Confession: I put myself through the wringer a couple of times last month. I reacted to some stuff with a whole BUNCH of insecure thinking about them, to the point where I didn’t know which way was up any more.
The first incident made me question everything I thought about a situation, for over 48 hours; the second gave my old inner story of being “not enough” an entire marching parade for a good half an hour.
One of the most helpful things about knowing that my experience comes from within – that it’s created by my own thoughts – is this whole “feeling my thinking” part. That I’m feeling my thinking about something, rather than the something itself.
But I’m still human. I still end up “feeling my thinking” and, when my thinking gets crappy, I feel crappy.
I can still get caught up in a swirl of self-recrimination, self-doubt and confusion. It’s just that now, I get a sense of why it’s happening. This means that I can pass through it a little faster, learn a little more from it afterwards, and hopefully not cause TOO much damage while it’s happening.
I recently came across a term which author and coach Michael Neill uses which captures this experience perfectly: thought storms.
Because it really does feel like a mental storm of negative thinking. Just think about storms in nature, the powerful energy they contain, and the kind of damage they can wreck when they’re intense and sustained. Pretty sure it feels familiar to you, too.
I was lucky. The 48 hr one was tough, but it really brought home to me how attached I am to my identity of being “wise”, and confirmed my value of insight (as my perceived lack of it fuelled my insecure thinking/self-criticism).
It was like the cyclone in The Wizard of Oz and, while I wasn’t able to have any insights as the building went up and was spun around, at least I was able to see some new things on the way back down.
And the half-hour one was in response to seeing something on social media. After the previous storm, I had the presence of mind to just sit and meditate for 20 mins; to sit in the middle of the storm and watch the swirl of negative beliefs sweep around me. Again, it was tough, but yet again I was able to gain insight from what was stirred up.
And most important of all? I avoided acting on that negative thinking in a way which negatively impacted another.
How many times have you acted or spoken out of anger, out of a thought-storm, without even realising it? God, I know I have. And being able to NOT do that is such a relief.
A dear friend has already shared how helpful she’s found the term “thought storms”. It’s helped her to realise that the swirls of anger she’s felt have been because of her own thinking rather than other people’s actions, and stopped her from taking irreversible action due to that thinking.
As summer temperatures are set to rise, it’s good to know when and how to cool down our own over-heated thinking.
So here’s to all our inner storms being brief and localised weather systems, and ensuring that our inner summers are not a total wash-out.