Why aren't you always able to find your thoughts?
I'm so happy to see you back in here, learning all things anxiety management.
Today I want to talk about "sticky points", "invisible walls" or "blocks" that keeps you stuck.
You'll learn what they are, why you have them and how to remove them so that you can go forward in your life.
If you have any unwanted emotions or habits that you feel unable to control, and especially if you're unable to find the cause (the thought) that triggers them - then this blog post will help you to understand the reason behind it.
So let's dive straight in!
If you've been reading my previous blogs you've learned by now that what triggers your emotions and feelings is nothing outside of you (the facts) but the thoughts and the meaning that you assign to the object of your focus.
Repeating the same thoughts over and over creates something called "thought patterns".
This means that specific thoughts have become so familiar to you that it has become effortless for your brain to think about them. Whether it's knowing that two plus two is four or ruminating over what your ex did to you that was hurtful.
And as we know, the less energy the brain uses the happier it is. Regardless of how that's making YOU feel.
When you're dealing with thought patterns, it’s hard to recognise them as thoughts because they're so automated in your brain. Rather than considering them as thoughts, you might consider them as "reality".
This means that you may talk about your difficult situation as if you'd be simply stating facts - even if you're only talking about something that only exists in your mind.
Be careful here.
The first tricky thing about thought patterns is that it's harder to change your reality than it is to change your thoughts.
Trying to control reality only to realise that you can't control it causes anxiety. Yet we try to do this, over and over. Creating our anxiety over and over.
This is why it is very important to always separate your thoughts/meaning /story from the actual facts in order to start aligning with reality as the first step in your anxiety recovery process.
How are thought patterns created then?
Here's one example.
Remember when you learned to ride a bicycle? It was hard at first, right?
Because your brain had to spend a lot of energy to learn this new crazy thing called bicycle riding.
It didn't like it at first.
It had to use all its energy to push itself from one paradigm (not riding a bicycle) to another paradigm (riding easily, without any effort), which most likely felt utterly insane for it. The whole concept felt impossible. I mean, come on, you had to put a lot of effort in learning how to pedal and steer, NOT to fall but stay balanced whilst doing all this madness. Perhaps you fell and hurt yourself. This might have given your brain evidence that riding a bike is not only insane but also dangerous. And yet, the other kids were doing it with ease. And there you were, watching them, crying and thinking you'll never make it!
Did you stop trying?
You just climbed back on that damn thing and practised until it became easy to ride your bicycle - and not even think about it.
So we create thought patterns by repeating a thought or a skill until it becomes "normal" to us.
The second tricky thing about thought patterns is this: unlearning thought patterns is much harder than it is to learn them.
If you’d hop on a bicycle today would you know how NOT to know how to ride it?
The same structure applies to all thought patterns: when the brain learns something and repeats it a gazillion times, it then files and habituates this new learning inside your neurological system to save energy.
Thought patterns are great for learning new, useful things. How to tie shoelaces. How to pour a glass of water. How to walk. How to read and write. Brilliant.
And here’s the bad news:
The exact same strategy works for thought patterns that cause emotional pain inside of you.
Let's say that you work somewhere where you feel like whatever you do nothing you do is appreciated. No matter how hard you work or how much value you think you provide you don't seem to get the validation that you so crave.
If you have a thought "no one appreciates me" this thought will create an unpleasant emotion in your body - sadness, anger, frustration, feeling defeated - physical vibration within your body that you learn to associate "not being appreciated" with.
The thought itself might not make you feel anything. But combined with emotions is what makes us believe that what we think is automatically the truth.
And as we know, our emotions are what fuels our action.
1. Thought -> causes
2. Feelings & Emotions -> causes
3. Action -> causes
Any problem you have in your life is caused by a thought. You can always trace it back to the very bottom of it.
Let's say you're overweight (4. Result) because you keep eating unhealthy snacks throughout the workday, without being hungry. You may reach for the chocolate bar (3. Action) because you happen to feel sad (2. Feeling & Emotion). You may feel sad is because you have a thought (1. Thought) that "no one appreciates me".
So it's not magic, unfairness, your difficult boss or team that's causing you staying overweight. It's your thought patterns.
But that's not all.
When negative thoughts come with an unpleasant emotion your brain will automatically classify it as a "threat".
