Monsters, Demons, Exorcisms, and Clouds

As Miley Cyrus crooned on Saturday Night Live last weekend, “I wake up in a bad mood.” Every morning, I wake up with thoughts that trouble me and scare me. They set the wrong tone for my day, and it takes me awhile to redirect my thoughts and to become focused and productive.

In popular music, artists often refer to their dark thoughts and mental health issues as “monsters” or “demons.”

“Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide.”

Demons, Imagine Dragons

 

“A monster, a monster,
I’ve turned into a monster,
A monster, a monster,
And it keeps getting stronger.”

Monster, Imagine Dragons

Many cultures of antiquity believed that mental maladies were literally caused by demons. They thought that the sufferers were possessed, and were treated through prayers and exorcisms. (For an interesting article on this topic, go to Psychology Today.)

If all it took to make the thoughts go away was an exorcism, believe me, I would go for it in a heartbeat. But nothing is that easy.

A few mornings ago, somehow, in my sleepy state, I was able to remember a basic tenet of mindfulness. As I’ve read in The Untethered Soul, “you are not the voice of the mind– you are the one who hears it.” Don’t become attached to your thoughts- let them go by, like clouds being guided across the sky by a gentle breeze. So I used that image- my thoughts were clouds. Some were white and pure. Some were a dreary gray. Some were as black as soot. (Those were the “bad” thoughts.) But, they were all together, in the same sky, and they came and went at the same rate. I was able to let them go.

This was able to relax me.

I’ve only read 20 pages of The Untethered Soul, but it is clearly making a positive impact on me already. This book was sent to me last month when I won a contest. I think maybe it came to me at the right time.

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Sights from My Daily Walks

I continue to take daily walks in order to manage my anxiety. I don’t vary my route much, but I continue to find interesting and beautiful things. Here are some of them.

I posted another entry with images from my daily walks. You can see it here.

This little guy sat still and let me take his picture!

Ivy-covered mums

A . . . tumbleweed?

The church lit up at night.

A local bookstore decorated Harry Potter style for Halloween.

Two types of lovely flowers:

And a chicken faucet!

Of Worries and Tic Tacs


I’ve been reading through the book The Worry Trick by David A. Carbonell. I recommend this book for anyone who experiences generalized anxiety. The author explains that for some people with anxiety issues, some of the cognitive restructuring methods from CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) aren’t helpful. He offered some alternative methods to beat anxiety and worry.

He suggests an exercise early in the book to help the reader become mindful of their worries. Every time one catches themselves in the act of worrying, they should take out a pack of tic tacs or mints, which they are to carry with them, and eat one.

The exercise isn’t meant to do anything other than to help you pay attention to when you are worrying. It’s simple, but I’m finding it to be very effective. It’s a small action, but just enough to disrupt the pattern of worrying. See, whenever I find myself thinking “what if,” the next thought that now comes into my mind is, “that’s another tic tac!” And then I don’t engage in the runaway train of worrisome thoughts. It’s interrupted right then and there. It’s so much easier to catch the runaway train right when it starts to run away, rather than to stop it once it’s been running awhile!

I started doing this at noon on September 11, and I’ll be doing this for one week. On day 6, I’ve been through more tic tac boxes than I thought I would go through. I’m halfway through my fourth.  There are 38 tic tacs in a regular sized pack. That means I’ve been through 133 worry tic tacs. (And, this is under the assumption that I’ve been cognizant of every anxious thought I’ve had over the course of the week, which is unlikely.)

The first step towards changing anxious thoughts is noticing them. Once I catch myself thinking the words “what if,” now that I am more aware of it, I try to replace the second part of the sentence with something else. A favorite way to do this is to play “what if God was one of us?” in my head. (Other songs with “what if” work just as well!)

On Feeling Your Feelings

photo credit: Sit and watch via photopin (license)
photo credit: Sit and watch via photopin (license)

One of the most important things that we can learn is how to sit and be present with our emotions. That, if we take the time to experience them fully, and locate where they live in our body, not only will they not hurt us, but they will go away.

Our feelings are begging to be felt- not ignored. If we ignore the uncomfortable ones, they’ll keep intensifying, nagging at us to get our attention, until finally they’ll begin find a home in our body where they’ll cause us physical pain and discomfort rather than emotional pain and discomfort.

Peace,

Mary

Presence vs. Presents

photo credit: jDevaun.Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: jDevaun.Photography via photopin cc

In a Walmart commercial I saw today, Anthony Anderson proudly exclaims, “the holiday season starts right now!”

It’s November 3rd.

And that’s not the only holiday commercial I’ve seen today. In the past hour, I’ve counted 5. The only reason I think the number was that low is because tomorrow is election day and the airwaves are being dominated by political pleas. (I won’t miss those, either.)

Earlier this afternoon, I went out to get a few things that I need for a trip I’m taking this week. The pharmacy was already decked out in red and green, and the Christmas cards were featured in a prominent display at the grocery store. My sister works in a department store, and she tells me that the tree went up in September.

It’s November 3rd. This just isn’t right.

Maybe it sounds like I don’t like the winter holidays, but that’s not true. I love them. I just prefer them to stay in December. The holiday season seems to start earlier and earlier every year. To me, that illustrates a fundamental problem with society: we seem to have an inability to be in the present moment. We always have to sprint ahead to something else.

Why are we running? What are we running from?

Perhaps it is that the holiday festivities feel like a vacation from the norm.

So why are we living lives that we need to take breaks from? What if we could incorporate elements of rest into our daily or weekly lives?

We need to examine the way we live. If we are looking for calm, for relaxation, for peace of mind, we won’t find it somewhere out there in the future. But, we can have it now, if we allow ourselves a moment of pause.

Take some time to acknowledge and appreciate the fall. We still have a whole month of it left.

Love and light,

Mary