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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

Handling Unwanted Thoughts

It often amuses me how lessons about life can come from the most random places or how something intended to have one meaning can be extrapolated to have another far more useful, and beneficial one. The strategy I am going to share with you in this post came from a comedy show, hence the photo of ‘The Goldbergs’.

I am not a big watcher of television. I was for many years and before I started practicing Mindfulness I filled my free hours with television, and in my case, often to distract me from the things I didn’t want to deal with or address. Now, I mostly watch television as a shared experience with my husband, we choose what to watch together and I only watch the things that interest me or purely for some light-hearted entertainment. The Goldbergs is one of these choices, mostly because it reminds me of my childhood in the 80s and it makes me laugh.

For those who haven’t seen it you can find out more about it here but in a nutshell it is about a family in the 80s with an overbearing, helicopter ‘smother’, a father who just wants to watch tv in his underpants, 3 children, one of whom narrates the story as an adult and is fixated with movies and making films. The last character is the cool grandad, ‘Pops’ and it is from him that the following pearl of wisdom comes.

In one of the episodes, Beverley, the mother, or ‘smother’, is passive-aggressively manipulating her children in to doing things by making them feel guilty. This ongoing ‘guilt tripping’ is getting Barry and Erica Goldberg down until Pops teaches them a strategy to avoid the guilt, he uses the phrase ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. Now, obviously in this context the strategy was to be used to avoid manipulation, but it got me thinking about how I could use it when it came to my thoughts and my worries.

For those of you who have ever experienced worry or anxiety, you will know that the over-thinking about events that have yet to happen or which you feel you have no control over cause a myriad of problems, including sleepless nights, changes in appetite, headaches, heart palpitations, IBS and much more. The feelings of helplessness, or fear of things going wrong, can be overwhelming. I know, I dealt with all of those things, and more, for years. The reality is that the main cause of our worry and anxiety, is our thinking about the problem and our inability to take action to resolve it. The reason I love Mindfulness so much is because it draws attention to this fact and pushes you to make changes in the present moment that will have an influence on future outcomes. However, sometimes the only action we can, or need to, take is to stop the thinking and this is where the Goldbergs comes in.

Since watching the episode with Pops’, ‘Its Not Real, Don’t Feel’ strategy I have adopted it as a mantra when I find I am thinking about things that haven’t happened, might never happen or that are causing me to feel bad unnecessarily. As soon as I notice what I am doing I say to myself ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. The problem with our thinking, especially when it is faulty is that we believe our thoughts to be true. We believe we are who we think we are and not someone who has been created through programming, our environment and a series of habits. We believe that we are sure about what other people think of us, especially when it is the bad stuff, and we are certain that what we imagine they will do, or how they will react is correct. The truth is, much of what we imagine will happen, never does because when it comes to our thoughts, ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’.

The practice of Mindfulness is about learning to let go and deal with what is happening in the present moment rather than drifting into thoughts of the past or future. Sometimes this can be a challenge as it can take time to notice what you are thinking, but also, even if you do, breaking the habit of thinking can be difficult which is why having a new habit, and a new mantra to repeat in your mind, can stop your thinking in it’s tracks, ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. We can’t stop our thoughts but can redirect our thinking to new and better thoughts and if nothing else this mantra will make you laugh, as it does me, every time I say it.

Thanks for reading, if I can help you in anyway, get in touch, 00353868373582.

I hope our paths cross again in future,

Elfreda (Mindfulness Instructor and The Goldbergs viewer, amongst other things).

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