To act or to just be aware…?
Several years back I heard an interesting idea. I was driving to the airport and listening to the radio. The show was talking about mindfulness. Mindfulness is very popular these days. It’s almost a religion.
What the broadcast boiled down was what to DO with thoughts. It looked at two schools of thought.
APPROACH ONE: JUST watch the thoughts and NOTHING more. This is known as mindfulness. The idea that you just watch your thoughts with detachment.
APPROACH TWO: DO something with your thoughts. So the second strategy was to do more than just watch. Do something. A cognitive approach. Change the thought, analyze the thought, really consider it…
Now part of my anxiety coaching work using the Worry Whisperer method includes both of these. Sometimes you just watch thoughts. Other times you respond to them, you act upon them. It’s a balance.
The problem, however, is that people like simple solutions. Give me the pill, tell me the magic mantra, what’s “The Way?”… Mindfulness can get you in trouble. I learned this the hard way.
In my worry whispering wanderings I have dived deeply into my mind. I really got into mindfulness. I thought it was the way out, the key to freedom… And truth be told, in moments, it was. But I learned it was not a cure-all.
Denying your true feelings and thoughts can backfire. Feelings are messengers. You may need to feel stuck or angry or afraid. We are not robots. We feel. We live. We struggle in moments. Anger can move you forward.
I recall getting in touch with my anger when I was in my 20’s. I had suppressed so much of it. To finally own it was exhilarating, scary AND liberating. And then I moved on. If I had just watched it with detachment nothing would’ve been learned.
So there’s a time to feel and a time to witness. You know like the song, “I’m A Little Bit Country, I’m a Little Bit Rock’n’Roll” Donny and Marie Osmond were on to something there! So, excessive mindfulness can limit you. Just know that. It’s a great tool. Hey, I use it. But I also know how to process my feelings.
That balance is good. Because too much, “feeling feelings” is just as bad. I teach the balance to the clients I work with. Learning both systems makes you stronger. Sometimes, it’s perfect to just be the observer. At other times, however, you need to listen to the messages that your mind and emotions are giving you to truly be healthy and balanced.