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.