Very recently, I have started making it my business to observe and pay attention to my thoughts, especially when I’m feeling depressed, anxious, or torn about something. What struck me the most about this exercise is just how much my thoughts are dictating my emotional state, keeping me stuck in the same pattern I’m desperately trying to get out of. It’s definitely been a challenge as I am literally in the process of reprogramming my old way of thinking (consciously changing what I think and how I think about things). It hasn’t been easy but it IS extremely rewarding when I start to see just how powerful and affective it is when it comes to changing my circumstances.
So the other day, after driving my parents to the airport, I was hit with a wave of unexpected loneliness. This had caught me guard because on the drive back home, I felt rather calm and happy. My parents were going to live in San Diego for 6 months and I was now officially “free”. Just a couple of hours later, as I was watching American Idol, my eyes welled up with tears and I burst into a crying fit. In the midst of the unraveling, I recognized just how attached I was to them. Despite a strong desire to be self-sufficient and independent, I had developed a liking to my parents being around and taking care of me. I was still their “child” and the truth is, I enjoyed playing the role.
After the crying fit passed and I got back my bearings, I resumed watching American Idol allowing the images and sounds to wash over my thoughts. Not sure how much time passed before the next wave, but there I was again, crying uncontrollably feeling extra sad and lonely. This happened a few more times, each time getting more intense until my arms were folded around my chest, hugging myself in an attempt to soothe and ease my own pain. I didn’t try to stop the tears or my body from releasing what was clearly emotional trauma, rather, I made a decision to STOP feeling like a victim and take advantage of the moment to observe the thoughts I was having.
Even though I was having an experience where I was feeling emotional pain and suffering (note to self and readers: the cause of suffering is derived from the thoughts one has about the experience, not the experience itself), I detached myself from it and became an observer rather than a player. Navigating through the plethora of emotions I was feeling – sadness, loneliness, self-pity, worry, anxiety about the future, fear of being alone forever – I was able to find the root of what had caused it. And what had caused it were the thoughts I was having about myself. It was an enlightening moment, one of clarity and realization that the current events of my life were designed to teach me about the belief I had surrounding love, my core values and self-worth. They were devised to bring me HERE; a place of suffering for the sake of growth. One must go through great discomfort when in a state of growth.
The thoughts existed in the background, like static, running havoc on my life. So when I decided to press pause and listen, I heard a pretty fucked up narrative I was telling myself:
Wow, I wanted to be alone for so long and now I’m really alone. Omg I wished for this and now I got what I wanted but do I really want this? SHIT.
Shit, my parents are gone. My sister is gone. I’m fucking single and all alone.
My friends are all busy and don’t have time for me. I don’t have anyone. I’m so alone.
He doesn’t love me. He’ll never come back. What if I never find anyone like him? What if I won’t find anyone AT ALL? Omg what if I’ll end up alone for the rest of my life?
It was one spiraling thought after another and I felt myself consumed by each one, like pac man engulfing each dot as he travels through a dead-endless maze. Then I realized I wasn’t breathing and began to take deep breaths, slowly bringing myself back to the present moment. The thoughts began loosening their grip on me and as I became more grounded and aware of them, I started to see that they were responsible for the feelings I was having. So, one by one, I began to consciously change them eventually connecting and giving rise to MY real voice (which was so gentle yet resilient):
You are loved Helen. You’re OKAY. I got you. I am here for you. Cry as long as you need because I’ll hold you for as long as you need. I will never abandon you. EVER. You are going to get through this.
Changing the thoughts I was having about my situation, although difficult and uncomfortable, helped get me out of feeling sorry for myself. In fact, when I changed my thoughts to being more loving and less judgy, I started to actually feel that way about myself. It was as if I had this reservoir of unconditional love I didn’t know existed until I changed the way I was thinking. I’m learning and gaining so much during this period of “draught”. Keep it coming Universe. I know you have my back