For years I’ve taught people that their discomfort in life is caused by their painful thoughts and that they only need to change their thinking in order to feel better. While It’s true that changing your thinking opens up your life, I discovered that I was woefully misusing this tool. I know some of you are doing the same thing because you’ve been asking me about it—a lot. So I figured it was time to share what I’ve learned.
I was using my ability to shift my thinking to remain in my fear and the status quo rather than in service of my essential self. Instead of going within my body and asking my essential self what she really wanted, I was trying to thought-work away my deep essential-self desires. One place this showed up for me was in my relationships.
To air my laundry, let’s just say I have some abandonment issues. (It’s not dirty laundry, that would imply shame and I’m not ashamed that I have stuff—nor should you be—but that’s another post.) Because of this, I have a really hard time with conflict when it comes to those I love. I’m afraid if I say what I really want, or if I say that something isn’t going well or is not ok with me, that they will leave me. So whenever I felt any discomfort around my relationships—which by the way is my essential self telling me it wants something—instead of feeling inside and asking that deep part of me what she needs, I would say to myself “I just need to do my work on this!” and proceed to try to thought-work it away.
The problem is, when I don’t acknowledge my unmet wants and needs, I cycle through working the same thoughts over and over again. Nothing gets resolved. There’s no forward movement, just spin. This is what happens when thought work (or any kind of work) is used without the truth-fuel of what we deeply want. I cannot simply work every thought I have about a given circumstance and be left with the truth. My essential self already knows the truth.
We must start with what we want, what we feel, what our essential self knows to be the truth. We get this message by tuning out of the mind and into the body. Our essential self speaks to us through those “gut” feelings in our body. The feeling–the wanting–points the way, and then we put thought work in service of that want. Thought work is the servant, not the master. It’s a tool to help us move toward what we deeply want. You must allow the wanting to live and breathe within you if you truly want to be happy.
In the case of my relationships, this meant that instead of using the thought work to avoid a circumstance where I feared those I loved would leave me, I needed to identify what I wanted. This could be to talk openly about something that hurt or to state my desire for that relationship. Then I used the thought work (and many other tools!) to reassure myself that I would be ok no matter what happened, to remind myself that having these conversations were better than not having them, and to know that even if the other person could not or would not give me what I wanted, I would still be ok. Even if the worst that my mind could imagine happened—that they left me—by acknowledging and acting on my wants, I was never leaving me.
I will tell you that allowing myself to want what I want and using the thought work and other tools in service of that is the much easier way to live. It’s messy and it seems risky, but ultimately it’s way easier than spinning my mental wheels. And my relationships are better and deeper than they’ve ever been. They are also easier because I am now in true relationship with myself, which allows me to be in true relationship with others.
So my friend, feel inside yourself, find your essential desire, and then use every tool in your arsenal in service of that desire.