I often smile at signs that tell the public what not to do, for example ‘don’t walk on the grass.’ They conjure up images of doing exactly what they ask us to avoid, because that’s the way our minds work. Check this out by deliberately not thinking about a purple elephant. What happens? So often we seem to try and think in negatives when our mind actually finds this challenging to do.
Clients often come to therapy wanting to stop feeling depressed or anxious, or to stop worrying or grieving. This instinctive wish to avoid discomfort is very natural, and can be powerful. The problem with this kind of goal is that it doesn’t contain a clear idea of what we want to move towards, and that can really get in the way of making progress.
Our mind contains unconscious filters that determine what information we notice, and what passes us by. This is why when you decide to move house you suddenly see for sale signs everywhere, or when you are hungry you notice food outlets that you had not previously spotted.
Having a clear idea of what you want sets up the filters in your mind to help you move forwards. Stating the change you seek positively is important to kick start personal change. You might ask yourself, if you were not feeling low, how would you feel instead? If you don’t want to be angry, how would you rather be? When you name the positives that you seek, your whole mind/body system can begin to align behind them; you really do move towards what we think about.
Spending time pondering how you want things to be, particularly those things that are within your control or influence is an important first step in creating the changes we want. Mind-maps, graphics and models are all ways of beginning to capture a sense of what we want and need. You can often do this alone, and it can really raise your energy levels.
When a clear sense of the future is evading you, psychotherapy can help to explore your experience in the here and now, and to close the gap between what is happening now in your emotions and thoughts, and what would be more fulfilling and beneficial for you.
What do you want to have happen this week?
Article first published by me on www.counselling-directory.org.uk on 7th April 2016.