(Sometimes I feel like a broken record, because I kind of say the same thing over and over again, just in different words and different ways. But maybe that’s kind of the point, because what we internalize and truly know in one moment, we doubt and don’t believe in another moment. So maybe the point is to keep saying it, over and over again, because each moment we capitalize on our truth is a moment that the truth solidifies more and more in our cores.)
I have been noticing lately (again) how the automatic thoughts that were such a part of my life for so long continue to linger. I have been empowered lately (again) that I have the choice to act on them or not.
One of the best, most freeing truths I ever came to internalize, was:
What matters is my reactions to the thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.
Today, I felt embarrassed about the way I handled a conversation. I perceived myself as sounding incompetent, immature, and annoying. (And maybe I did sound that way, or maybe I didn’t, all the ruminating in the world won’t send me inside the other person’s head to know how she perceived me. It would be up to her to tell me – not my job to guess.) And it fascinated me how quickly after I heard the thoughts in my brain:
I am going to the gym right when I get home.
I am going for a run even though it’s hot.
I’m not going to eat dinner.
I no longer panic about those thoughts, though I don’t love them. But I’ve come to realize that my brain is wired this way. Maybe it’s genetic, maybe it’s neurological, maybe it’s synapses that were created in middle school and high school and college and still exist to this day. But also? Maybe it doesn’t matter why the thoughts come. Maybe (definitely) what matters is how I choose to react. And there’s nothing more empowering than that – knowing I have a choice.
I’m home right now. I’m sitting on my couch. I had a snack because working outside all day left me shaky and dehydrated. The air conditioning is on. I’m writing. I will eat dinner tonight. I don’t have the energy for the gym, so I won’t go tonight. I might go for a walk later if I want to gently, slowly stretch out my body. I will not harm myself. I will be gentle and kind.
Years ago? I didn’t have that separation between thoughts and actions. A thought was acted on, because there was no other option. But that’s no longer the case. And the presence of thoughts doesn’t erase years of progress, years of moving forward. It doesn’t mean failure and it doesn’t mean regression or relapse. The presence of thoughts means nothing except just that….that there are thoughts in my brain. (And? If I do or did act on the thoughts? That also doesn’t erase years of progress, moving forward, or mean failure. It means that all of us, myself included, are human. And perfection doesn’t exist. And that’s just life. And okay. And real.)
And so now I know.
I can notice the thoughts. Listen to them. Acknowledge them.
And gently send them away.