Last night my cat was stalking a spot on a white wall. There was nothing there, but in his imagining it was worthy of his notice and all his energy. He sat there for a long time intent on fighting his fictional foe. I will be honest, it was highly amusing.
This did however lead me to wonder if humans are often like that too. What things do we notice which really mean nothing at all? What things do we fixate on, which are entirely imagined? I’m sure there are many and for the anxious mind there are many more.
In my own journey with anxiety I can identify with my crazy cat, I know what it’s like to be consumed with something that’s not there. Although in my case, I would be staring at an invisible spot on the wall which would suddenly multiply to a hundred invisible spots and I would want to chase them all.
In my worst moments, I honestly did believe every thought that came into my mind. It was like handing myself a hundred negative prophesies all at once and believing they were true, instead of something to be tested.
I have learnt a lot since being in my twenties and I’m glad to say that I don’t do this any more. I have moments, but I am more aware when it’s happening and can catch myself before I spend days staring at or giving my attention to something that isn’t real.
What has helped me? Many, many things: quotes, specific bible verses, books, songs, discussions with wise people, seeing a psychologist, medication, improving my gut health and more.
Allow me to give you a few questions to ask yourself before you sit staring at your negative thoughts.
- Should I put energy into chasing this thought?
- Is this real or a self-made negative prophecy?
- Is this helpful?
And my favourite mantra for stopping my anxious imaginings:
Thoughts are not facts
If you are struggling by fixating on unhelpful and negative thoughts or dreamed up catastrophes, let me encourage you to remember this story of my cat. If you can let go of even one fictional foe this week, I will give you a standing ovation.
Love Jess xxoo