It's not just your thoughts
There’s a teaching in self-help that says thoughts arise in response to your circumstances, which then in turn inform your emotions, actions, and outcomes.
The idea is that if you simply change your thoughts, your outcomes will change.
Don’t get me wrong, learning that everything you think is not necessarily true is life-altering and has its place. But there’s more to it — more to us — than our minds.
If humans were purely thinking machines that could take on new thoughts without considering enculturation, trauma, the impact of negative circumstances, and our own emotions and nervous systems, then this mental approach would work great. But just look at us! We are walking, talking miracles. We are complex, so getting whole requires a holistic approach.
Take me. I’ve had big money fears my entire adult life. Whether I’ve had a lot of money or not much, the fear was always present. I tried for years to shift my painful thoughts, but those money fears would always slither back out from the darkness of my psyche.
I felt ashamed and so I kept my money fears under wraps because I wanted you to see me as someone who has it all together. Meanwhile, money fears swirled as intrusive thoughts in my mind, spinning sinister stories of not enough. I felt a constant, underlying state of anxiety.
I went to therapy. Lots of therapy. I learned that I came by my money-as-survival anxiety honestly. It made sense because I’d had to grow up quickly and assume adult responsibilities in my late teens. In my mind, money became the symbol of feeling secure. I shared my deepest fears and feelings with my therapist and loved ones. Shame wanted me to keep secrets, but I wanted to be free more than I wanted to look good.
Working with psychedelics brought home how tense and in my head I was, like a disembodied head constantly bracing against life. Little by little, I learned how to relax in my body. When I stopped trying to feel okay by fixing my external world and instead attended to my internal world, the intrusive thoughts were minimized and my outlook brightened.
Instead of battling my anxiety every time it came up, I practiced being with it. I observed that many times my anxiety arose without any thought at all. I would feel that uncomfortable buzzy feeling of my nervous system activating, then the intrusive thoughts would come. The sequence was feeling --> thought, not thought --> feeling.
I learned non-linear ways of thinking about our humanness; that we are an interwoven constellation of mind, body, heart, and spirit. True healing must address all these aspects of us. For me, I had to address the underlying reasons why my body-mind was stuck in survival mode.
I got honest about my wants, needs, and boundaries. I started trusting my intuition and discernment. I cultivated faith in the divine and trust in myself.
As a result of this healing work, new thoughts started organically arising out of my calmer body. Now, I stay engaged with life rather than withdrawing when I think it’s not going my way. I know that things will turn around because the wheel of life always turns. I trust in my ability to take care of myself, and also receive others’ care. I’m honest with myself about my finances, both light and shadow. I’m able to share this story with you because I no longer feel ashamed for being human. (Most of the time.)
I wish it was as simple as finding a new thought. But our anxieties are the cries for healing from the younger parts of ourselves. The siren song of simple fixes keeps us on the hamster wheel of anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
The good news is that there are so many ways to heal. So many ways to meet yourself with compassion. So many ways to find a new way.
I help people get clarity and create momentum in their lives. Whether it's their work-life, relationships, life stage, or building their business, people usually come to me because they're at a crossroads and are unsure how to proceed.
If you're reading this and leaning in, let's chat.
Just grab me for a free 30-minute consult. No pressure, promise.