Tag Archives: Trains of thought

Don’t just jump on any train of thought – train your mind instead, and steer your course.

In recovery of any sort, it is absolutely essential that we get a hold of and harness our thoughts if we want to have a successful outcome.

Please bear in mind that I don’t say this at all lightly. Having experienced the nightmare of complex PTSD and severe generalised anxiety disorder and clinical depression, believe me when I say I know how incredibly tough it is to calm those intensely distressing thoughts. Tough, but not impossible.

You need more than muscle or physical endurance to get through a trial or a challenge. You need to set your mind on higher things. Things that are above your pain, above your problems and your circumstances. You need to tell yourself the Truth, and not give in to the despair of lies.

Our thoughts can lead us to all kinds of places. Sometimes those can be incredibly dark places such as low self esteem, depression, fear, phobias, eating disorders, relationship breakdown, self-harm, addiction, obsessions, suicidal ideation and even death. Such negative and intrusive thoughts can affect any of us, and it can be hard to ‘fight them off’. Self pity can lead to anger, bitterness and poor choices. Our thoughts can affect the words we use and our behaviour towards other people. These are certainly not trains of thought that any of us want to get on, but I’m sure that quite a few of us have experience of what it is like to be on such a journey through dark tunnels in our lives.

However, we don’t have to stay on that train. You don’t have to. The longer you are on it, the longer you will hear those ‘announcements’ from inside the carriage, loudly reinforcing that you are headed towards ‘destination nowhere’. Your fellow travellers will be headed in the same direction even if they get off at different stops. And the longer you are on it the more deeply ingrained those messages will become, messages that you may not even realise you are internalising and letting become part of your psyche.

You need to be aware of how detrimental, how devastating and damaging staying with those thoughts can be. They drive deep tracks into your internal processing, how you think of your life, your circumstances and these will inevitably affect not only your mental and emotional health, but your physical health too, as well as the choices you make and how your relationships with other people turn out.

But don’t despair. You are not your thoughts, and you can come back from it. I’m proof, although I’m a work in progress. Many of the negative things, the abusive words that pierced me in childhood became part of my internal processing. I believed the lies, and they damaged me greatly. Childhood is a very vulnerable time when we don’t have much resources or resilience to deal with what comes our way.

As adults, however, we can choose to get off the train and choose a new destination. I’m not saying that positive thinking is the cure to all of our problems, certainly not (as you probably well know, I believe Jesus Christ Is The cure!). However, we need to train ourselves, our thought patterns and develop new ‘tracks’ in our mind.

Think of the physical process of laying down a railway track. It’s a piece by piece effort, and similarly you will need to redesign your thought processes one thought at a time, reinforcing these as you go.

In your recovery you will learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way. You will need to work through things at your own pace. However, it is always helpful if someone can save you some of the heartache by giving you advice and the benefit of experience and hindsight as early as they can for you.

It’s best to decide ahead of time what your ‘go to’ thoughts are going to be, especially in challenging the negative thoughts you have been allowing to become part of your mental make up. You might not even realise that you are doing so. For example, do you allow yourself to dwell on thoughts such as ‘it’s so unfair’ or do you let them drift by and replace them with more productive thoughts such as ‘this isn’t what I would have chosen to happen, but now I have the power to choose what I do with it, and I will choose something productive’.

Thought patterns are so called because of their similarity. It’s unusual to jump from negative thoughts to positive thoughts without intention. For example one negative thought will tend to lead to another, and then another, until ‘tracks’ and ‘grooves’ are formed in our thinking: patterns.

A thought such as ‘it’s so unfair’ could quite easily lead to a stream of other such thoughts, forming a not so beautiful pattern of negativity. ‘It’s so unfair’ can lead to ‘victim thinking’. Whereas as children we may be victims because of our relative powerlessness, as adults, even if our lives are broken, we do have more resources available to us to find a way out. Where we can’t advocate for ourselves, others can, and if we’ve made it into adulthood, we will by default have some ‘tools under our belt’ simply because we have survived this far. We may not feel particularly strong, but we don’t need to be bound by victimhood. We can, at the very least, change our thinking. Victim thinking, such as ‘why me?’, or ‘this always happens to me’ can lead to an apathetic stance, one of ‘giving up’ – ‘what’s the use of trying anyway, nothing ever works out’. I’m not belittling such thoughts because I personally know from experience that they often come from a place of deep hurt but however long the journey of recovery is, we need to begin by acknowledging them for what they are, and then challenging them, followed by replacing them.

Here are some more positive thoughts for you to build upon, and reinforce daily, as you progress and persevere in your recovery over whatever your personal challenge may happen to be:

  • This isn’t what I would have chosen, but I can choose to do something about it.
  • It feels ‘too much’ but the lives of other people who have overcome difficulties testify to the tenacity and strength of the human spirit. If they can do it, I can too.
  • The pain feels too much, but I won’t add to my suffering by thinking negatively about my pain. I will look for the lessons in this tough time and will use them to help other people afterwards, or even while I am in the midst of this.
  • I am grateful to be alive.
  • I appreciate that I can do these (you fill in the blanks) things.
  • I am an overcomer.
  • I am a survivor.
  • I am determined.
  • Nothing is impossible.
  • I will use this difficult experience for good in the world.

