“I think bad thoughts,” “My brain is wrong,” “I can’t help what I’m thinking,” “I need to STOP thinking this!”
Recently, a journalist had reached out to therapists asking them for their top tips on how to banish toxic thoughts.
She had asked, for 2019, the top thoughts to banish and never think of again.
The problem? Banishing thoughts DOESN’T WORK!
From an acceptance and commitment therapy perspective, it’s actually a lot more useful to focus on allowing these thoughts to happen rather than banishing them.
You can let them pass you by, and come up with something that may feel more helpful, but telling a thought to STOP is like getting into a finger trap. The more and more you pull away, the tighter and tighter the thought holds on.
When you fight a thought, you’re giving that thought so much more power than it actually has.
A thought isn’t good, or bad. It just IS.
So instead of “banishing” a thought like “I’m not good enough,” take a step back and figure out what that thought is trying to do.
Is it trying to protect you from something new?
Trying to help you remember another time that you got hurt because you thought you could do something and you couldn’t?
What’s its purpose?
Be a scientist first, rather than a banisher. Be curious rather than afraid.
And then when you figure out why you’re having the thought, come up with what you can say instead. Something like, “It makes sense to be worried about this, and at the same time I know I can handle challenges.” Or “It’s ok that I’m worried about my worth, and I also know that I have value in this world.”
What’s the “toxic” thought I want to banish for 2019?
it’s the thought that we should banish thoughts, and the thought that thoughts are toxic!
Kelsey Torgerson, MSW, LCSW is a top-rated anxiety specialist in St. Louis, working with kids, teens and college students to help them manage their overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. She works in Clayton with families throughout Creve Couer, Town and Country, Ladue, University City, and Webster Groves. You can reach her through her brand new contact page, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.