A Thought is Just a Thought

One of the most debilitating topics that my clients struggle with is that they have difficulty distinguishing between the truth and the thoughts that their fear-based minds shoot into their heads. For example, a client wrote to me last week and said that every time she’s about to tell her fiance that she loves him, a voice interrupts her that says, “You don’t really love him.” With her wedding on the horizon, this is understandably a distressing thought to have several times a day, and it’s left her, of course, wondering if it’s true. It’s not true. She loves her fiance. He – like almost every fiance I hear about – is loving, kind, honest, responsible, and loves her completely. He’ll make a wonderful husband and a good father. So why the thought?

Love is scary. Transitions are scary. Our minds, which are full of fear, will shoot little fear-dipped arrows in the form of thoughts so that we’ll run for the hills and distance ourselves from the intimacy and vulnerability activated by transitions. The fear-based thought is then amplified by the attention we give it. It stops us in our tracks and causes us to ask, “Is that the truth? Do I really not love my partner?” It’s a daily practice managing these thoughts so that they don’t snowball into a mass of panic and anxiety. Journaling and dialoguing should be occurring every day if there’s any hope of booting the fear out of the driver’s seat.

Here’s another example of the way fear rears its head: I worked with a Conscious Motherhood client a few years ago who shared with me that almost every time she sat down to nurse her baby, the thought popped into her head, “I hate her.” Her shame about it was so strong she could barely utter the words to me. She was befuddled and distressed by this, especially given that she was deeply in love with her baby. But as we talked, it became clear that what she really meant was, “I hate THIS”, meaning she hated the vulnerability of new motherhood, she hated being sleep deprived, she hated feeling so scared and uncertain most of time. She didn’t hate her baby at all; her baby became the target of her projection, and once she unraveled the projection to its core, the sentence stopped popping into her head.

It’s easy to believe our thoughts. It’s easy to second-guess ourselves, especially when we’re in transition and on the precipice or the midst of a life-altering change. It’s easy, especially in our psychotherapeutically-oriented culture to think, “Was that thought coming from my unconscious? Are these thoughts pointing to my true feelings?” Rarely have I ever seen that to be the case, and when it is, it’s substantiated by real issues in real life (as opposed to the issues we create in our minds when we believe our fear-based thoughts).

Transitions always present opportunities for growth. For many people, the area of growth centers around working with their thoughts, perhaps for the first time in their lives. It’s a worthy practice and one, when worked with consciously and effectively, will serve you for the rest of your life.

22 comments to A Thought is Just a Thought

  • Belinda

    LOVE this post

  • Adrienne

    This post is extremely helpful. “Unwanted thoughts” caused by fear are probably what I struggle with most.

  • [...] A thought is just a thought and a fantasy is just a fantasy. It’s okay to spend time in the fantasy realm and imagine what life would have been if… but rarely are we meant to follow these fantasies into fruition. Transitions activate old losses for the purpose of grieving the areas that need to be released. When we misinterpret their presence and give them unnecessary anxious energy, we impede the letting go that needs to occur. But when we simply allow them the space to exist and watch them curiosity, the grief can move through us and help us accept the life that we’re choosing to live. [...]

  • Janelle

    Well…4 days until my wedding…any last minute tips on how to stay conscious and not freak out?? This website has been extremely helpful during my engagement and I just want to make sure I do my best to enjoy my wedding and honeymoon!

  • 1. Allow yourself to feel whatever arises. Especially on your wedding day, the key to staying in your body is to embrace the loss, grief, sadness, loneliness – to really feel those feelings and not worry about ruining your make-up, for example – so that you make room for the joy, excitement, celebration, etc.

    2. Make sure you find time to just BE. Things can get crazy and full in these final days, but it’s more important than ever that you take time to slow down and STOP, come into yourself and your emotional body, and journal. Find stillness however you find stillness. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Cry.

    3. Stay connected to your fiance. Consciously focus on what’s good and positive about him and your relationship. Write him a love letter that you send or not.

    Keep us posted!

  • Roxanne

    I have been coming to this site for almost 2 yrs. I found it when I became engaged and came here often to remind myself that is was “OK” and “normal” to be experiencing negative feelings. Unfortunately, I’ve also done a good job of hiding and supressing the negative thoughts that seem to come out of no where when things are going along just fine. I say “unfortunately” because I don’t think I have done enough work to rid myself of the negative feelings. I am at the point where I have read the “thought is just a thought” article so many times that I can almost recite it verbatum. I now need the tools to know what to do next….acknowledging the feelings as normal and ok are not enough for me anymore. For some reason, my anxiety has been extremely high lately –I think the trigger may be that our one year anniversary just came and went a few weeks ago and in addition, we are thinking about starting a family and here come the “fear thoughts.” Are you sure you love him enough to start a family? God forbid something should happen and you have a child together..then what? But I know I love my husband and we will make an excellent mother/father team…but when the thoughts come on they are so strong it’s almost as if I forget about all of the positive things. I’ve been good at thinking my way out of the thought and pushing them back down…but I don’t think that is enough anymore. I want them to never come back and if they do rear their ugly head–what can I do to make it a little more tolerable? I hate the feelings and in turn, they make me feel guilty for thinking them. Why would I ever think I don’t love my husband? Well, my fear based thoughts sure seem to think that’s true…even though I know they’re not. Sometimes I feel like I am having a battle inside my own head..I’m really tired of it!

