We are Not our Thoughts

While thoughts certainly arise in our minds there is a separation from thinking  thoughts and listening to them as if they are truth, which they are not, and being able to see how to use them to pull back from suffering and towards power and possibility. This practice can help us to stay grounded in what is real, face our pain, avoid unnecessary suffering from the negative thoughts that inevitably arise, and grow from unwanted and unwelcome change.

Blind Obedience to Negative Thoughts

Fortunately I succumbed to negative thoughts while visiting my adult daughter in India last month.  I say fortunately for without this experience I would not be writing this post and you would not have the benefit of reading about blind obedience to following certain negative thought patterns and the pain and suffering that results. This type of blind obedience to negative thought patterns is painfully common during divorce.  It doesn’t need to stay this way.

My daughter has a lovely apartment in Delhi, the capital of India.  She is in a professional position where she is learning an immense amount and developing as a designer and business person.  She’s halfway around the world, minimally a fourteen hour flight away.  Delhi is a major population center with its share of urban ills – air pollution, crowding, and an infrastructure barely able to keep up with the demands of the twenty million or so souls that inhabit it, depending upon your definition of what keeping up means.

My daughter had been averaging a trip home about four times a year until last fall when circumstances changed. I was seeing her for the first time in months.  I did not know when I would be able to see her again.

The negative thoughts that I lost myself in were;

  • If I saw my daughter four times a year and estimated my life span to ninety and healthy enough to travel such distances, a pretty generous estimate, I would see my daughter at most 120 times more in my lifetime.

  • Given our current financial situation even if I could travel for thirty more years we would not be able to afford the expense of these trips once a year let alone four so I would see her even less.

  • I would never know my son-in-law or my grandchildren in any significant manner.

  • Delhi pollution would most likely affect my daughter, my son-in-law, and my grandchildren’s’ health negatively, causing respiratory diseases or cancer.

  • I can’t help my daughter or her family in times of need from 7730 miles away

What a sad projected reality these thoughts created for me.  My thoughts were projections into a future based on assumptions yet the grief and sadness that I was experiencing was occurring in the present.  Emotions don’t wait for the future to happen.  I was miserable even though I was actually with my daughter in person. Pathetic really and to put my temporary insanity in an even brighter light, my daughter is neither engaged nor with children and while I was imagining India as her permanent and only residence, this is not her intention. Why my pain? Why did I get sucked into these negative thoughts? Why do we all get sucked into negative thoughts that cause us grief, fear, and isolation and keep us trapped in our pain?

The truth for me was that while I was making the best of my daughters sojourn to India to develop as a designer and businesswoman, for years I was missing her presence in ways  phone and Skype simply couldn’t replace. My bravado wasn’t holding up in the face of how amazing it was to have an extended period of time together. It was through being with her I began feeling how strongly I had been missing her. This is neither good nor bad, simply real.  She has not done anything wrong by pursuing her dreams nor have I by supporting her to do so.  I don’t know when she will have a permanent residence in the New York Metropolitan Area again although it is her eventual plan, nor whether I will have grandchildren or if they will grow up in a “healthy” environment.  What I do know is that I love my daughter and  trust her to live the life that is right for her.

Meanwhile I am coming to grasp what it means to have adult children who are both in my life and not in my life simultaneously, regardless of where they choose to live their lives. This is supporting me to see once again that the more I focus on loving myself and living life in a way that supports my health and well being, I benefit and so do the people I love, wherever they are.  Living in my negative future projections creates the opposite, although recognizing them for the phantoms they are, and allowing the emotions I authentically feel in the present, even if they are  painful, is enlightening and enlivening.

  • What real thoughts might you be suffering from that are not reality now nor where you want your reality to go?
  • What real emotions are you avoiding in the present that feeling would liberate you from suffering over thoughts about a past that has happened or a future that is simply a nightmare projection?

We are not our thoughts.

We can utilize our thoughts as useful diagnostic tools to wake us up to where we are now and lead ourselves to choose new thoughts and perspectives that move us towards a healthier more enlivening now.

 

  • Sara Klar

    Thanks Lisa,

    As always extremely timely and extremely relevant. When I’m pulled down into the strong negative emotional current, it’s hard to pull myself out, to remember that thoughts do not equal reality. I save your articles as “Go To’s – for these particuarly difficult times. They bring me back to remembering that the emotional current is what it is, I’m a powerful swimmer, and I can exit the swirling waters.

    Best Sara