Episode 75: Ask April

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Episode Summary

For the first time on the podcast, I am answering listener questions.

In this episode, I share practical ways to teach your brain to think new thoughts, explore how to allow your children to have their feelings and opinions without needing to control them, show you how to look at your own thoughts without judgment, offer my thoughts on how to move on from betrayal, trauma, or divorce, and share how to use thought work in everyday life to change the way you think and react in any situation.

Episode Tools and Questions

In this episode I answered five listener questions.

1. How do I respect my children’s right to have emotions and voice their opinions?

What we first have to remember is that other people and other’s people’s emotions can never create ours. So the first step in allowing other people to have emotions is to recognize this truth—our children’s emotions don’t create ours.

Second, it is always your childrens right to choose. And we call it “allowing”…”allowing them to be sad”….but really there is not allowing in it. They just get to do it, whether or not we allow it.
They always have the right to choose.

Finally, I love knowing that is never anyone else’s job to make me feel anything. Our children are not in charge of our emotions and it’s never their job to make us feel anything.

2. I would love to hear your thoughts about those circumstances where things are more extreme and where there's more trauma involved.I would love to hear you speak about the idea of moving forward from trauma and divorce.

So first of all, when we talk about moving on…from anything really….there is an unspoken thought that where we are is bad and where we are going is better. That where we are is undesirable and we need to get unstuck and out of here and move forward to the place where its happy or least to the place where it will feel better.

And as counterintuitive as it feels, we need to accept that we are exactly where we need to be and allow the pain without arguing with it—without wanting to change it or fix it or heal from it or move on.

We have lots of thoughts that we didn’t before the betrayal or trauma or loss or divorce and those thoughts should cause pain. We don’t have to solve for that. It is the experience we are having and it shouldn’t be any different.

It might also be helpful to remind yourself that there was never any certainty. When you experience betrayal or trauma or divorce, you sort of feel like your life is never going to be the same. But it was never going to be another way. You just thought it was and our life is always changing in ways we can’t predict.

And so instead of trying to recreate certainty for yourself, and trying to control things and make them the same and get back some of that certainty, this is an opportunity to accept the uncertainty of EVERYTHING outside of you and tap into the CERTAINTY inside of you. That you can handle whatever comes. You always have.

3. I was wondering if you could share how you personally tackled believing new thoughts. I know in theory you say to practice, practice, and then practice some more. But I was curious as to how you actually go about doing that. I feel like there are so many I need to practice. I was curious as to how you actually go about doing that. I don't even know where to start.

So practicing means that if we have a thought that we notice is not giving us a result we want, practicing means that every time the old thought comes up, we redirect the brain to the new one until the redirection happens automatically. It’s not that the instinctive thought won’t arise, it’s just that your brain gets used to making the redirect. So what does this look like on a practical level? I think first is to become aware of what we are thinking.

  • What thought comes up for me a lot?
  • What thought is my brain always offering me that is producing a feeling and a result that I don’t love?

Then we question the thought.

  • Why am I choosing to think it?
  • If this thought wasn’t available to me, what would be different?
  • Is it true?
  • What if I’m wrong about this?

When you first think the new thought, it will feel untrue. IT will feel strange. But it’s only because you don’t have practice thinking it. I really like to focus on one thought or one set of thoughts at time. And know that if your brain offers the old thought, it’s not because you haven’t practiced enough…the brain is always going to give you its survival sentence on default. But you can train it to redirect to what you want to think every time that thought comes up.

4. I'm having trouble exploring a thought because I'm afraid to write it down because it's “bad.” So I don't want to. So I avoid it. How do I write down the thoughts I’m ashamed of?

The biggest reason we write our thoughts down is that when our thoughts are just up in our heads they feel true. Our brain is thinking them and that is creating feelings inside of us and that makes the thoughts feel true. So, the best thing to do is to get all your thoughts on paper. To give yourself 5-10 minutes to just put everything in your head on paper. This alone, just the act of getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper will make you feel better.
Notice when we think the thought is bad and we are ashamed of it in some way, it’s because we think we shouldn’t be thinking the thought. But no thought, no thought, is good or bad. There are just sentences offered to you, by your brain, sentences that your brain thinks will be helpful for your survival.

When we just see the words on a page rather than this scary bad idea inside of us creating anxious feelings, then we can see them for what they are.  Just words, arranged in a sentence.  All made up by the brain.  Not good.  Not bad.  Just words.  And I get to look at them and decide whether or not I want to believe them and think them or if I just want to let them go and believe something else.

5. I have thoughts that I want to change, but in the busyness of everything, of everyday Iife, I forget to redirect my thoughts during the day or during different instances or experiences. I was just wondering, how do you start the habit of continuously redirecting your thoughts to the new thought that you want to make? 

The model is a tool to explore what we are thinking and the results those thoughts are giving us.  It’s a tool to remind myself that there is always a space between my circumstances or the things that happen in my life and my feelings.  And in that space…is my thought.  

And for the most part, when we use the model we do so after the fact.  To analyze, learn, and show ourselves over and over and over again, where our moment of choice was, how we always create our feelings,  and where our control is.  And doing models can also help us decide other possible thoughts that we want to think going forward.

But in my real life, as my life is happening, I am never running models about what I am thinking.  In real life, I think we get the most traction by feeling our feelings, not judging ourselves and just watching ourselves think.

In your life, your job is to just feel and watch.  Watch your brain think thoughts that create feelings.  Allow the feelings to be there.  They don’t  mean you are bad.  They don’t mean the thoughts are bad.  They just mean your brain thought you might be in danger and this sentence might help.  Fascinating.  And if you can open up to your feelings and just watch without judgment, all the other thoughts you have practiced doing your models will surface for you.

Episode Notes

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