Learning how to silence your mind
One aspect of anxiety based disorders; especially OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is the never ending internal dialogue and fearful obsessive thoughts, ruminations that spin around and around chattering away in your mind that make day to day living frightening, intolerable and emotionally draining. So many clients of mine say “I can’t stop thinking!”
People are always asking me “What is anxiety?” and my reply is always “Anxiety is your body’s response to hearing negative and fearful stories being played out in your mind. “What if this happens? What if that happens? What if they won’t like me?” Because the body responds to what you hold in mind, if you hold scary thoughts in mind you get scary feelings, if you hold calm thoughts in mind you get calm feelings. When put this way, it sounds really obvious doesn’t it? Yet, anxiety sufferers still run scary thoughts through their minds!
So, to have any chance of escaping back to normality it is fundamental to recognise that these internal voices and their effect on your racing mind are one of the main symptoms of anxiety that need to be corrected. You need to understand that new ways of thinking and talking to yourself are fundamental to quietening your mind and moving away from the subsequent anxious feelings they generate.
Why is it I can’t stop thinking?
When I help people to overcome OCD, GAD and other anxiety disorders, the first thing I need them to consider (with respect to their obsessive ruminations) is; “The voices are in me, but are not me!”
This is going to be your new mantra “the voices are in me, but are not me.” Do they tell you “well done” no, do they say “go on that will be fun” no, do they say “I know that’s a little scary, but you will be OK” no they don’t.
Do they shut up when you say “shut up” NO they don’t – so it seems to me that they are not you! You can’t stop them, yet you believe them!
Of course they are in you, but they are unconscious, they are not under the control of your intelligent conscious thinking mind and therefore they operate under a different set of rules – and it is by understanding these new unconscious rules that you can begin to take back control.
Therefore, if we break this down to a simple statement; “The suggestions they make are not under your control, however, how you choose to respond absolutely is.” This one statement changes all the rules.
Obsessive thoughts, who is talking to whom?
Within your head, who is talking? Who is listening? Who is replying? The reality is, there is a conversation going on between your conscious mind (rational thoughts that you can control) and your unconscious mind (thoughts about survival and safety that when viewed from a biological point you can’t directly change) – So when you say I can’t stop thinking, which “I” are you talking about?
The unconscious uses simple fearful language, applies the strategies of an eight year old, to “keep you safe and keep you out of trouble.” When viewed in this manner, you can see that (from an 8 year olds perspective) many of the things you do when anxious make sense
- If I stay away from them I’ll be safe….
- If I don’t say anything I won’t upset them….
- If I don’t travel then nothing bad will happen….
- If I control everything then it is less likely a bad thing will happen….
- If I reject them first, I won’t feel the pain of them rejecting me…
- I know they are horrible to me, but if I leave the next person might be worse….
However, from an adult’s perspective (conscious mind) these only have a modicum of logic and the actions seem to “cut your nose off to spite your face” once again, very childlike. In a nut shell the childlike unconscious voice is basically saying “if you just stay at home, you’ll be safe” however, it is omitting an important part of the message “safe, but, miserable and fearful!”
Who are the characters running around in our mind?
So, we have got a bunch of voices in our head, half that are consciously us that we can control (when we know how) and half that are unconsciously us that we seemingly have no obvious control over (yet strangely we believe them).
Often these voices and self-talk become more prevalent during times of stress or when the circumstances of your life are not serving you well. It is important for any anxiety sufferer to realise that although these ruminations don’t say it directly, what they are implying with their thoughts is; “things are not OK, please do something about it – or we will ‘ground you’ with your fears.”
On the whole these unconscious voices are a mixture of the judge and victim sides of our unconscious mind and they are talking to each other and not necessarily you, they are aided and abetted by a whole other bunch of “selves” that were formed by the events of your childhood and schooling.
In a typical unconscious rumination the judge may say to the victim “they shouldn’t do that, it’s not fair” and the victim replies “this always happens to me” and the judge says “if they do it one more time I am going to take action” then the victim says “no, you might get hurt, just let it go.”
When I can’t stop thinking – becomes obsessive ruminations
These voices all chat away to each other looking for all the worst case scenarios, because they feel that if they can cover all the cases then you are more likely to be kept safe, and basically, it is possible to frighten yourself by analysing all the things that could go wrong.
Worse still, the unconscious mind gets a little sneaky sometimes and uses fearful scenarios to really frighten you (ground you) with a diverse range of scary ruminations such as;
- A fear that you might hurt some body
- A fear that others are conspiring against you
- Thoughts that you might abuse another person
- Morbid thoughts about death or spirits
- Intrusive ruminations about germs or hygiene
- Ruminations about losing something important
- Fearful thoughts about leaving your house and locking doors
- Obsessive thoughts about praying or saying certain words
- Never ending thoughts about your partner doing certain things
- Ruminations that other people know something about you and are talking about you
Rarely do any of these bad things happen, yet the need to “worry, just in case” can be compulsive and often drive a set of destructive avoidance behaviours within the sufferer that dominates their life, disrupts their sleep and plays havoc with any semblance of calmness or happiness.
How to stop a racing mind
I teach anxious people the steps they need to go through for them to have a silent mind;
- Recognising how the unconscious mind work
- Separating the unconscious voices from “Me”
- Learning interrupts that distract your focus on their messages
- Recognising what needs to change in your life
- Learning new ways to use emotions
- Learning how not to be emotionally hooked by others
- Learning a new way to talk to yourself
- Ways to reconnect with confidence, self-esteem and self-respect
- Learning ways to move forward rather than stay stuck
It’s not easy and it takes a lot of work and vigilance, however, it is possible when you work with an anxiety therapist who knows what they are doing.
Anxiety therapist Buckinghamshire & Northamptonshire
Give me a call on 01280 823059 and we can talk about your anxiety and the types of treatment and help that is possible. My office is in Buckingham, 20 minutes from Milton Keynes, 30 minutes from Aylesbury and Banbury and just an hour from North London and I can help you answer the question “Why is it I can’t stop thinking?”