Beyond the rabbit hole of negative thoughts

Help with difficult emotions

It happens to many of us from time-to-time, and it feels hard, painful, and lonely.

I was taken by surprise last week to find myself pulled into a seeming pit of misery and self-doubt. It seemed to come out of the blue, and one negative thought followed the other. My belly was in a knot and I was suffering at the effect of my own mind and emotions.

While it’s easy to get pulled down the rabbit-hole of negative thoughts and emotions, knowing what to do to help pull ourselves out feels difficult when we’re in the middle of it. For me, gone are the days when I want challenging thoughts and emotions to be running my life. Having a plan in place for when this happens is incredibly helpful.

I used to try to busy and blame myself out of negative thought and feelings, but I learned this does nothing to heal what must be healed within. That used to be the way it was; when I was triggered by something, or felt ‘off’, I’d look outside of myself for something to blame, and if I looked hard enough, I could certainly find something. This certainly created carnage and complexity in my life, and healed nothing, leaving victims in my wake.

Or, I stuffed those feelings down by distracting myself by getting busy. I’ve learned when I do these things, I keep the solution at bay and I become victim to my emotions and to life.

In my evolution with mindfulness and learning to understand my emotions, I remember telling my husband one morning that I felt irritable. When he asked me what the irritability was about, I could see his look of concern on his face melt into laughter when I replied, “it’s about nothing in particular, but if you want, I can make it about you, like I used to.” This was a transformative and empowering moment for me.

The suffering difficult emotions used to cause has lessened as I’ve learned to simply observe emotions, breathe deeply, and let them pass. I appreciate thinking about emotions as e-motion; energy in motion. Feelings need to move, and when allowed to be observed and witnessed, not suppressed or fed, they will change and lighten.

Emotion researchers have revealed that even the most powerful emotions will pass in 60-90 seconds when we do this, if we don’t suppress them or feed them with a thought. The feelings may come back, but they will do so with less intensity.

Remembering to breathe deeply is important. Learning to turn toward what we’re feeling, breath it through, without judgment, is key. Learning not to project, surpress or gloss-over what we’re feeling is essential. Having a plan in place for times when challenging emotions seem to grab us is so helpful.

I smile in recognizing how quickly I was able to bring healing and move through my venture down the rabbit-hole last week; in the past I would have taken residence up there for days. Instead of staying stuck, I enacted my plan, and it was transformative. I hope something in this plan might be helpful for you.

• Self-compassion is essential. Holding ourselves as tenderly and wisely as we’d hold someone we love. Become our own best friend.

• Turning toward and feeling the feelings, breathing, and allowing them to move through the body. Even intense emotions will dissipate in intensity with this practice.

• Don’t believe everything you think, simply notice with curiosity and non-judgment.

• Taking responsibility for our feelings, but not going into self-blame, shame or negative self-talk.

• Phone a friend, but choose carefully. I have wise, close friends who are able to hold the high-watch for me, and have agreed not to join me in the pit. They listen as a caring presence but don’t feed a negative situation. Speaking with them helps me can gain clarity.

• Exercise or going for a walk can be helpful to help us gain perspective.

• Prayer is powerful.

• The use of inspired reading and positive affirmations.

Positive self-affirmations are helpful if we’re not trying to simply by-pass what we’re experiencing, but they can help us through the tough times. Positive affirmations are found to:

• Reduce stress, anxiety and depression

• Increase feelings of hopefulness, soothing, and relaxation

• Improve confidence

• Support positive outcomes

• Improve work performance and productivity

• Increase resilience

• Increase motivation

• Helpful in formation of new habits

• May be helpful in promoting sleep

Positive affirmations don’t have to be complex, and are best if they align with your own values and are believable to us. They are short statements repeated several times a day and can be additionally used to support ourselves when facing challenging or stressful situations.

Learning to experience our emotions but not have them take-us-out is so empowering. They have important information to offer us, when we learn to be with them and listen mindfully.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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