Breaking Free from Imprisoning Thoughts

Breaking Free from Imprisoning Thoughts

How many of us have beliefs that limit us and we don’t even know it? Thoughts such as, “I don’t have enough time,” “it shouldn’t be this way” or “I can’t take it anymore!”

Imagine this scenario. The clock reads 6:31 PM. You’re meeting your date at 7 and you still haven’t been able to leave the office. As you put the finishing touches on an email and hit send, already tasting the glass of wine you plan to order, your boss drops another file on your desk and says, “I need a proposal by 9 AM. Hope you didn’t have any great plans tonight.”

Or this scenario. The clock reads 6:31 PM. Your kids need to start getting into bed at 7 and you still haven’t gotten out of the kitchen. You keep looking at the door longingly for your salvation to come. The kids are chasing each other, spaghetti strewn all over the floor, someone gets hurt. “Ouch, mommy, it’s his fault!” “No it’s not, it’s your fault, you big baby.” “I’m not a baby.” “Mommy, Sara had an accident.”

So there you are, possibly feeling victimized, treated unfairly, overwhelmed or stuck. Is it your boss making you feel that way? Your kids? Not having enough time?
Where do our feelings come from?

Most people believe they are imprisoned by their circumstances (present or past). They mistakenly look out at life to control or change their circumstances, blaming “life” for how they feel right now.

So in the first scenario, you’d probably start bad mouthing your boss, consider looking for another job, complain about the deadlines. In the second scenario you’d probably scream at your kids, blame your husband for being late, and berate yourself for choosing to potty train.

It is an illusion that our feelings come from outside of us. Our experience of life comes from within us.

​Our imprisonment is in our own mind, not our circumstances.

The only way a person could feel taken advantage of, stressed out or angry is if they are thinking victim-like, stressed-out or angry thoughts in the moment (I don’t have enough time, it shouldn’t be this way or I can’t take it anymore!).

We inadvertently take very seriously the compelling and urgent feelings this thinking engenders. Then we get duped into believing the cause of our upset is the thing we are thinking about (our boss, our kids, our spouse).

In truth, our upset comes directly from the thinking we have about our boss, our kids or our spouse.

Real freedom is attained when our relationship to our thinking shifts. Thought is the conduit through which we experience life. When our minds are busy, we are not present to what is in front of us. So, too, when our minds are quieter, we feel more present in our lives.

We are either living in our head or in our life. When we become aware that it is our thinking creating our feeling state and not life, we are released from its upset. This is the beginning of true psychological freedom.

Although we are always able to gain insights that can help us break free of our own self-created limitations, on Passover there is a spiritual energy that makes our ability to break free from illusions a bit easier. Looking in this direction at this time of year gives us the biggest bang for our buck in terms of accessing our own psychological freedom.

Our feeling state is a great barometer of the quality of our thinking, letting us know if we are living in self-styled illusion or connected and present in our life.

Feelings of discontent, anxiety, stress, insecurity, etc. indicate our thinking isn’t so reliable and trustworthy and most probably we are taking it really seriously and personally.

Feelings of connection, compassion, security, inner peace, etc. indicate our thinking has a more Divine and reliable nature to it and most likely has more perspective as well.

Believe it or not, the insight of just noticing we are feeling our thinking in any given moment is enough to help our internal GPS self-correct. The feeling state is a red flag letting us know it’s time to “recalculate.” In these moments we can feel like we were let out of jail.

Our feelings are more accurately a reflection of our state of mind than a reflection of our reality. When we think “I don’t have enough time” or “it shouldn’t be this way” we feel pressured and stressed, regardless of what we have to do. We find a lot of evidence to prove that our circumstances are creating our frustration.

However, if our interest in that thought would diminish, fresh new thoughts may appear in its wake, bringing with it a whole new experience.

Imagine as the boss drops the proposal on your desk, you look up and see the pain and stress in his eyes. You feel compassion for the poor guy and figure your date will just have to wait another day. Not a big deal, just a bit of a drag.

Imagine as an overwhelmed mother, you see your children are innocently making a mess. They are not out to get you. You break out in laughter at the absurdity of the evening.

When we are able to see our views, our disappointments, our expectations, our self-judgments as thought in the moment rather than the truth, we can disengage from the illusion.

Life lived from this vantage point allows us to disengage from a host of unhealthy habits of thought and provides a clearing for new possibilities, a greater array of choice and a deeper experience of our faith in God.

Ride The Wave

By Aviva Barnett, MSW

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with peace of mind.

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