How to Let Go of What Haunts You (Fears, Intrusive Thoughts, & Mistakes)

We are born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.

The darkness, heights, snakes, public speaking, committing, failure - whatever comes to mind when you ask yourself, "What am I afraid of?"

Those fears are learned.

Like bad habits that we strive to break, fears can creep up on us and loop us into a cycle of physical and emotional symptoms.

Look at little kids. I've seen kids fall down, scrape their knee, and after two minutes of crying, they're back to running. They're proud of their boo-boos and rip off their band-aids too soon. When they're told they can't participate or they didn't make the cut, they bounce back. There's always something else to do.

But as we age, something happens. Our pain and hurt become something a little more real and raw, and it doesn't take long before you realize that the feeling of man it hurts is often connected to something else.

Sometimes it's more than broken arms and scraped knees. It could be rejection by a loved one or being unable to do something because of a physical limitation. Over time, you learn to do anything in your power to avoid feeling that way ever again.

The moments we have no control over tend to stay with us.

They haunt us.

It doesn't even have to be an outright memory. Your brain simply has to make the connections for you.

There's hope, my friends. If we can learn to let things in, then we learn to let them ago.

1. Realize releasing what haunts you won't happen overnight.

You can't cause your entire life to change after simply making one decision. The classic example is the dreaded January 1st resolution to work out. All of a sudden, the ball drops at midnight and you want to begin moving your body. You can maintain your goals for a few days. But oftentimes, as soon as there's an obstacle or a disruption to your routine, it becomes so much easier not to pursue that goal.

Why? Why is working out (or any other life change) so overwhelming?

Because we jump into it, feet first, expecting change to be instantaneous. Because that's how we get everything else - food, information, messages. In one single moment and with zero percent effort on our part.

One of my all-time favorite bloggers and authors, James Clear, recently wrote an article about why it's so hard to stick to good habits. In his article, he says, "Focus on lifestyle, not life-changing." When you begin something new, you want the results right away, correct? But it's not that easy to begin making a six-figure income online or self-publish your book. Not even for the people who appear to "have it all".

They started at zero, too.

That's where you and I will begin today as we walk through the process of letting go. It won't happen all at once. But you can keep pushing, making 1% improvements each day, until you hit 100%.

2. Identify the problem and know what it is you're working toward.

Now it's time to get personal with yourself. What is it that haunts you?

Is it a certain fear (or many)?

Is it anxiety in social situations?

Is it intrusive thoughts?

It can be anything. Look at the things that you can't seem to shake - the little sticky bits that cling to you even after you take the steps to let them go.

Personally, I struggle with reliving my "mistakes". Saying what I perceive to be the wrong thing or not knowing how to react in a certain situation becomes ingrained in my mind. Moments linked with getting flustered or feeling a great bit of anxiety play on repeat in my head until I'm shriveled up in fetus position screaming at them to stop. It's a form of intrusive thinking and it's not pretty.

These are the things I want to let go of. If you're having trouble identifying what you would like to let go or if you do know and want to find out what they're connected to, check out this next point.

3. Thought-Feeling Record (For intrusive thoughts, negative thinking, and other cognitive processes)

One of the most beneficial exercises I ever did to recognize the trigger of my negative, oppressive thoughts was a "Thought-Feeling record". I know there are several different versions out there, but the one I completed was by David Clark and came from his The Anxiety and Worry Workbook.

You can print out this thought-feeling record and follow these instructions:

1. Situation

The first column on your print out is for dating and describing the situation. If you want to record more than once per day, you can also add the time.

First, take a look at the situation surrounding you when you were triggered. What was happening around you? What were you doing? It makes a difference to know if something like a familiar routine OR seemingly nothing at all plays a part in what goes on in your head. If you're over- or under-aroused (in the physiological and psychological sense, meaning the varying degree of how alert and awake you are - your arousal will be elevated if you're under a lot of pressure and feeling a lot of stress or lowered when you are relaxed) this has an effect too.

So write out what it is you were doing and if you can, any physiological symptoms you felt (heart racing, palms sweating, etc.).

2. Feeling

In the second column, address the emotional state you were in. Were you scared? Annoyed? Angry?

Write this down and don't be afraid to make a list - even if it seems like the emotions conflict with each other. Rarely are feeling straightforward so try to be as accurate and thorough as possible.

3. Negative thinking

The last column is dedicated to getting out all that you were thinking. What were you telling yourself? What was going on inside your head?

Be completely and utterly honest. No one is going to see this except for you, so dig into it. Write on the entire page and the backside if you must in order to get it all out. Every little thing counts, no matter how negative.

Once you're done, circle the one word or phrase that you think is the root of what caused these other thoughts and counted the most toward how you felt in column two.

4. Complete steps 1 - 3 every day for two weeks.

At first, it seemed like my thoughts were random. That nothing was really going on to trigger me and there was no connection between what I was thinking. I thought maybe I was just in the habit of torturing myself with negative mental feedback. However, after completing a few thought-feeling records over time and reflecting on what I wrote, it turns out there was one common theme.

In each of the moments that I wrote about, I felt like I made a mistake.

Knowing this now allows me to rephrase my thinking and change how I react (next point). So even though this process takes about one to two weeks of sitting down with yourself and making an effort to relive moments that hurt you + don't make you feel all that great, it is worth. Because in the end, you're saving yourself from even more pain and hurt.

4. Look for connections and common themes - then address them

It didn't take long for me to realize a common theme in my thought-feeling record. It was the most circled and mentioned in many different forms, but the idea was still the same.

I made a mistake.

Somewhere along the way, mistakes became my worst fear. This has a number of factors attached to it but mostly I think it's due to the fact that I'm a perfectionist who tends to think my value drops once I show a crack in my exterior. As if I am somehow less and others will see me that same way if I show them how awkward or anxious I feel.

But that's untrue.

The right people, they will understand - or if they don't, they'll try. But I've always wanted to please others and that gives the power away to someone else. It's not someone else's job to validate me or decide how much I'm worth. That's up for me to decide.

Because the only person who is stuck with you is yourself.

So with all this new knowledge of yourself and the reminder to practice self-compassion, you can begin to address what it is that haunts you. If its a mistake, you can work on letting it go. If its thoughts, you can remind yourself that thoughts can't hurt you because they're just that - a thought.

I would also like to encourage you to seek counseling when appropriate. This can be professional help or simply having a discussion with a mentor/loved one/wise friend - someone you trust and who cares about you as an individual.

You don't have to walk through this alone and you don't have to figure it all out by yourself.

For all the terror it has caused into your life, I think your fears deserve a little kick in the pants, don't you?

I challenge you to let go of what haunts you. Whatever it is that holds you back and limits you, now is the time to address that. Free yourself and shape your life into the way you want to live.

1 comment :

My Instagram

Copyright © Two Point Perspective. Made with by OddThemes