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Detaching from a Thought

Updated: Jun 21



Ever had a thought that just won't leave you alone?


Chances are, yes.


If you're anything like the billions of other people on this planet, that persistent thought probably isn't, "Wow, I'm amazing."


In counseling school, we spend a ton of time diving into theories about the brain, body, trauma, and family and societal systems that contribute to unhelpful thoughts and maladaptive behaviors.


In Yoga, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras chime in on this stuff too.


The very first few lines of the Yoga Sutras set a precedent that thoughts - especially those that are repeated, indoctrinated, and unhelpful. They're like a wave pushing the boat but not the boat itself. Yoga it the process of anchoring into our true nature rather than getting carried away by the many thoughts that pop up in our minds.


Reknowned author, thought leader, and American Buddhist Monk Pema Chodron says, "You the sky. Everything else is the weather."


That idea can be frustrating even if it rings true.


But no matter how our minds get stuck on repeat, it can be super overwhelming.

Our brains, in their eagerness to keep us safe, tend to grab onto old explanations from past experiences and try to apply them to our current lives.


It's all good when things are predictable, like hearing a car horn and looking over your shoulder. But life isn't always that straightforward, and sometimes our thoughts end up being more confusing than helpful.


Struggling to make an idea go away makes it worse.


If I told you not to think of a Pineapple, a ripe fruit would seemingly begin to grow out of the top of your head.


Healthy Brains Don't have a Delete Button

Since our brains don't have a delete button we can't simply un-remember things.


And our brain and bodies really try hard to remember valueable information that keeps us safe. So what gets stored in there is in there, and if the pathway has been particularly well-worn, it's in there quite well. In fact that path might be so familiar that you take it when encountering all sorts of problems.


Emotional feeling from a neurochemical perspective starts to dissipate in 90 seconds.


What often remains is a loop (the story!)


Some thoughts are so familiar they can feel reflexive. Well, when those feelings keep coming back and start messing with our lives, it's a signal something's up - theres a tender spot there. Our emotions are a mix of physical reactions and how we habitually see things. Tough stuff in the past can be especially tender and our minds & bodies store the memory and remembering in an ill-attempt to keep us alert to future hurt.


You're having a decent day. You open your phone and scroll through the typically feed - some great, some garbage.


Then, you see and old friend, happy, wealthy, in love, with a great house and 2.5 children on social media. You immediately think "F*ck I'm all alone"


Then realize you had a bad thought you immediately think, "Dammit I'm a bad friend, I can't even be happy for them. That must be why I'm all alone."

And then, "Crap! I just made this all about me. I'm lonely and selfish."


No? You've never done that? Well I have, and it doesn't feel good.


Another option, which we will explore it this meditation is to acknowledge what that thought is - simply supercharged story that kind of makes you feel like crap.


"Oh! Here comes that lonely story again."


Notice the emotions and sensations that arise with it.


One of my Favorite Techniques to Detach from the Story

Acknowledging that there are thoughts - which are not me - and that I have feelings - which are not permanent - helps me reestablish autonomy.


I am me. I am sovereign in this body.

You are you. You are sovereign in yours.


We are humans, and humans come with thoughts and feelings.


When we get hooked, we can practice re-establishing our autonomy - our ME-ness that is not just the mess of thoughts in the mind.


This meditation is helpful when a not-so-helpful thought it on repeat. The steps are grounded in Yoga and psychological theory, and helpful as a tool for wellbeing. However this meditation and the many other mind & body techniques I offer are never a substitute for professional help. Help is always available and if are looking for resources NAMI.org is a great place to start. If you are in a crisis dial #988 or #911.


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