If you experience bouts of anxiety, worry and depression or you obsess with unproductive and painful thoughts because you’ve experienced trauma (e.g., PTSD), you’ll likely benefit by learning to cultivate and externalize your awareness. You may believe that suppressing what your mind tells you or replacing your mind’s stories with better thoughts or self-affirmations will lead you to live your life in alignment with your values. Long-term; however, trying to not to think about your mind’s many stories is not effective and very often increases your suffering.
Research suggests that instead of helping you to experience more vitality, attempting to control your mind and get rid of the many painful thoughts and emotions that you experience will actually increase your pain (i.e., the rebound effect).1 Rather than attempting to control your mind and attempting to suppress your painful private experiences, learn how to monitor your thoughts and simply notice the frequency, duration and situations in which they occur. It is both simple and effective as it will allow you to focus on creating a life of meaning and purpose.
To separate your actions from your unproductive private experiences and help you to get into your life, you can self-monitor by physicalizing each occurrence of a painful thought or feeling with a tally counter. Using this simple object will help you to interrupt any covert behavioral patterns that lead to your suffering, realign and proceed in the direction of what you value (e.g., being a loving parent, using your creativity in your work, helping other people in your community, being healthy in order to play with your children).
While at first this may lead you to experience more discomfort as you realize how your control strategies have been ineffective in eliminating your pain, over the long term you will create a rich and meaningful life that measures up to your life’s purpose as you continue to self-monitor, expand and externalize your awareness.
To your health and success,
To learn more about how working with a psychologist , holistic health coach, and personal trainer can help you to enhance your health and well-being, call or email Dr. Sandoval to schedule a free consultation.
- Abramowitz , JS, Tolin, DF and Street, GP. “Paradoxical effects of thought suppression: a meta-analysis of controlled studies.” (2001). Clinical Psychology Review, 21(5) 683-703.
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