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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Castro

Practicing mindfulness of thoughts and emotions.

Surviving in this world feels really hard sometimes.

There tends to be a thought that pops up for me regularly when I feel overwhelmed by life and experiences - which is somehow I’m doing "it" wrong or I would not feel this way. If I observe that thought mindfully, I can follow it into other thoughts including "it’s my fault I’m not able to cope with everything at all times". That it’s my fault that certain things didn't go the way I had hoped, including things as mundane as catching a cold.

It also applies to higher level stressors and tragic events, for example a loved one dying or being ill.

Being abused or traumatized can often lead to feelings of self blame as well. For example, "if I had done something different, this wouldn't have happened to me, so it must be my fault". When in fact the perpetrator of any abuse is resoundingly responsible and at fault for their actions.

Sometimes this manifests as feeling uncomfortable with setting boundaries and saying no to requests or demands/expectations. Maybe you find yourself feeling guilty - "I should do this, I should do that". Not because you want to, but because you feel it's your fault or somehow you must take on the responsibility.

The rumination goes something along the lines of: "I’ve made some sort of error or series of errors and that’s why x, y, snd z are happening" "It's my fault, I should fix it".

If you find yourself experiencing similar patterns, it is important to not only observe your thoughts and feelings from a mindful perspective - i.e. "These are thoughts, these are emotions, I am not my thoughts or my emotions". The next step is to check the facts. Ask yourself, is what I'm thinking and feeling based on what is happening now? Or is it based on something that has happened in the past? Am I making assumptions about what other people are thinking or feeling?

Once you check the facts on these types of ruminations, which are referred to in EMDR as negative cognitions, you will find that they are often valid feelings (our feelings are always valid), but may not necessarily based in the now, or even on fact. Once you examine a negative cognition such as "it's my fault I caught that cold" through this lens, you will find that, logically, it is not true. People catch colds all the time through no fault of their own.

In general the society we live in is not supportive of healthy happy humans. I know my negative cognition surrounding feeling like it's somehow my fault when I become overwhelmed by life, (or that there is something wrong with me) is rooted in not having grown up in a secure environment as a child.

As an adult there continue to be barriers to accessing unconditional support and acceptance. However, one quick pathway through many of these negative cognitions is to give YOURSELF the unconditional love, validation, and support you have always deserved.

Observing these feelings and thoughts from a mindfulness perspective are helpful in coping with the anxiety, grief, hopelessness, and other feelings and thoughts that arise as we proceed throughout our lives.

This practice creates space to identify your positive cognitions - in this case, "I'm good just as I am" and "It's not my fault", and proceed to practice opposite action to reprogram your learned patterns in real time. For example, the next step would then be to ask yourself, If I believed without any doubt that I am good enough just as I am, how would I handle this situation (applicable to all situations).

2/2/23, Susannah Castro

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