Persistent Thoughts Solved. Method 1: 4 L’s: Look, Label, Let-it-pass, Leave
This simple method works well with persistent, troublesome thoughts as it recognises that we are not the thought, it is something separate from us.
Look – observe it
Label – it (fear of whatever), then
Let-it-pass –Watch it as it passes by, avoiding making a judgement about it (e.g. good/bad)
Leave – shift your attention to what you were doing (internal focus shift to external focus such as listening to the radio, making tea..)
Racing Thoughts Solved: Method 2 – The Bus
Imagine that you are driving along the Road of Life as the driver of your own bus. Like any normal bus journey, you stop along the way to collect passengers and let them off. It’s a fairly busy bus with people of all ages, shapes and sizes getting on and off.
In your mind, take each thought or feeling in turn and make it into real passengers on your bus. Use both current and past memories, body states, memories or even fantasies. Of course, some people on the bus will be positive and friendly, whilst others will be annoying or obnoxious. Others may simply be repetitive.
Some of these passengers (thoughts) are really quite positive: “My children are lovely….” But a whole lot of them all together? Perhaps not as much. And then you have the negative ones: bullying, blaming, shaming – “Don’t do it, you’ll show yourself up”, “Everyone knows, you’re really just a looser,” “Why bother?” “You’ll never succeed anyway, why start?”. These troublesome passengers are trying to make themselves heard, telling you how to drive, “Turn left, pull over there, speed up, slow down.”
So, driver, what do you do? You could try to ignore, disagree, or tell them to be quiet. You can even try to be logical and reason with them. However, by now you are not even driving the bus, any more, all you’re doing is trying to deal with your difficult passengers – and because there are some really troublesome ones, or lots of them, or both, they are going to take a lot of your attention. They even try to convince you that, if you listen to them, and obey them, do what they say, well maybe they might give you a bit of peace.
Overthinking: The Solution?
You are the driver and the passengers can’t make you do anything you don’t want. Are you going to let them take control? Its surely better to simply keep driving the bus, making the stops you choose, moving towards the destination you want.
This technique helps with rumination and being stuck in feelings as it uses the fact that we see other people as different and separate from us. We can use this to help with gaining both acceptance of difficult feelings and separation from our thoughts and feelings. “We are not our thoughts”. We act (drive the bus) despite everything.
Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a wide range of issues. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .
Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Ken McLeish BA DMS MBA MSc MSc Cert Ed UKCP Reg
Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy
Alderman Fenwicks House, NE1 6SQ