Have you ever felt anxious about something that turned out to be nothing?
Worried about an event that never ended up happening (except maybe in your own imagination)?
Perhaps you’ve caught yourself planning for trouble before it actually hit.
And feeling the feelings that comes with all of this…
It can be pretty sickening – a lurch in your gut, a fast-beating heart and sometimes you might even get the sweats. And no wonder. For your thoughts are joined to your feelings – intricately linked. As one moves, the other will probably follow.
So it’s important to keep an eye on your thoughts, to monitor them a bit, so a sudden downward spiral into darker feelings doesn’t catch you unawares. And so you can nip any unnecessary anxiety in the bud if you want to.
Just the other day I caught myself on the brink of one of these spirals – worrying that “the worst” might happen in a situation I faced. The anxiety started wanting to set in (lurch in my gut, faster-beating heart, sense of dread). So I went for a walk to the library just to get out and distract myself and see if I could clear my head a bit.
And there I saw the scene in the photo above:
And I chuckled to myself, because that’s exactly what was going on: in the fiction section of the library, and in the fiction section in my mind…
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is one way you can question your thoughts and catch any “fiction” at work. It offers a way of spotting the silent, underlying beliefs you might have that drive some of the thoughts (and feelings); thoughts which might not always have a lot to do with what’s actually happening, but they have a real talent for imagining the worst, and then putting it on endless loop in your mind. (Thanks for that…).
But this idea of questioning your thoughts and sort of checking if they’re “fiction” or not, doesn’t belong to CBT alone.
You might also recognise this idea from a saying that gets around:
“Feelings aren’t facts”
“Just ’cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.”
Or even from the Roman Emporer, Marcus Aurelius:
“…the soul is dyed by the color of your thoughts”
So, what colour are you dying your soul?
If the spiral of darker feelings like worry or anxiety starts to get you down, it can be worth just returning to your thoughts.
Getting to know them.
To see them.
And to get curious enough about them to let yourself question them…