Have you ever had a dream in which you were being chased? If you haven’t, you can probably imagine what it would feel like. Suppose you were forced to climb a mountain, but as you run across the peak, you suddenly stop because you find yourself at the edge. It seems the only option is to jump.
But as you’re about to make the final leap to avoid your pursuer, something catches your eye. Just a few feet away, you see a bridge, and even though you can’t see where it leads, you have no choice but to trust and cross it.
On the other side, you find yourself in a garden at some kind of party. You’re surrounded by people you love and everyone’s having a good time. You feel safe and thoughts of worry are far from your mind. You’re caught up in the joy of being. The troubles you experienced just a few moments before are long gone, left in a distant land in a distant dream.
Sometimes certain aspects of life can feel hopeless. When we resist or run from problems, they only seem to get bigger and more daunting. There are times when it feels like our experiences push us to the edge of a figurative cliff, rendering us stuck between a daunting past and an unforeseeable, dangerous future. We find ourselves paralyzed, not willing to go back and yet unable to jump.
But the choice to move forward or backward doesn’t have to be daunting.
There’s a way to progress into safe territory.
We simply have to look around for the bridge that will lead us to a joyous existence, and even if it isn’t readily apparent, we have the ability to build one simply by thinking it into form.
Our minds are often caught up in circles that begin and end in extremes. I can’t stay in this situation because of ___, we think, but I can’t get out of this situation because of ___.
Our inability to build a bridge to a mental landscape in which things work out in our favor is what renders us paralyzed and unhappy.
We tend to think that because things have happened in a certain way, they will continue to happen in a certain way. It’s subconscious conditioning; it’s our brain’s way of developing a pattern to keep us safe from future harm.
But unless we find a way to break the pattern, we will continue to experience the same thing, even if our experiences come in different forms.
This is true of relationships, jobs, habits, and personality traits.
For example, if you’ve ever been in a relationship and you’ve been cheated on, your mind will try to convince you that any relationship will potentially end in disaster and heartbreak. You will find yourself constructing scenarios in which the person you love, whether or not they’ve been faithful, is dishonest and probably lying to you this very second. Trust issues are the reason so many potentially wonderful relationships end up dissolving. Accusations of wrongdoing get old after awhile, especially when one person is paying the price of the past mistake of someone else.
But your mind will continue to assume that because it’s happened, it will happen again until you make a conscious effort to alter the pattern of your thoughts.
But it isn’t easy to simply “switch off” the negative thoughts and move into an assumption that everything will work out perfectly.
Instead, we must learn to guide our thoughts to the happy ending. This is how you build a bridge.
Next time you catch your mind in a loop, assuming the worst is yet to come— imagining bad things that haven’t happened based on experiences of your past— remove yourself from fear of the situation by observing the way your mind is working. Notice the pattern you’ve subconsciously developed to keep you safe. Then, ask yourself whether that pattern is keeping you safe or hindering you from experiencing something potentially wonderful. Do you have reason to be fearful other than the “triggers” that caused your mind to run in circles?
Why hasn’t he/she answered my text message? Maybe I freaked him out. I probably freaked him out. He’s probably with someone else. He probably never wants to see me again. I should just accept that I’m going to be alone forever. No one is trustworthy.
Even though this inner conversation happens mentally, our attitudes and behavior naturally mirror what we believe to be true. We always assume a defensive stance when we believe we have something to guard against— even if that “something” doesn’t really exist.
The greatest gift you can give yourself is the ability to control your thoughts, rather than allowing your thoughts to control you.
When you notice a mental loop like the above example, correct it by talking your mind away from the edge by building a mental bridge.
Why hasn’t he/she answered my text message? Maybe I freaked him out. I probably freaked him out. Wait… maybe I didn’t freak him out. I probably didn’t freak him out. Someone hasn’t answered my text message in the past because they were with someone else, but not everyone is dishonest. There are good and loyal people out there. People fall in love and are honest and loyal to each other all the time. I don’t have to guard against the unknown or assume anything. Things will probably be fine, and even if they turn out bad, I don’t have enough information to assume they will. I’m fine right here, right now, and I know that because I’m deserving of something good in my life, that good will find me.
Can you see the difference in the way our thoughts have a powerful affect on our attitudes? By thinking thoughts similar to the first example, we will work ourselves into a panicked frenzy. But by simply talking ourselves to a safe, calm place, we can feel at ease in any situation, regardless of the outcome.
We don’t have to worry about outcomes. We’ll get there when we get there. If something bad happens, it’ll happen regardless of how much time we invest stressing out about it potentially happening.
That time could be better spent enjoying life and where we are while we’re there.
We can build a bridge for any trigger of worry, regardless of the situation. Releasing thoughts of potential disaster is not only conducive to inner peace, but also allows for hope to grow in a place where darkness once lived.
We can return to a state of childlike innocence, to a time before the growing pains of life caused us to build walls around our hearts. We can live happily and freely knowing that life will take us where it will take us regardless of our mental resistance to what-ifs.
Most importantly, in developing an ability to talk ourselves out of seeing and expecting the worst, we’re able to love others, and ourselves, openly and unconditionally.