Many years ago I remember hearing a man from New Zealand speak on a topic called “Make your mind your friend.”
He was a counsellor who helped people recognise what was happening in their thinking, and how this affected their feelings and behaviour.
In many ways it was similar to what we call CBT or cognitive behaviour therapy.
We all tend to focus on what we are feeling, because that is what shows itself most obviously to us.
We know that we feel angry or anxious or fearful.
We also notice how we behave, that we avoid certain situations or get addicted to certain things.
Then we look at how to manage the feelings or behaviour.
Some things do help, such as relaxation or breathing exercises or distraction.
This can be useful to cope in the short term, but rarely results in a long-term solution.
We actually need to start to notice what we think about and then go even deeper and notice what we believe about things.
For example: a lady was abused as a child by a family member.
For many years she knew shame and secrecy and guilt and felt that she was dirty.
She tried lots of things to block out how she saw herself, including drugs and alcohol and self -harm.
She then had some in-depth counselling and started to recognise the cause of her struggles.
Now we would think that it is the abuse that was the cause, which to an extent it is, but actually it was what she believed as a result, that really did the damage.
As she started to learn that it wasn’t her fault, the guilt began to fall off.
As she realised that she didn’t have to carry the dirt and lies, and that actually she was a beautiful woman, she didn’t have to feel ashamed any more.
As she changed what she believed she was able to think in a different way and then her feelings and behaviour altered.
Over time she didn’t need to turn to the drugs and alcohol to cope any more.
Now this isn’t easy.
It takes courage and hard work and a desire to change, but it is possible.
So next time you feel overwhelmed with emotion, just stop and notice what you are thinking about and ask yourself if maybe you have a faulty belief that needs to be adjusted.
Start to love yourself and make your mind your friend.