It may sound a bit strange but we are addicted to our own minds; in particular, our very own thoughts and emotions.
This requires further explanation so here we go.
In India, there is a particularly clever way of catching monkeys. Hunters cut a hole in a coconut that is just big enough for a monkey to put its hand through. Then they drill two smaller holes in the other end, pass a wire through and secure the coconut to the base of a tree. Then they put a banana inside the coconut and hide. The monkey puts its hand in and takes hold of the banana. The hole is crafted so that the open hand can go in but the fist cannot get out. All the monkey has to do to be free is to let go of the banana. But it seems most monkeys do not let go...
Like these monkeys, our minds get us caught in the same way -- in spite of all our intelligence.
Thoughts are just thoughts. Emotions come and go. Both are fleeting. We are not our thoughts or our emotions. Understanding this reality, we can consciously choose to relate or not to relate to thoughts in a variety of ways that are not available to us before we become aware of this one simple but essential fact.
In my role as a therapist, I work with people to cultivate a sense of presence, acceptance and intentionality. This allows them to avoid expending time and energy - precious human resources - denying and resisting what IS already FACT...life, reality or the present moment.
Denying, resisting, forcing or struggling against the present moment, in any form, leaves one with very little energy for healing and growth. Your ego, or sense of who you are, can be summed up quite succinctly:
A negative relationship with the present moment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book, Full Catastrophe Living, writes about the following seven attitudes that lay the foundation of mindfulness:
3. Beginner's Mind or approaching each medication as if it were the first one
7. Letting Go
Most people who seek help for anxiety or some form of addiction have not learned to recognize their negative relationship with the present moment or they have difficulty tolerating being with their thoughts or emotions. These feelings of anxiety or addiction are there to avoid feeling overwhelmed by their thoughts and emotions. Psychotherapy is about helping someone learn to contain their thoughts and emotions, hear the messages those thoughts and emotions bring and decide whether to act on them in an adaptive way or let them go.
In the beginning, the therapist helps people feel safe with these unwanted thoughts and emotions, and at times acting as a container of them for the person seeking assistance. Our thoughts and emotions are not as deadly as we fear. Of course our behaviors can hurt us and others, but until we can get in touch with ourselves, our behaviors will only reflect and express this unease and disconnection.
Food for thought...Seeking a better understanding of yourself is what therapy is about. It may seem scary at first but when you find the right therapist, the journey can be quite freeing. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Please check out Jon Kabat-Zinn's 15th anniversary edition of Full Catastrophe Living (1990) .
For more information about Raquel Ornelas, LCSW, click here.
Originally published November 1, 2018