It’s all nice and dandy to say that our thoughts may not be true and that we get to choose what we think…
But sometimes you don’t even realize what you’re thinking, until hours or days or even weeks have gone by with that “I’m overwhelmed” race-horse galloping around your head.
(Or, it may not be overwhelm that the thought is centered around, but, “I’ll never be able to do it” or “This is too much for me” or “I’m not a good mother” or “This is selfish” or anything else that seems true… but isn’t necessarily so.)
So how are you supposed to realize when one of those thoughts is coming up?
What do you feel in your body?
Take a minute to close your eyes and scan your body for any discomfort or tension.
If you don’t feel anything, that’s normal; most of us are used to ignoring our body’s cues, and we don’t necessarily feel anything without consciously noting it.
Here are some places that are common to feel tension:
Do you feel any tension there?
Sometimes you may feel an icky feeling in the pit of your stomach, or you might notice your heart rate accelerating, your limbs trembling or your palms/body getting sweaty.
Notice those signs that your body is giving you.
Thoughts → Feelings
Thoughts don’t just come into your brain and stop there. Oh, no. Our thoughts - at least the ones that we grab onto and are believing - turn into feelings.
Those feelings might be tangible emotions (happiness, sadness, overwhelm, frustration, calm, worry, fear, contentment, etc.) coupled with a physical feeling, or it may be simply that physical sensation in your body.
Noticing those feelings in your body, can help you trace your feelings (physical) to a feeling (emotional) to a thought.
And that allows you to challenge that thought.
After watching baby Tali become more and more dependent on her pacifier, and seeing clearly that it was keeping her naps at only 45 minutes long, Racheli decided it was time to go ahead with pulling her pacifier.
Tali was 7 weeks old, and she was already practicing independent sleep sometimes, but now, we moved full tilt to always.
After a week of paci-free sleep, Tali was doing… okay. She was kind of doing better falling asleep independently - it wasn’t taking that long, and she didn’t always need to be soothed* - but… it was still hard.
Every time Racheli was putting her to sleep, she felt so uncomfortable about it. “If my mother or sisters knew that I was weaning her off of the paci to help her sleep well, they would think I’m crazy.” She told me. “Cruel is kind of the wrong word, but even though I know that this is the best thing for him to be able to sleep well - because he’s NOT well-rested when he only has a 45 minute nap - but it’s so hard to watch him struggle to fall asleep when I could just put the paci in and he would fall asleep so easily.
“It’s not that he’s crying, but before, he had this yummy delicious look on his face as he drifted off… and now it feels like he’s resisting it.”
Racheli was feeling resistance toward pulling the pacifier, and even though, logically, she knew that it was the best thing for Tali, she just didn't feel good about it.
When we discussed it, I noted to her that she was trying to fight emotion with logic - never a successful battle.
Instead, we took the time to get to the root of what that thought was that was bringing up this emotional and physical discomfort.
And at the root of it was a thought that she should be giving her newborn every comfort possible… which means that she’s not a good mother.
While that thought felt very real and true at the time, Racheli didn’t even realize at first that the thought was even there; it just showed up as discomfort and resistance toward the paci-pulling-procedure -- even though she was “technically” following through with our plan.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: When I work with my clients on independent sleep for newborns, there are a lot of important pieces of play to make it successful. But the two most important things are:
1. Making sure baby does not become hysterical
2. ALWAYS soothing baby until calm when she’s crying (which is related to #1, but #1 can sometimes happen when baby is not set up for success, and doesn’t have what she needs to calm down, even when soothed.)
DO NOT SLEEP TRAIN YOUR NEWBORN. Just making sure that no one gets the wrong impression from this anecdote.
No judgment, please!
The most important thing to keep in mind, however, is that thoughts are just thoughts. They’re not good. They’re not bad. Thinking one thing or another doesn’t mean that you’re any better or worse of a person.
All the thought is is simply that: a thought.
When you notice a thought that’s causing physical and emotional discomfort, that just means that your body was holding onto it; that you (unquestioningly) believed it.
But if that’s the case, it’s likely a long-practiced thought pattern, and one that is entirely subconscious. While it’s turned into something for your body, it doesn’t necessarily mean something about you.
When noticing that a thought comes up, just notice it. Not in a “Uch I’m such a horrible person; I can’t believe I was believing that!” kind of way; but in a “Hm. Interesting. There is that thought.” kind of way: curious, not judgmental.
I wonder what you’ll discover.
Let me know in the comments below!