    Sorry for such a long post–I had no intention of writing this much–it kind of just bubbled out. I need a release I suppose.

    Thank you for this site–it does provide hope and relief.

  • admin

    Roxanne – This is an excellent question and I have a lot to say, so I’ll write a blog on it in the next couple of days. This is where transition work becomes more long-term spiritual work.

  • Roxanne

    Thank you so much Sheryl, I would really appreciate any additional help.

  • [...] response to Roxanne’s comment to my “A Thought is Just A Thought” post, I’d like to offer a more detailed approach for working with negative or unwanted [...]

  • Chilean chick

    was this meee?

    • admin

      It could have been, or it could have been any of my clients who wrote with the same thought. Just goes to show how common it is… : )

  • Erin

    I am so glad that I found this website. I seriously thought that I was the only one going through this before getting married, but I now realize that this is just part of the process. For years I have struggled with anxiety and have tended to always fight it or run away from it. However, after finding your book and this website, I now realize that allowing myself to feel the anxious and any other feelings that arise put me back into control. Thank you so much for bringing all of this to light!

    • I’m so glad you found your way here. Yes, learning how to manage the anxiety in a way that works for you is the key. Be sure to check out the Conscious Weddings eCourse: From Anxiety to Serenity for a treasure trove of information, tools, techniques and, perhaps best of all, a support system of other women.

  • Marisa

    It is remarkable to find a place on the web full of wonderful people who seem to be having the very same experiences I am. I have been struggling with intense anxiety for years and have quelled the intense feelings of fear and sadness with fine prescription medicine. While it has had an important role in my life, and I thank God for the relief it brought be in the past, I have come off of it again in order to try to have a baby. The combination of this intense idea (having a baby) and feeling those extreme feelings have made me realize that I can no longer drown whatever I am feeling, and must embrace them. This is no small task, and I struggle every day. But I am still here, breathing, so I choose to believe that the other side of this will be where I am meant to be. Thank you all for being an amazing community.

  • [...] and attend to them daily (if not hourly). But we had not comprehended a disproportion between feelings that were combined by my thoughts that afterwards combined large amounts of stress and feelings that were a response to a healthy [...]

  • [...] and attend to them daily (if not hourly). But I had not comprehended the difference between feelings that were created by my thoughts which then created massive amounts of anxiety and feelings that were a response to the natural [...]

  • A mom who needs help!

    Hi Sheryl I am a new mother to a beautiful 5 month old boy who is the joy of my life. Since he’s been born ive been suffering from intrusive negative thoughts about my baby and they have now also shifted towards my partner. I have replied to another anxiety post of yours before do you may remember my story. I have been working through your amazing website for about 4 months now which has helped me more then I could explain. However the thoughts still arise and although they are not as bad as they used to be they really bring me down. I spend most of my time researching how I can control these thoughts and I feel like they are taking over my life. My after birth care provider recommends that I go on an anti depressant but I really am opposed to that because I am breast feeding. I feel very lost as to what to do as I just want my head to feel somewhat clear again so that I can enjoy motherhood without feeling guilty for these horrible irrational furtherst from the truth thoughts. I was wondering what your thoughts on ant depressants are as I have a feeling it would just be suppressing my anxiety?

  • Michelle Baldwin

    I have ocd unfortunately and I also have a recurring issue with my boyfriend. Not to sound shallow but this is the issue I have. I sometimes think my boyfriend looks good and sometimes I think he doesn’t. That *sounds* normal but this isn’t a issue I had with other guys. I became less attracted to a ex of mine after years of being with him, and I started wondering if I wanted to be with him and I kept getting feelings for other guys. I also wasn’t initially attracted to my last ex but after I became attracted, that was it and I developed strong feelings for him then. I wasn’t sure if I completely loved him but I didn’t have the attraction issue that I have with my current boyfriend after I became attracted to him. Anyway, when I am not attracted to my boyfriend and am thinking he doesnt look good, it bothers me and I can wonder if I love him. This keeps happening and I know my choices are to try to learn to live with/deal with it or leave. He is a good guy though, and I don’t want to go back to possibly getting hurt again as I was a lot before in the dating world. I dont wanna stay for wrong reasons,though. Including that we live together and I dont really have anywhere else I wanna go right now and I am broke right now. Anyway, I wrote too much. Sorry for the novel.