January 31, 2014
A client gave me the idea for this post. He wondered if I could perform an exorcism to get rid of some of his unwanted thoughts.
Essentially an exorcism is the expulsion or attempted expulsion of an evil spirit from a person or place.
The problem with that approach is that if we see our thoughts as evil spirits we’re resisting them. And we all know where resistance gets us—to more of the same! I’ve even caught myself resisting my resistance!
So what’s the alternative? Rather than exorcising (or exercising) those troubling thoughts, the trick is literally to notice and accept them for what they are—a bunch of words that have been habitually strung together by my mind and then played over and over again like a broken record.
If I’m watching my mind, by the 500th time I’ve noticed the same thought, it’s lost a lot of its juice. Think of the first time you saw your favorite movie and then picture watching it for the 500th time—booooring!!
It’s the noticing that makes the difference. If I don’t pay attention, I can torture myself with the same thought to the same degree every time. I can literally ratchet myself up to the emotional pitch that I experienced around a situation that happened twenty years ago. I know! crazy!!
The good news is that as soon as I see it for what it is, a broken record, it becomes clear that I’m actually torturing myself. And in that moment of heightened awareness, once again my mind is available to work for me rather than against me. And that’s what I want of course, to stop doing what I’ve always done—if it hasn’t gotten me where I want to go—so that I can do something that will.
Rather than trying to exorcise all your unwanted thoughts, consider simply noticing them. If exorcisms are anything like they’re portrayed in the movies, not really my cup of tea. Noticing seems way easier.