Last week, someone I know well wanted to tell me something amazing that’d happened to them.
He’d been trying to console and explain to his 4-year-old daughter that her bad dreams weren’t anything to be afraid of. It’s tough because we all know they seem real, and we can feel afraid to fall asleep lest they revisit us again.
He found himself saying to her “It’s okay, your dreams are ‘just thoughts’ and those thoughts aren’t real”.
He actually found himself stumbling across his own words which were ringing a truth in his head he’d not actualised fully until now. He needed to be imparting these words and sentiments to someone he deeply cared about for them to ring true for him.
He reflected with me “We’d never tell our kids their dreams were real, would we? They are just thoughts, and we don’t need to believe them”.
Believe it or not, he was stunned at his own tendency to be sucked into his own thought stream of worry and concern over a future that wasn’t happening now as he lived his everyday life.
He told me he’d been smashing every thought that wasn’t supportive ever since and amazed at how much freedom and space he felt. Clearly experiencing fully how energy draining it is to live as though those thoughts are real and need us to somehow do something about them.
Research shows that sharing an experience like this, the act of recounting it and ‘telling it’ really helps us strengthen new neural pathways that are woken up or refired in those moments of realisation. This means his ability to continue in this way is more likely.
I asked him to add to this, the understanding that those thoughts crowding our headspace are trying to protect us in the only way the mind knows how. Mindfulness gives us the capacity to step back and see the thoughts, sift, and sort which we need and those we don’t. So don’t be too harsh on the thoughts, we don’t need to see or treat them as the ‘enemy’.
In response to this he came back with a corker:
"So it’s a bit like saying to the thoughts ‘Not now Bernard’ "
in honour of his daughter’s favourite story book by David McKee. A perfect way to engage with those unsupportive, nagging, undermining thoughts.
I hope you might be able to use this with your own thoughts or those of your children or grandchildren when the moment is right.