Psychological Simplicity: A Case Study
SURVIVING THOUGHT STORMS
Some time ago a client, (lets call her Suzie), came to me because she was bombarded with disturbing thoughts. She was concerned that she might be going mad. And yet, within a few months of our meeting her experience had entirely changed.
I often think of Suzie. And to this day, what she discovered in our sessions provides me with a model that helps many others find their own peace of mind. For that reason Suzie agreed for some of her story to be shared anonymously.
THREE KEYS TO PEACE OF MIND
Key 1. You are not your thoughts
When I first met Suzie she thought she was going mad because she had all these crazy thoughts going round her mind and she couldn’t stop them. She didn’t like the thoughts and had no intention of acting on them but they just wouldn’t leave her alone. So we explored her relationship to her thinking and this is what became clear and helpful for her.
We don’t choose our thoughts but we do feel them.
Every moment we are experiencing our thinking through moods and emotions. We can loose ourselves in our thoughts and feelings. We can dive into a memory or project into the future. We can engage in the running commentary in our minds. Thought is our own personal virtual reality. Thought is a gift. But it is not who we are.
We are the ones who notice and experience the thoughts.
That realisation was massive for Suzie. Realisations are born beyond our awareness. So if something in you just got curious let it be. Trust it. Go do something else or read on.
Key 2. Let the Thoughts Be and they Will Pass
Suzie no longer thought she was going mad. She was relieved. And she was beginning to discover that all she was really ever experiencing were the thoughts passing through her mind, and nothing more. ‘But’, she said one day, ‘I still don’t like these thoughts. And I wish they would go away!’.
How many times has every one of us said that to ourselves?
So we took a deeper look at her experience and this is what we noticed: the more we judge thoughts the more persistent they are. It’s amazing how many thoughts we have about our own thoughts!
Every time we judge ourselves for feeling or thinking a particular way, we get caught in a web. And we can go round in circles for days.
So Suzie began an experiment to acknowledge the thoughts without judgment. And, quite naturally, she started to feel warmer towards them – even the weird ones, the sad ones and the violent ones. And yes, gradually the thoughts stopped coming. And Suzie started to feel very different.
Key 3. We already have access to peace of mind
For some reason this is the hardest of the keys to write about. Suzie and I didn’t talk about it much because there wasn’t the need. But what I witnessed is that once she realised for herself what it is to be human, (to be an experiencer of thought), peace of mind came naturally.
And that peace, that feeling of aliveness and beingness is always available.
Now, it’s not my intention to make this into another item on the list of ways to perfect ourselves because, (as Key 1 reveals), it is also natural for us human beings to get completely absorbed in thoughts. In fact it really is quite a remarkable gift. So there is nothing we need to do.
It’s just good to know that peace, aliveness, joy, however it shows up, is there, waiting, whenever we’re ready to let our thoughts be.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep, because a million ideas or worries are swirling round my mind, it suddenly occurs to me that I need to let go. And sometimes I find I can put the thoughts aside. Sometimes I can just let go of the virtual reality game inside my head, and sleep arrives.
As I said, realisations are born beyond awareness so, whatever your initial response to this article, let it be. Let yourself be.
These days Suzie is doing fine and experiencing the simple pleasures of living life.
Recap of Suzie’s Realisations
- We are not our thoughts
- We have the capacity to fully experience thoughts or to simply observe them
- But we don’t choose them
- Judging thoughts tends to increase their potency
- Letting thoughts be creates more ease
- Peace of mind is already present