This means that:
- It wants you to focus on thinking it, over and over.
- It wants you to focus on looking for further evidence that what you think is true.
- It keeps on repeating this automated thought pattern and automated search for evidence to prove itself right.
Your brain doesn't know if you are learning something useful like riding a bike or something unhelpful like avoiding people and feeling sick at work.
It doesn't care if you are trying to lose weight. It just wants you to stay "safe" from all possible threats.
Your brain may classify an incoming email or your boss as threatening as a bear that's running towards you and about to rip you into pieces.
By sending emotions through your body it's message is this: Avoid. Hide. Stay away from people. Eat chocolate. Repeat.
All it cares is to keep you constantly on alert mode. It just wants to become very good at thinking in a certain way so that it can save energy. This is why it keeps you repeating the same negative thought patterns until the day comes when all you have to do is to step inside your workplace and your brain will automatically fire the negative emotions at the door. Your day hasn't even started yet and you already feel sick in your stomach. Until the day comes when all you have to do is to wake unto the sound of your alarm and you already have stomach pain.
Your unwanted negative thought patterns cause all your unwanted habits.
Automated negative thought patterns aren't so great if you're desperately trying to stop emotional overeating, smoking, stalking your ex online or procrastinating over doing things that really matters to you.
The good news is that because your mind is able to create negative thought patterns that cause emotional pain it’s just as able to create automated thoughts that create positive emotions - so that you can start enjoying your life again and getting the results that you want.
Just find the original negative thought that's causing your pain and change it to a positive thought.
But. Always a but.
Sometimes people aren't able to change their negative thought patterns.
Not because it’s difficult.
because they are hidden.
And these hidden thoughts happen to be the ones that cause the deep emotional pain that makes you want to eat that cupcake, reach for those cigarettes, avoid gym or scroll the same social media feed over and over again.
Sometimes people aren't aware that what they are thinking are actually thoughts. They just feel them.
In many cases when I ask a new client at the beginning of our therapeutic journey (to elicit their thought patterns) "What were you thinking right before you decided to smoke / bite their nails / send that angry email / eat the entire tub of ice cream" they might say:
“Emm...Nothing I just felt bad and did it" (-the thing that they are now trying to stop doing).
In time they will learn that there is always a thought, a sentence, in their mind that creates that unpleasant emotion that escalates into wanting to do that thing that they are trying to stop doing. Always. Emotions don't just "come" to anyone, out of a sudden.
They realise that negative thoughts create negative emotions and unwanted action.
This is when they might try to start using positive thinking to fix their thought patterns.
But in most cases just understanding and applying positive thinking methods as a crutch is not always enough to create profound, everlasting change.
Because it’s too superficial.
Using positive thinking to fix your unwanted habits may work for some. However, if you're happened to be raised in an emotionally distant or emotionally dysfunctional family environment, the chances are that your negative thought patterns are so deeply buried inside your neurological system that positive thinking on its own won't be enough to cut it.
There's nothing wrong with you if this is the case.
It simply means that to protect you, your unconscious mind has created coping mechanisms for you from such a young age that they feel like a part of who you are. These unwanted habits are a way for you to deflect anxiety. Brain considers them a way to keep you "safe" from harm, regardless whether these habits itself are harmful to you or not.
Due to this protection mechanism, you might not be able to find the conscious thoughts that are causing some of your most difficult, most harmful thought patterns.
Your brain simply doesn't want you to find your thoughts. The only thing it cares is that you "stay safe" and keep repeating the same dynamics and habits that you've learned and practised over several decades.
The third tricky thing about thought patterns is that if you are unable to see the thoughts that are causing your difficult emotions you aren’t able to change them.
Because in order to let something go you must know first know what is it that you are letting go.
Being unable to move across a certain point and not knowing why is what I call a “sticky point”.
This means that instead of the brain just filing and habituating thought patterns (in order to save energy) it takes one step further:
It hides them completely.
So that you can’t change them.
Imagine that you are driving a car and suddenly it's broken. You pull it to the side of the road and want to find out whats going on. Only to realise that you aren't even able to open the bonnet and check what’s wrong so that you could see it and fix it. The bonnet is sealed completely. This is what's happening with your mind.
It means that your brain has moved these thought patterns from your conscious mind into the unconscious mind.