 

As with weight lifting, where muscle is built and defined and strengthened over time, it also takes time to grow mentally tough. No one said the process won’t hurt, be challenging, or even gruelling at times, but when you begin to see those mental ‘muscles’ gaining definition and strength, you won’t want to look back, and in time you will want to train other people to be strong and positively minded individuals also. Just imagine what good this can do in the world!

photo of railway on mountain near houses
Photo by SenuScape on Pexels.com
man and woman holding battle ropes
Photo by Leon Martinez on Pexels.com

Trains of thought ….

You may have read my previous two posts about my recent travel adventures on the Jacobite Steam Train through northern Scotland. However, this post is about different types of trains: trains of thought.

I did not choose this topic at random, but because I am struggling right now, and I like the freedom of being ‘real’ with you on this platform (pardon the pun 😉 ).

You see, for the past few years I have been receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress, Complex Trauma (trauma that is severe and repeated), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Severe Clinical Depression – what a colourful array of conditions and symptoms! I have been suffering for many, many, many years prior to getting help, however.

Despite my conditions, I function at a high level. I work full time (although my workplace know of my conditions and are supportive to me), I have obtained two first class degrees, I love photography, and other creative outlets, have a strong faith and seek to encourage other people in my friendships. These are all real and genuine parts of me, they are not masks, however, underneath my pleasant and often smiling demeanour is a lot of pain, and emotional and mental distress. In case you are wondering a lot of this stems from bullying about my appearance as a child, racial hate crimes, physical, mental, verbal and emotional ‘bullying’ (abuse) at young and formative stages of my life, as well as various stressful situations in adulthood.

I try hard, but sometimes my brain and body go into ‘meltdown’, and I am harassed by nightmares, chronic pain, flashbacks, distress, confusion, low moods and painful memories and reminders of abusive words hurled at me that I absorbed as being true about myself.

But I have chosen not to be defeated by these things, although recovery is a long road. In my pain and despair, prior to seeking professional help, I would try to ‘fix’ things or figure them out and it would lead me down very unhelpful trains of thought such as obsessively reading about stories of adults who were bullied as children and that sort of thing. It ultimately didn’t pull me out of my pain and trauma.

Since then, I have been focusing on more positive distractions and techniques to ground me in the present…I’m still at a vulnerable stage of my recovery so reprocessing these experiences needs to be built on a more stable foundation of grounding and staying emotionally safe and well. I have been doing pretty well with these – I have been pouring a lot of my time and attention into healthier pursuits such as doing my best at work, exercising, going for walks, eating more healthily, not isolating myself from friends and family but working on my relationships with others, taking time for ‘self care’, pursuing my hobbies of photography, creative writing, arts and crafts, adult colouring, and now blogging !, and building myself up in my faith and in prayer.

However, not all journeys are smooth and straightforward, and this train has run into some trouble and parts of it have broken down and are in need of servicing. I have been feeling more overwhelmed by, I guess a ‘flare up’ of the traumatic symptoms, and at the moment I’m struggling again.

Today I found myself face to face once more with some of these troubling memories and emotions and feelings and physical sensations that brought back a lot of negativity in my perceptions of myself as I was when I experienced these things, and I found myself beginning to follow old trains of thought – I was so close to going online to read about and watch videos about bulling, but I know that that will ultimately be harmful to me.

So I chose a new train of thought, I chose to continue on a more healthy journey, and I came here to blog instead.

But this blog isn’t all about me. It’s about you, about us, and about community and building each other up, being encouragers and supporting each other on our individual and shared journeys.

If you struggle with your mental health, know that you are not alone. Be aware of the train of thought you choose to pursue, and if you are on the wrong train, get off at the nearest station and switch tracks.

How do you do this? Start building up your ability to choose positive thoughts. Perhaps you can focus on a healthy hobby, or write down a list of affirmations and positive statements about yourself. Take your attention away from the thoughts that distress you and instead focus on something beautiful like the clouds moving across the sky, the sound of birdsong, the gentle lapping of waves, the laughter of someone you love, the sweet scent of flowers or perfume, the taste of your favourite food. Build a ‘narrative’ for yourself, filled with positive things. Use your imagination, and keep choosing the Imagination Stations of positivity rather than staying on a train of thought that will only lead you through a long dark tunnel.

What helps you? Do you have anything helpful that you can share that might benefit the rest of us? If so please feel free to comment and discuss. We’re all passengers together in this journey of life, so let’s make sure we help each other choose the right train! 🙂

I shall leave you with an inspiring quote to ponder:

“whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).