As a child, I was fascinated by the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima to three children in Portugal. But, at night, I felt afraid. “What if Mary appeared to me? What if God appeared to me?” The thought terrified me. Indeed, I would quake in my bed.
What made me afraid of Mary and God? The “thought” made me afraid.
I concede there’s more to an emotional response than one thought alone. For example, I’m a highly sensitive person who grew up in a less than peaceful environment. As a result, I developed a particular pattern of thinking and emotional response rooted in insecurity and fear. The same is true for you although your patterns may be different from mine, and may even be healthy ones.
It all comes back to mind and how we perceive even as young children.
The Snowball Effect: How Negative Patterns Get Bigger
Many of us have locked in one or more negative thought patterns or habitual emotional responses that stop us from actualizing our full potential. It could be worry, low self-esteem, anger, fear, jealousy, competitiveness, sadness, loneliness, pride, and so on. These dominating systems make it difficult if not impossible to feel content and happy with yourself or your life.
Whatever the initiating event, the mind tends to take the new belief and snowball the response making it larger and more pervasive. Because fear had infiltrated my tiny years already, I extended it to the thought of Mary appearing in the night when there was no real reason for the terror. That’s how you become wedded to a false image of yourself, losing your true self or parts of yourself in the process.
Fortunately, whatever has been constructed in the mind can be deconstructed.
The above memory of Our Lady of Fatima arose in response to a prompt in the Fire of Love community. Even more important than the memory itself, was the sudden realization of how I had been reconstructing fear scenarios again and again and again as a young child and most of my adult life, entrenching them further and further into the darkest recesses of my brain. Although my original fears may have been valid, I was now literally scaring myself.
Although you may come to believe these deeply ingrained patterns are the the real you, you are not your thoughts and emotions. Knowing this itself is the first step toward freedom.
Tools to Deconstruct Pesky Thought Patterns and Wacky Emotions
Following are some of the tools I’m currently using to deconstruct my own deeply seated ways of thinking and responding.
If you feel stuck in an emotional rut, I’d like to encourage you to hone in on an effective set of tools that works for you. A mix of tools can be useful because some practices work better than others in any given moment. At the same time, too many options can make you feel scattered and overwhelmed, and thus you may lose your momentum.
The key is to find a reasonable number of practices, and then apply them on a regular basis.
1. Asking Questions
Whatever the pattern, it will immediately begin to deconstruct when you question it. Gather pen and paper, find a quiet place, and write 5 − 10 questions about the pattern at hand.
If you have trouble getting started, you could explore the series of compelling questions I offer periodically on Always Well Within.
2. Journal Writing
I’m afraid I shocked a few of my wonderful readers, when I asked if wisdom is lost in your journals, and pondered whether it’s better to stay in the present moment rather than delving into the past or future. I still wonder about that myself.
Nevertheless, at the moment, thanks to Tammy Strobel’s course Writing in the Digital Age, I’m finding journaling a highly effective tool for excavating and disassembling previously stuck patterning, in addition to the way it plants writing seeds.
I read The Tapping Cure, A Revolutionary System for Rapid Relief from Phobias, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and More several years ago. I know that tapping works from observing how the technique dissolved anxiety at the dentist while having my mercury fillings removed. But, you can’t do everything, and tapping didn’t become part of my repertoire until now.
Tapping involves, surprise, tapping on specific acupuncture meridian points while repeating a phrase that encapsulates your stuck energy while also appreciating yourself. For example, “Even though I’m afraid of public speaking, I completely love and accept myself.”
Tapping is relatively simple, but there are some subtleties to the process, which you might miss on your own. A shift came when I hooked up with a professional well studied in the approach. I learned it’s absolutely essential to evoke the core emotion when you tap, an essential point that I didn’t fully understand until then. Once I got this and absorbed how she worked, I started to see positive results.
For some people, tapping can be a miracle cure. But there can also be many layers or aspects to your patterns that need to be tapped. You can sometimes gain instant relief or at least a reduction in the intensity of the emotion, I have, but there may be more to do.
“If everything is noted, all your emotional difficulties will disappear. When you feel happy, don’t get involved in happiness. When you feel sad, don’t get involved with it. Whatever comes, don’t worry, just be aware of it.” – Dipa Ma
Settling your mind through meditation will allow you to see your patterns more clearly. You will learn that there are two aspects of mind: the essence of mind and the appearances of mind, which are the thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Most of us are welded to our thoughts, emotions, and sensations. We follow them as though as though we have no choice. Like monarchs, they dictate our every move.
Instead, you can live in the present moment, resting in awareness and allowing thoughts and emotions to glide by like clouds in the sky. This takes dedicated practice, but once you have successfully let go of a difficult emotion instead of clutching it to your chest, you start to feel the immense freedom and power that lies in meditation. You can learn to meditate in this simple and free 10-step video series, Dare to Meditate.
As the saying goes, faith can move mountains. Although I fully believe that Mary appeared to the children of Fatima, I’m a Buddhist now. It might surprise you to know that prayer is big in Buddhism since it’s a non-theistic spiritual path.
Science has shown on more than one occasion that prayer works. Why is prayer effective? We may never know and this is where faith enters into the picture. I believe that help is available. When we open, surrender, and reach out in prayer, positive change can happen.
You Can Change
There are many other ways to deconstruct difficult thought patterns and emotional chaos from psychotherapy to hypnosis to shamanic healing. The main point to know is that you are not stuck forever. You can change your mind and you can change your brain if you have mild to moderate problems. It will just take time and dedicated practice.
From one perspective, this could be considered psychological work. But, working with the mind is also core to the spiritual path, where the aim is to transform negative thoughts, words, and actions into love, compassion and wisdom.
- You Are Not Your Brain, The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life
- The Tapping Cure, A Revolutionary System for Rapid Relief from Phobias, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and More
- Emotional Freedom Technique
- 30 Days of Bold
What’s in your transformative tool box? How do you work with difficult thoughts and emotions?
I’m so glad you’re here! Please take a moment to share this post so others can be encouraged and inspired. And, if you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. Thanks! With love, Sandra