This bad advice actually makes it worse

Someone I met recently was saying that a book was advising her to tell her thoughts “go away!”, or something similar.

Just as I’m writing I find it curiouser and curiouser. I guess just because you can write a book doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about (apologies if that sounds snarky but, you see, I get a little passionate about this).

Let me explain with a quick story.

Back, a long time ago I joined the local surf lifesaving club in the summer holidays. They enter me in a swimming race out in the ocean, and come the day of the race it's the foulest imaginable day.

The sky was grey, nearly black. The waves storming and huge. Apparently the buoys are out there but I can’t even see the things I’m supposed to swim around. My first surf race and I’m thinking I'm going to get my patooty absolutely kicked.

People are muttering about "they should cancel", but the officials are keen to see what we're made of, I guess.

The gun goes off, we run in and I literally drank the first three waves as they smashed on my head. I almost turned around and headed back in, it was so bad.

Then I got smart (obviously if you know me, not a lot, but enough)

Instead of battling through, I take a big breath and swim under. Big breath, dive down, stay in the calm, move forward. I spent more time under the water than on top of it. While the rescue boat is pulling people out all over the place, I was “Man From Atlantis”ing underneath, keeping away from the madness up top.

And you know what? I came second, and most importantly, I didn’t die. Hurrah!

Why am I telling you this?

My friend who had the (bad) advice to tell her thoughts “go away!”, or "shut up!" or whatever ...?

It’s just like my surf swim: Your thoughts are these huge waves that come in and bash you. You’re battling the waves, half drowning, and some guy in a rescue boat comes along and says:

“Just tell them to ‘GO AWAY!’”

Thank you sir, fine advice.

The important thing when coming to grips with your mind is to try and see what works best for you. But when I’ve tried that approach it just didn’t work. I would get exhausted and frustrated from shouting and doing battle every time. It would make it worse.

The easiest thing by far is to sink beneath the surface where it’s calm.

The storm can rage on all it likes, but it is not you. You don’t need to control it at all. You might still be aware of it - it might be still obvious like when the neighbours are having an argument and you can hear it, but no deal, you’re not caught up in it.

Becoming the master of your mind and overcoming stress, negativity and overwhelm requires no force. It really doesn’t. You don’t need to fight, struggle or strain. The best approach is ignoring, I reckon. Just plain old cold shoulder them. Or go the other extreme, welcome them whole heartedly:

“Hello old friend! Come on in and make yourself at home. You are welcome too”.

This gentle “bring it on” approach takes the wind out of any fight, doesn’t it? There’s no resistance, and that - if you have a teenager you are probably getting to know this very well - is the best thing you can do in many situations.

In terms of your mind, not resisting means you can sink down into that field of awareness that is you, the good old half step back and see the rage or the resentment or the depression or the self-violence (whatever it maybe) from an arms length and not get wrapped up and lost in it.

It’ll blow over and you spent zero effort on it. In fact, you gained greater freedom from your mind. You actually only strengthen the mind when you fight it. But that is a story for another day.

Alrighty? Awesome - go well!



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Dive deep!