Recently a brilliant woman in one of my Collective Coaching groups said something that is seemingly so simple and yet, profound. I was taking the group through a thought distancing tool I learned through my Life Coach Training and afterwards she likened the exercise to the way you may choose to not engage with someone who is upset with you. You don’t take on the other person’s emotions, you don’t take on undo responsibility, you simply don’t engage other than acknowledging that how they feel, is theirs to own. She made the connection that just like we can choose to not engage with another person, we can also choose not to engage with our own thoughts. Brilliant! Succinct. Perfection. I had never quite thought of it this way, and she absolutely hit the nail on the head of what this tool is all about and I can’t help but share it!
We often get so caught up with our thoughts that we believe them to be true without ever asking ourselves what we really think or if it is even remotely true. How many times a day do you beat yourself up about something? What if you were to sit and objectively examine your thoughts about the situation as if it were a friend in your place, would you still believe what you were telling yourself? It it of coarse possible this wouldn’t change your opinion, but I would venture to say that more often than not, you would not judge a close friend in the exact same situation as harshly as you would judge yourself. Or you may find there are some situations you might give yourself a free pass, you wouldn’t afford someone else…ooh that feels sticky. Just because you think something about yourself or another person, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your truth. Regardless, if you don’t take a step outside your unconscious thinking you are never giving yourself the opportunity to clarify, check your thoughts for truth, or make space for a conscious decision about how you really feel.
If you’re curious how to even get to the point where you can do this, try the same exercise that spurred this epiphany.
Go step by step and try not a read ahead (this will take you 5-10 minutes):
- You will need a pen, and something to write on
Step one: For the next minute write down all of the painful, guilt provoking, and self critical thoughts you have said to yourself recently. Try to come up with 5-10 that you have legitimately said to yourself. You can set a timer if that’s helpful. (I promise this gets better!)
Need some inspirations? Here are a few from my list:
I have nothing to offer.
My house is a mess, I need to be an adult and get it (my whole life) together.
I can’t believe I just said that, I’m such a moron, insensitive, uninformed, jerk….you get the point.
Step two: Now choose 1 thought that feel particularly uncomfortable and say it a few times out loud or in your head, even allow the situation that provoked the thought to materialize in your mind. Really sit with this thought for a few moments. As you do this, take a brief check in with your body, do you notice any physical discomfort that is associated with this particular thought? Make note of this.
Step three: You will repeat the chosen thought but you will first say: “I’m having the thought __________insert your thought here__________”, say this over a few times. Notice if anything changes in your body. You may not notice a change or it may be subtle, just notice.
Step 4: Finally, say the thought again, but this time you will begin the sentence with “I’m NOTICING I’m having the thought ________insert your thought here________”. Again say it over and over and just observe in anything happens physically.
Step 5: Take a moment to just write down anything that you noticed.
Over the past few years of utilizing this Action and Commitment Therapy (ACT), thought distancing tool, this is how I have come to understand what this exercise does:
When you think a thought, any thought, it can feel as if the thought it unconsciously, and unquestionably a part of your identify. When adding “I’ve having the thought…” The thought moves from being a part of your whole being, into the conscious mind only. Finally adding “I’m NOTICING I’m having the thought…” My personal experience is that the thought no longer feels a part of my being in any way. It becomes separate from my body, as if an object sitting in front of me that I can examine without attachment. This is the point where I can clarify how I actually feel, and choose whether or not I will continue to engage with this thought in any way.
Mentally calling out thoughts actually takes away or greatly diminishes the emotional power the thought has over you, this is why people will often notice a big difference in how they feel physically when they use this tool. Try it again with a different thought and see what happens.
Each time you use this tool you are taking empowered action to decide whether or not you will engage with your thoughts that don’t serve you, this is not an easy feat so give yourself some credit. Keep in mind, can use this tool for anything, even emotions. A few of my favorites are: “I’m noticing that I’m feeling anxious about _________”, and I’m noticing that I’m worried I might be late…which can lead to “I’m noticing that I’m anxious _________ will think I’m unprofessional if I’m late.” For whatever reason, this really works for me.
I’m curious to hear what you think, if this worked for you! Please don’t hesitate if you have any questions.
Happy unproductive, critical, and painful thought disengaging!
XO – Caitlin
Hello, I’m Caitlin Bosshart! Life coach for the multi-passionate at heart and wedding coach for couples planning non-traditional weddings! I believe that no one should settle for less than a life that lights them up, ignites their passions and allows them to be, their most vibrant authentic selves.
To learn more about how we can work together, visit: CaitlinBosshart.com
To schedule a free discovery session for multi-passionate coaching or wedding coaching, email me at LifeCoaching@caitlinbosshart.com !