of hard work.
Awareness is a key ingredient to personal growth and healing. The practice of awareness takes just that, practice, similar to the practice of an instrument or sport. In this moment, I challenge you to spend some time in awareness of your existence on this planet. Become aware of every nook and cranny of your being, the physical and emotional. Stay tuned for my next article, Feel to Heal.
Farmer, G. (2012-2020) The self awareness guy: developing self awareness. 12 obstacles to building self awareness. https://www.theselfawarenessguy. com/6416/12-obstacles-to-building-selfawareness
Linehan, M. (2015). DBT skills training: handouts and worksheets. New York, N.Y: The Guilford Press
Tolle, E. (1997). The power of now: a guide to spiritual enlightenment. Vancouver, B.C., Canada: Namaste Publishing
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
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