What we focus our awareness on is what we react and respond to. Anything. The cold of the morning breeze. The bugs in the air. The rain. Our mind is always reacting to something. Have you noticed?
Have you also noticed that sometimes things will remind you of a past occurrence? Rain can remind you of how forgetful you have been on past occasions- Forgetting an umbrella on a rainy day can bring up other similar incidents. Nevermind all of the times you’ve proved yourself to have a good memory, these particular memories stand out and can reinforce the false belief.
We came from a line of ancestors who needed to remember the mistakes we made in detail so we could avoid fatal danger. This is a process that really isn’t as necessary as it once was and comes at the cost of minimizing the memories of good things we’ve done. We don’t need to bring awareness to a mistake and relive it so that we don’t die from something we had previously experienced anymore. Forgetting something likely isn’t going to end you. However, this does give us the opportunity to explore our ability to mindfully choose what we think and the story we tell ourselves.
What do I do when my awareness is stuck on a false belief? I tend to lose connection to my body (I literally feel like only thoughts and “out of body”) so I try to reconnect to sensations and calm, process the racing thoughts and emotions, and gently get curious and redirect my thinking. If I feel safe enough, I do this by:
Breathing deep. Mindfully and into the low-abdomen.
Feeling within myself. Noticing the body and all of the feelings and sensations without judgement. Everything happening just is. A body scan starting at the feet and working to the head can be helpful.
Choosing my next best thoughts. I like scripting things like “I see that I am replaying this mistake over and over again. Is it helpful? Is it trying to tell me something? How can I best honour these thoughts? Is there a story I’m telling myself about myself pertaining to these thoughts?”
Feeling some more. Are there physical sensations that come up? Where? Is there anything that happens when I focus in on the sensation with my awareness and compassion? Is there change as I focus? Usually the physical sensations go away or change into something else.
I repeat this process until I feel myself shift out of the intense rut. My breathing slows, my body relaxes, and my mind is able to process sensory stimulus from my body and the room around me again. I am able to feel into myself in an empowered and connected way and take the next best steps.
This takes practice. There is so much that I feel is out of my control and my thoughts can be one of them. Developing the ability to turn my awareness towards my discomforts and feelings in a curious and compassionate way is a skill that helps me resolve feelings more thoroughly than simply squishing them away. For me, discomfort can feel fatal so I will sometimes avoid feeling at all. It didn’t feel safe to make mistakes and feel uncomfortable growing up, but now I know and am slowly teaching my body that it is necessary in order to grow and learn. Neural plasticity is an amazing thing. I am more than my mistakes and I am able to bring awareness back to my thoughts and beliefs and question whether they are messengers or worth maintaining.
It can be so hard to reign-in looping false beliefs, but with awareness and practice it can be something that can yield so much growth. Just knowing that our human tendency is to remember mistakes can help us gain perspective. This practice has helped me so much in working though my anxiety and I am grateful that I have a way to move forward.