I wake up around 3am and my thoughts spin like a merry-go-round. I lie there and think about this meeting where I should have said things differently, about the upcoming presentation I still have to prepare for, about the conversation with this difficult client where I wasn’t at my best. I can’t stop. I feel anxious, worried. I guess eventually I just fall asleep out of exhaustion.
Have you ever had that feeling?
I have tried various methods to tackle the nightly thought-monster as I like to call it (as a kid I had monsters under my bed, now they seem to have moved into my head). At first I read, then I started working but what I really needed was going back to sleep. So I tried to focus on my breath, I tried positive affirmations, I tried the proverbial emptying my head – truth be told – nothing worked.
My thoughts kept spinning.
Then I took a note pad and wrote everything down, like taking dictations. I didn’t judge, I didn’t think about it, I just wrote every thought down. After a while I realized – it was the same thoughts over and over! Thoughts that would make me worry, make me anxious, make me feel bad about what I did, how I decided. I started to recognize my thoughts, their pattern, their intention. The content might have changed (this or that client; this or that meeting) but the pattern was always the same – what ever I had been doing was simply not enough and not good enough.
My focus had shifted – instead of dreading my sleepless nights I almost looked forward to them – I was on a nightly expedition, exploring the depths of my own wiring.
I learned to regard my thoughts like old shellac records, repeating the old songs over and over again.
Last week we talked about how the key to change and real growth is to accept and include first the very thing (behavior or person) we want to be changed.
I found this to be very true for our own thinking obession also. What we call thinking isn’t most of the time productive, constructive thinking. It’s obsessively spinning the same litany over and over again – without noticing it yet unconsciously identifying with it.
How ever you’ll do it:
- Get to know your thought wheel
- Get to know it so well that you can predict what thought will come next
- Then you’ll realize it’s not you, it’s just an very old record that still plays