Now, this is the point where self-help, surface level coaching and talking therapy will no longer be able to help you.
Only a clinical hypnotherapist is able to help you resolve this.
But why the unconscious mind?
Because a long time ago, when you were very young (maybe even so young that you weren’t able to speak yet) you learned something, a way to cope, a way to be in or deal with a repetitive painful situation, that your brain recognised as being so important that it wanted you to NEVER to forget it.
So important, that you aren't able to even access it anymore.
It decided to do this in order to "protect" you from something (that you aren't even aware of) whether it's actually factual, imagined, dangerous, relevant or illogical.
All it is trying to do is to keep you safe from harm. How nice. But here's the, slightly annoying, side effect of it all:
Unhelpful thought patterns that live in the unconscious mind aren't visible to you - but yet they are fully functioning and creating negative results for you in your life.
- They can stop you from moving forward in your life, career and your business.
- They keep you repeating unwanted habits, eating the things you don't want to eat, avoiding doing the things you want to do.
- They keep you unconsciously repeating unhealthy dynamics with other people, meaning that you keep "attracting" difficult people at work and during your free time.
- They keep you unable to deeply connect with others, feel equal with others, make friendships and enjoy your time in groups, networking events or parties - without the help of alcohol.
- They keep you ruminating over conversations that went against your expectations, relationships that went sour, lost opportunities and "wrong" choices you that took several years ago.
Discovering and removing unconscious thoughts isn't something you're able to do yourself.
Dealing with anything that lives inside your unconscious mind isn't something that you can learn from books, videos or podcasts or apply any step-by-step processes to create change for yourself.
For this level of work, you'll need the help of a professional who is trained to detect the unconscious patterns in your speech and body language. Someone, who is able to help you to access the material that lives in your unconscious mind. Open the bonnet and see what's in there - and knowing how to heal it, so that you can drive to your desired destination, effortlessly.
Even if you are highly intellectual and highly self-aware, even if you have PhD in psychology and neuroscience - what comes to you working on yourself - the unconscious mind is the only area that you aren't able to work with. Because it's not visible and accessible to you.
Because you live inside of yourself.
You aren't able to see yourself from every single angle because your eyes are only able to see what's in front of you: your conscious mind and the external world. You aren't able to see the back of your head - and this metaphorically what unconscious mind is all about. The ONLY place that is invisible to you.
Trying to "fix" yourself with self-help only is similar to blind leading the blind.
Relying on positive thinking and consuming endless amount of online advice is like becoming a heart surgeon who's only goal is to attempt to operate himself. Understanding yourself is like being a hairdresser who is able to see the backs of her client's heads - but not her own. They also need someone else to cut their hair and show with a mirror how the back of their head looks like. It's the only place their eyes cannot reach.
You can intellectually consume information about human mind as much as you desire - but your ability to see inside your unconscious mind of is very limited. Not because you haven't read the right book or because you haven't learned enough - but because that's how your brains' protection mechanism works. It won't let you go in there where the most stubborn mechanism operates.
With the help of an experienced clinical hypnotherapist, you're able to re-surface the unconscious thought patterns, which are causing your unwanted behaviours, beliefs and dynamics that you aren't able to remove consciously, or on your own.
Only in this way you are able to see them, work on them, change them and finally let them go - and move on in your life.
- To change any of your unhelpful thought patterns, you must be able to see them first. Because you can only change what you are able to see and recognise.
- Sometimes the brain pushes your most complex and the most painful thought patterns into the unconscious mind so you can’t see them. This way it's preventing you to access them and change them on your own.
- The brain does this to protect you from something that you aren’t even aware of, which can keep you in emotional pain and stuck - for years.
- Only with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist you can uncover, change and remove them.
See you on my next blog!
Already established thought patterns are very hard to unlearn.
If you are a person who gets anxious straight after the alarm goes off or find yourself repeating unhelpful dynamics with others I’m able to help you, so please get in touch. You have only one life and anxiety doesn’t have to part of it.
I'll highly recommend taking advantage of the free consultation that you can apply for here.
I will be happy to help you to tackle and break down the intricate thought patterns that are keeping you stuck in an anxious state. Reading free advice online, buying more self-help books and living in denial can only get you so far. When everything else fails, we are here for you.
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