April 10, 2018
At one time or another, we have all struggled with trying to let go of ruminating thoughts about an injustice or insult we have experienced. What was said and how we could have/should have responded starts a negative, harmful loop in our brain. We know the thoughts are hurting us, destroying our peace of mind and we genuinely want them to stop.
What to do? Let me share a story you may have heard before. The wisdom of the story does not grow old. A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about his feelings regarding the 9/11 attack. The grandfather said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” When the grandson asked him which wolf would win the fight, the grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”
There are no on or off switches in our brain but there are ways to break out of our “stuckness.” To simplify what I mean, think of the times you have tried to get a song out of your head. The usual way we do that is by singing another song. In other words, replace one thought with another thought. This example sounds easy but not so easy when we are trying to rid ourselves of dark thoughts and feelings. Before we know it, we are feeding the negative wolf.
The process to make a change is easy – the effort and consistency that is needed is profound.
First, we need to be gentle with ourselves. Speaking harshly to yourself will not help. In fact, it only strengthens the negative.
Second, occupy your mind with something more positive. For example if you’re alone in the car and ruminating, turn on the radio and listen to something that will mentally challenge you. My favorite is listening to NPR, not only does it distract me but I am learning something new. Listening to music probably won’t do the trick. If you’re at home, pick up the phone and reach out to some one to see how they are doing. Talking about the thing eating at you won’t help. Some people find saying the alphabet backward or counting from 100 to 1 in threes does the trick, or let your creativity run free and create your own system to change your ruminating thoughts.
Third, repeat one and two.
Four, repeat three. Each time you gently redirect your mind, you are weakening the negative wolf tearing at your heart and peace becomes possible.
Article Written By: Sr. Barbara Kennedy, OSM, LPC