My teenage daughter inspired an interesting realization this week about how not to attach to certain thoughts.
My daughter was in emotional distress, and being the good coach and mom that I strive to be, I couldn’t help but offer her some sound wisdom in an attempt to help her think about her situation differently.
Now, if any of you have a teenager, or if you can remember being one, I’m sure you know how quickly the advice given to you by your parents is usually dismissed. But not before being met with the often accompanying sarcasm and attitude that comes with it from the teenager’s end. And – Oh my! – when I came in with my advice, my daughter didn’t disappoint with her end of the deal! #eyeroll
And while it can be frustrating to go toe to toe with a teenage girl, I think we can actually take a page from our teenagers’ books here and benefit from applying some of this logic when we have a thought that does not serve us – glass half full, right?!
Many times, when I offer my teenager new thoughts to think about or new ways to consider her thoughts, she does not interact with these thoughts or ideas at all. She doesn’t entertain them, she quickly dismisses them, and sometimes she even talks back to them!
“Mom you don’t know what you are talking about,” for example. You know, when they stop listening less than halfway through because they know everything, right? To me, this is a great example of not attaching to thoughts.
Imagine applying the same logic to some of your negative thoughts:
- “I’ll never be able to establish myself as a business owner.” – Don’t interact with this idea. Think, “I have a great idea/gift/service to share with the world”, instead.
- “Everything would be better if I could lose 20 pounds.” – Quickly dismissing this thought could mean catching yourself halfway through and reminding yourself that YOU hold the power for improving your reality, AND losing that 20 pounds if you want to!
- “I’d love to write a book, but I’ll probably just quit before I finish.” – Talk back to this thought, and others like it, with your best teenager impression!
Let’s put this in perspective. As a reminder, we have on average, 60,000 thoughts per day! But not all of these thoughts have an impact on us, and we are in charge of which thoughts we allow to impact us! It is the thoughts that we attach to and start interacting with which bring up feelings inside of us, both good and/or bad. When we grab on to upsetting thoughts, for example, we feel upset. When we attach to more blissful thoughts, we feel happy.
So how do we learn to not attach to thoughts that lead to us feeling upset in some way?
You can witness a thought inside your mind and let it float by without pulling it in and interacting with it in any sort of way. You can also talk back to it by saying “that type of thinking will not serve me and isn’t worth entertaining”. Like a cloud, let it pass by.
In my daughter’s case, I sometimes wish she would attach to my thought suggestions that would lead to better feelings, rather than avoid entertaining alternative viewpoints altogether while continuing to be upset about it. However, in the reverse, I think it can be helpful to take a page from a teenager and talk back to thoughts that you know will lead to feeling upset.
Another tip: If you do find yourself engaging with thinking that brings you down, put it down and paper as soon as you realize it. Keep a list, not only of the thoughts themselves, but also of the negative feelings associated with them. Getting these thoughts out of our heads and onto paper sometimes makes it easier to realize what these thoughts are truly creating for you. You can even take it one step further and “talk-back” to your thoughts on paper, too!
You have my permission to avoid engaging with, dismiss, and talk back to ‘stinking thinking’ – just like a teenager who wants to do it her way.
If you struggle to let go of an unhealthy mindset in any way, I invite you to a mini session with me, because I surely won’t be attaching to these thoughts, and I won’t let you either!
Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S, is a licensed social worker, holding a Master’s Degree (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Spanish. After spending 2 decades helping others achieve their mental and personal goals, Melanie worked with Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo, and became a certified Life and Weight Coach through the Life Coach School.