Thoughts are not your best friends
By Dr. Ashoke Priyadarshana
Have you ever stepped out of yourself for a moment and observed what your mind actually does? If so, you would have seen the nature of the thought generating mind. Doctor Paul Gilbert, the founder of compassion focused therapy, says that individuals differ from animals mainly because of the development of ‘new brain’. ‘
Old brain’ on the other hand consists of primary motives; and it is common to both human beings and animals. Animals would not be bothered about what is going to happen in the future. Yet, people tend to ruminate over the smallest thing that bothers them. Pause yourself for a moment to have a quick look at the thoughts moving around in your mind. Thoughts not only take you towards different dimensions in life, but also take the charge of your life.
This process, which is known as rumination, could drag you into trouble unless you have control over them. Just think about a moment that you experienced sadness or any other negative feelings. When you start thinking of such negative life events, your mind and body will start reacting upon those thoughts and feelings.
Rumination can be a driver of depression. Excessive sadness which lasts at least for two continuous weeks can be considered a sign of depression along with certain other symptoms. Behavioural symptoms/social symptoms such as avoiding contact with friends, neglecting hobbies and interests and physical symptoms such as lack of energy, fatigue along with pains, headache and digestive problems are some of the symptoms visible during depression.
Thinking, feelings and behaviour are interconnected
Teachings of cognitive behavioural therapists highlight the relationship between thinking pattern, emotions and also behaviour. In other words, thoughts, feelings and behaviour are interconnected and interdependent. The basic teachings of cognitive behavioural therapy suggest that errors in thinking style would result in problematic feelings and behaviour. Identification of those cognitive errors with evidence and restructuring them with the help of the therapist could bring desired outcomes in the person's feelings, behaviour and also in the physical aspect.
As mentioned earlier, just think about a moment that made you sad. Thoughts can come as images too. Incidents that resulted in sadness could pop up in your mind off and on without your control. In such situations you are distracted by your thoughts and you are lost in your own thoughts. Whenever you start thinking of a problematic incident in your life as mentioned before, you would experience changes in your body. If it is sadness, you may feel it somewhere in your body. Changes in your physical aspect such as palpitation and tightness in your body or certain body parts could also be experienced.
Mind is a popcorn popper
Mind operates as a popcorn popper since it generates and multiplies thoughts. Whenever a person experiences distressing thoughts, it is the tendency of human beings to suppress and attack them. Instead of attacking or suppressing distressing thoughts, non-judgmental observation of those thoughts is considered effective by a modern psychotherapy known as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT was developed to address recurrent depression.
Uncouple yourself from the content of thoughts
It is not easy to uncouple yourself from the content of thoughts because we have the tendency to define ourselves in terms of the content of thoughts. In other words, we tend to bridge ourselves with our thoughts. The objective of being mindful of your thoughts is to uncouple the thoughts from yourself if the thoughts bring discomfort. This is not only relevant to your thoughts but also to your feelings/emotions, bodily sensations and your behaviour.
If you experience depressive thoughts, this therapy suggests you to welcome them as if you open the door to an unwelcome person (stranger). If you do not respond or react upon the stranger, the stranger will not stay longer. It should be borne in mind that thoughts can be utilised for your own benefits; but thoughts are not your best friends every time.