The Mindful Approach to Painful Thoughts and Emotions

The Mindful Approach to Painful Thoughts and Emotions

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Are you trying to think painful emotions away?

Life is painful. To deal with whatever painful card we’re dealt, we try to make sense of the unpleasant emotions surrounding it. However, this natural reaction to pain may not always be a good thing.

That’s because it is often our thoughts that are causing the distress itself.

Remember when I told you about “autopilot thinking?” (For those of you who missed that post, autopilot is when the mind gets stuck-replaying the past, future, or something in between.)

We are most likely to get stuck in autopilot thinking patterns when we are experiencing painful emotions. Because of this, we tend to get carried away by our thoughts.

It’s like standing too close to a river and falling in. We get swept away by the current and all sense of perspective is lost.

Our minds try to generate thoughts to fill in gaps in our knowledge-thoughts that may not always represent reality.

Think about the last time a friend or loved one seemed upset with you and you didn’t take the time to find out what was really going on. You may have spent minutes or hours generating scenarios.

“What did I do wrong?” “I’ll bet he/she is mad because…”

These scenarios may feel real, but are they? All that this ruminating does is make us feel bad – often for no reason or for a reason that is filled with a distorted view of reality.

So what do we do about this human fault?

We learn to have a different relationship with painful thoughts and emotions. A relationship in which we simply observe them through mindfulness itself.

In truth, thoughts are just thoughts, right? Thoughts provide a mechanism to think about who we are, but they are not our essence. And they are definitely not always truthful.

By mindfully observing painful thoughts, we learn to simply read the menu without ordering the food. We know what’s there, but we don’t attach to it.

In doing this, we can be fully present with whatever thoughts we are experiencing so that they can arise-and then pass.

Replaying the pain over and over won’t solve your problem. Often times, it just makes it worse. So why not try the mindful approach?

As always, I’d love to hear your comments.

To your mindfulness,

Dr. Marchand


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