“If what you are feeling doesn't make you feel better, change the feeling. Talk to your brain. Talk to your heart. Talk to the cloud of funk that is lurking around. No! You are not going to lure me into feeling bad. No! You are not going to convince me that I have to be angry! I am going to think good thoughts no matter what. Try responding to a negative feeling once or twice in this way and watch how fast it will leave you alone.” Iyanla Vanzant.
Many times in my life, the particular practice Iyanla is referring to has rescued me from some seriously awful moments. It’s quite simply the act of telling oneself a different story in the moment. We are such good story tellers and so often the stories we tell are not true, not good, and even detrimental to our wellbeing and peace of mind.
This technique is recognized within the therapy community as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. It works on the premise that changing the thoughts we think can ultimately change our life, because our thoughts affect our feelings, which determine our behavior.
The CBT triangle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors works in reverse too. Behaviors can cause us to feel a certain way and then we end up assigning thoughts to the feelings which become a label for the experience. These labels end up creating the narrative for our life. Our narratives reinforce the whole experience, affirming stuff we feel, think, and do; without us even fully realizing.
As humans, we are already practicing CBT because it is a function of the human condition. The question is whether or not one is doing so with a deeper conscious awareness. Unless we become good at being the observer of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we will remain a victim of this process, bound to the story we tell, and victim to the experiences we have.
“A belief is just a thought you keep thinking.”
I love this quote from Esther Hicks because here we can reduce the power of beliefs in such a way that reminds us that we are not hostage to the beliefs that stem from persistent thoughts. Because we have the power to observe and change our thinking, we have the ability then to become free of the story.
Last year was a major growing year for me. In some of my darkest days, when I felt most alone and most scared, I would catch myself in a negative, sad, or angry thought process and right then and there I would say something completely opposite to snap myself out of the feeling. When I woke up, the first thought/feeling that came to my mind was,“OMG I can’t do this!”
“This” being a huge academic paper I had to finish writing, on top of working three jobs, and being a mom living in my own home for the first time in my life and struggling to support us.
The thought/feeling would be so terrifyingly potent that my chest would tighten up and I would be totally gripped by the feeling of fear.
By turning to the practice of CBT over and over again, it became my habit to change those scary thoughts right around. I would immediately correct the thought and say something either out loud or in my mind like, “You’ve got this! You are amazing and always do such a great job!” I would do positive self talk for as long as was necessary to begin feeling different.
The fear that had gripped me only moments before would eventually subside and a new feeling of “ok-ness” would wash over me and I’d then have the courage to get out of bed and begin facing the day ahead.
Over the last year, I have gotten more involved in Shadow Work which is essentially facing the darkness that bubbles up in one's thoughts, feelings, and sometimes behaviors, and then addressing them head-on for ultimate growth and development. In order to do this I have to feel very grounded and safe, because as you can imagine, some of the darkness is paralyzingly scary.
This process is messy, emotional, disorganized, long-lasting, and painful. Some of it has its origins in childhood or past trauma. Because of all these characteristics and more, my shadow work is tucked safely in a box that I can take out and put away for when I’m ready. It requires a lot of time, energy, patience, and courage.
Sometimes, though, the feelings or thoughts that come up are too overwhelming or scary to do this practice, so my go-to is just automatic correction of thoughts, or rather affirming who I know I truly am inside. I don’t even care if what I'm saying feels like the furthest thing to the truth. Because when life gets overwhelming or super scary, this practice works. I’ll do anything I need to gain back a sense of peace.
Thought correcting can sound a little crazy and some argue that it is a suppression of authenticity. But again, I think sometimes when the force is so strong against us, we have to do it this way to really jolt us out of something for our own protection.
When I’m feeling stronger and more secure and safe- that’s when I feel like I can wade around the shallow end and maybe even swim to the deeper parts to come face to face with the dark. But just as it’s important to stay on top of the regular duties in life, like cleaning house; you have to stay on top of shadow work. This means you must do everything in your power to create a safe and secure environment so that you can face, process, and heal through the stuff.
Our shadow work can be really hard and sometimes super scary, especially when we don’t even know from where or what depths the pain is coming from.
Why the fuck am I sad today. Why the fuck am I angry right now. Why the fuck do I feel like I want to punch this person in the throat. Why the fuck am I always so goddamn negative. Why the fuck do I push people away and then grieve the loss of their presence. Why the fuck am I unhappy with my life when it was my choices that got me here.
Unfortunately, solid answers don’t always exist for this messy experience we call life. All we can do is just keep trying to find new ways of coping, adapting, and adjusting to the complexities of human emotion and experience and find time and space in between the hard stuff to have fun, create, express, and enjoy.
I haven’t found anything more tangible than working with my thought, feelings, and behaviors to help me continue to move through life with any amount of success. It takes a willingness to be honest with yourself. You get to practice a deeper process of self-love where you get to work on self- trust, compassion, and understanding.
Going back to what Iyanla said…. You do have the power to change your thoughts because you are a powerful and magical being. Trust in the alchemy of positive thoughts producing positive feelings that influence positive behavior. You highest self will thank you for all the hard work you put into making this practice a daily habit of self-love.
Grow In Self-Love.
Article by Morgan Leigh Turner. Morgan is a Self-Love Coach with a masters degree in Trauma-Informed Social Work. Her life-experience and mentorship by a Spiritual Healing Practitioner prepared her to believe that healing is possible in all capacity. Morgan’s #1 mission and passion is helping women see and own their brilliance. Her background in yoga and meditation helps her to guide women on how to reconnect with their Divine Nature and tap into their inner power to affect the change they want for their life. If you ask her about her favorite thing in the entire world, she will answer, “Grow in Self-Love.” Contact Morgan at Morgan@Wildflower-Coaching.com