As we begin to understand what Thought really is, our need to protect ourselves from our personal thinking and our feelings naturally drops away.I’ve been someone who pretty consistently felt a deep need to comfort myself throughout my adult life. It was the way I figured out how to cope with life and with the thoughts and sometimes uncomfortable feelings I was having. I used food, television, routine, and wine to a certain extent, to soothe and comfort myself about life.
For example, each evening just before supper time, I would try to think of a comforting TV show that I could watch with my dinner. Something I loved, usually something lighthearted with kind characters and a few laughs. I’m more a Parks and Recreation and Grace and Frankie person than Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.
At times, of course, there were things to watch that I enjoyed, especially during the regular North American TV season between October and May. But at other times, I had watched everything I could find that comforted me. So I’d go back and rewatch old episodes, though that was less satisfying and I felt less comforted. Or I’d go on a desperate search to find a movie or new TV show that would fill my need for comfort.
I could see what I was doing. I knew I was seeking comfort or soothing. Some people call this ‘numbing’ but that description didn’t seem to accurately describe my experience. And it seemed judgmental or blaming. I was already feeling bad enough about myself, I didn’t need to heap another judgment on top of that.
This pattern went on for years; eating for comfort, trying to find TV shows that felt comforting, drinking one glass of wine too many at night. I hated it.
I knew something was wrong and I tried desperately to ‘fix’ myself so that I wouldn’t need comforting. I thought if I meditated more or worked really hard to ‘rewire my brain’ so that I spent more time in positive thinking I wouldn’t need to be soothed. I did more yoga and tried to learn to speak to myself in a more loving and compassionate way. None of it worked.
Not that there’s anything wrong with any of these techniques, but I can now see they were all outside-in approaches. When we try to fix or soothe ourselves from the outside-in, it’s like playing whack-a-mole, as Amanda Jones and I recently discussed.
The reason outside-in approaches don’t work is that it is the nature of our thoughts to change and fluctuate all the time. By trying to fix or change our thinking and the moment-to-moment energy of thought that is flowing through us, we’re attempting to harness the wind. It’s just not possible.
But when we are introduced to the idea that the flowing nature of thought is completely natural, and the rise and fall of consciousness that we all go through all day, every day, is also completely normal, then we begin to understand that there’s no need to change or ‘fix’ our thinking.
[For more on the ‘elevator of consciousness’ listen to this episode of the Little Peace of Mind podcast with Shannon Cooper.]
And with that awareness, I noticed my need to comfort myself dropping away all by itself. I’m not using will-power to stop bad habits. I’m learning about the nature of thought and how our minds really work, and my habit of trying to comfort myself is dropping away all by itself.
Suddenly in the evenings I don’t feel the desperate need for comfort TV any longer. I feel peaceful enough to read or to take online courses.
Here’s something really unexpected: my kitchen is cleaner than it’s ever been. I used to let the dishes pile up for 2 or 3 days because I needed to spend my time in the evening comforting myself with TV, not doing a chore like the dishes that didn’t comfort me at all.
Now, because I have less need for comfort, I simply get up after supper and do the dishes right away. And it happened naturally. I didn’t need to bargain with myself or promise myself a treat. It just happened.
I had been dealing with the desperate need to comfort myself for 30 years. To see it drop away on its own is nothing short of miraculous.
All thanks to the simple awareness of the misunderstanding about how humans work.Have you noticed any unexpected shifts in your behavior, subtle or otherwise, since learning about this understanding? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.