One of the key elements to breaking free from the grip of intrusive thoughts and, thus, the stronghold of relationship anxiety, is to learn how to stop feeding the thoughts. This is not an easy task. In fact, as anyone who works in the inner realms well knows, learning to work with one’s thoughts is one of the greatest challenges of being human, especially for those who fall on the anxious-sensitive-creative spectrum. But I also know, from working with clients and course members for many years, that it is entirely possibility to break free from the mental addictions that plague the anxious soul.
Whatever we water will grow, and whatever we stop watering will eventually wither and die. Intrusive thoughts are weeds in the garden of your mind. If you want to break free of them, you need to learn how to water the flowers and stop watering the weeds.
Like the shadow characters in fairy tales and mythic quests, the thoughts are like demons that vie for our attention. If you feed the demon, you’re sunk, dead in the water, and are perpetually beholden to do the demon’s bidding. In other words, the cardinal rule of encountering a dark character in the underworld is do not share food, for once you accept the offer of food (the apple, for example, in Snow White), you are forever bound to that person. The cardinal rule of effectively breaking free from the addiction of intrusive thoughts is this same: do not feed the thought.
There are many ways to feed the thoughts. These are the most common:
- Talking about the thoughts (seeking reassurance)
- Journaling about the thoughts (journaling can be a powerful tool if it’s used correctly, but if you’re journaling about the thoughts themselves, or any sneaky subsets of the primary thoughts, you will remain trapped).
- Meditating (like journaling, meditating can be used as a way to break free from mental traps or as a way to reinforce the thoughts by trying to escape from them).
When I work with clients, I often have some version of the following conversation:
“What tool are you using on a daily basis to work with these thoughts?” [journaling, meditating, yoga, breathwork, just to name a few]
“Well, I journal a lot. I have reams of notebooks filled with my journaling. But I often find that journaling makes it worse.”
“What are you journaling about?”
“The thoughts. My latest focus, whatever that may be [physical attraction, intellectual attraction, social attraction, should I stay or should I go? are we right for each other?]
“So you’re journaling about the thoughts themselves. Whatever you water will grow. If you journal about the thoughts, the thoughts will grow. But if you resist the compelling impulse to indulge in the thoughts and instead ask, ‘What is needed? How am I off-kilter inside?’, you will start to break free.”
Every time you feed the demon in any way, the demon grows larger and more powerful. The work, over and over again, is to acknowledge the thought, and then ask, “What is this thought protecting me from feeling? How would I be spending my time and energy if I weren’t obsessing on this thought?” Like all facets of anxiety, intrusive thoughts occupy inordinate amounts of space in our inner realms. When you find the courage and strength to break free, you release that trapped energy and find that life, instead of something to fear, is a gift to behold.
For a complete training on breaking free from intrusive thoughts, whether or not you’re suffering from relationship anxiety, please consider my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety E-Course.