Since my thoughts tend to turn to the negative view of things, this is not good. My therapist issued me a challenge. (Originally she was going to “throw down the gauntlet,” suggesting perhaps that I do battle with my thoughts, but that led to a discussion of throwing down the gauntlet vs. running the gauntlet and it just seemed much safer for her to issue a challenge.) She suggested that instead of just accepting my negative thoughts and interpretations as truth, I might question their validity and their usefulness to me.
Most of my negativity is aimed directly at myself. I am very adept at turning most anything into a testament of my lack of value, my fault or proof of my uselessness. My therapist’s challenge, in her words: “Catch the [negative] thoughts in a net made of loving kindness.” (Way too touchy-feely for me, but I got the gist.) Then, ask myself, would I say something like that to a friend? To my worst enemy? And finally, ask myself, “What is more true?”
Her use of the "net" metaphor reminded me of dream catchers. Originally associated with Native Americans, dream catchers have more recently been popularized by the new agey crowd. Basically, a dream catcher is a round or tear-shaped wooden (usually) frame that encircles a “web” made of strands of some material knotted together to resemble a spider web. There are often feathers or beads or other small personally significant items attached to the frame. The dream catcher is hung above one’s bed, where it “catches” the sleeper’s dreams. Nightmares are filtered out by the web, and only good dreams are allowed to slide down the feathers to the bed dweller below.
A very pleasant set-up, to be sure. Unfortunately I can’t hang a net around my brain to trap my negative thoughts. My therapist gave me another analogy, however: “It’s like examining your mail each day and deciding what you will keep and what you will shred.” I can do that.
Negative thinking is so ingrained in me, that it is not an easy task to catch it and question it. The thoughts come relatively automatically. A knee-jerk reaction to everything I perceive. It truly will be a challenge for me, but I’m willing to try. It beats having my thoughts running amok like some hyperactive candy-laden five-year old careening off the walls in a sugar-induced frenzy. Or like that teenage boy that came to visit my teenage daughter one time and turned all the furniture upside down in my apartment. But that’s another story.
I’m all for sweet dreams, maybe I can get used to sweet thoughts. I’ll spin the web and see what kind of thoughts I net.