Newest Member: Chickenhawk
Mind Movies and How to Stop Them
submitted by heartbroken_kk
Are you absolutely miserable and suffering horribly with random bouts of crying, wanting to curl up in a little ball and never get out of bed, prone to extreme angry outbursts, etc. and all because of the thought or memory that just popped up in your head, unrequested, unwelcome, uncontrolled? And now you can't stop thinking about it? Over and over?
I want to tell you about something I learned to do while I was in those terrible deep dark days after D-day 1, after D-day 3, after D-day 6, after separation, when I desperately wanted to feel better but my situation was imploding all around me.
Change your thoughts.
If what your WS is doing or has done is tormenting you and you can't get it out of your head, here is some practical step-by-step advice for finding peace.
First notice your thoughts.
This is also called mindfulness. You have an inner world that is separate and distinct from what goes on outside your head. Your emotions can be triggered by both your inner world and your outer world. Getting control over what is going on in your head will help you FEEL BETTER emotionally because you will have fewer triggers that make you feel sad, angry, or afraid.
Try to name what TYPE of thing it is that's going on in your head.
A MEMORY of something that REALLY happened, like reading an email or picking up a phone and seeing a text, or seeing a receipt, or a hickey, or whatever. You are recalling something that actually happened and replaying it like pushing rewind on a movie. Mind movies.
A THOUGHT such as wondering if that "meeting" your WS has to go to is really for work or is really a hookup. Your brain is puzzling, having a question or idea in mind. You think it could be A but it also could be B. You're pretty sure it's A. How would you test if it's A? Investigation mode.
A FANTASY where you IMAGINE something that you didn't directly experience. You imagine your WS in a hotel room with another affair partner. You imagine their sex acts without you in them. You start with an idea or thought but take it down a speculative path, playing out possible scenarios.
CATASTROPHIZING which is a kind of imagination but more about you playing out your fears. You imagine you will have to move out and you'll be living in your car. You imagine going to pick up your kids at school but they've been taken and abducted by WS.
You FEEL an emotion, like despair, or helplessness. It takes over your body, pulling tears from your eyes, making you sink into your chair. Anger makes you get up and pace about the house, fists clenched, teeth grinding.
Many of these kinds of mental processes are not really helpful, particularly if you get stuck in a loop RUMINATING and playing over the same memories, fantasies or catastrophes again and again, or you get so stuck in your emotional state that you can't break out of it.
So how do you break out of ruminating and get your brain back in control so you feel better?
Actively choose an alternate thought
You need to come up with about 3 different alternate thoughts that you practice thinking about. It helps if you can work out these thoughts into a "standard" or "go to" thought by repeating them to yourself when you are not stressed, as an exercise. My IC gave this to me as a homework exercise and I believe it was one of the most important things I ever got out of therapy. I have a VERY active brain and my ruminating was making me miserable.
Here are some of my go to alternate thoughts. I still use them on occasion.
- Making salad
I like salads with a lot of ingredients. OK. What do I have in the fridge? I imagine pulling the door open and sliding out the crisper and I try to remember what I last saw in there. I try to remember which salad dressings I have. I think about other ingredients in the cupboard, like croutons, raisins, pine nuts, anchovies. How about the fruit bowl? Do I have an apple or pear? Cheese? Do I have a chunk of blue, or parmesan? Meat, how about that leftover grilled chicken breast? I pick a type of salad to make. If I need ingredients I imagine going to the store to buy them and walking through the produce department to pick them out. I play that movie in my mind's eye. I select the bowl I will put the salad in when I get home. Is this a whole meal salad for one, or a family meal where the salad will be shared? Next I watch myself put the ingredients on the counter and start chopping and adding things to the salad bowl. I choose the order of processing the ingredients and I play the movie of me making my salad. Next I imagine me sitting at the table and looking at the salad and being grateful for having nutritious food. I imagine a moment of deep breathing and relaxation before I eat.
- Going for a hike with my dog
I have a favorite bench in a big park a short drive from my house. I imagine getting ready. I put my boots on and find my water bottle. I put my hair up in a ponytail and get a ball cap. Sunscreen or rain coat? I get the leash. I try to calm the dog down because she's so ecstatic we are going for a walk. I imagine opening the car door so she can jump in. I put my day pack in the back. I visualize driving the route to the park trailhead, following the roads and making the turns I need to do. At the trailhead I get out and try to get the leash on the dog before she bolts out the door. I put on my pack and lock the car. I stop at the kiosk and look at the trail map and I grab a poo bag. I walk out the 50 yards my dog needs before doing her business, then I pick it up and walk back to the trash can and drop the bag there. Then I start my hike. I choose the left loop or the right loop to the bench. I visualize walking past that huge oak tree and then the steep climb up the hill to the junction. Next I imagine myself stopping to catch my breath at the top. I practice "sit" with my pup in the next stretch and work on her manners not pulling on the leash. We get to the meadow and I let her off leash and throw the stick for a while. We walk out through the berry patches. Then we turn left and hike out through the pines to the vista point where the bench is. I have her sit in front of me and I sit on the bench and take in the view, noticing the city to the left, the ridgeline to the right. I center myself over my seatbones and take ten deep breaths. I feel gratitude that someone had the vision to protect this land and make it into a park. I listen for the sound of the chickadees and play their calls in my head while I breath in the fresh air.
- Working on my backlog of car maintenance
I run through the list of things my car needs. I have a stain on my passenger side door mat where my coffee mug rolled over and leaked. I need to pull that out and hose it off. My windows have pup nose smears on them. I need windex. The rear wiper blade is cracked and leaves a streak. I need to find a place that carries that size. I have a slow leak in my right front tire. I need to find the paperwork where I got the tires, which store was it? I need to take it in to have them fix the leak and rotate the tires. I should do ask about an alignment while I'm at it, there's a shimmy in the steering wheel at 75mph. I should pull out all the towels that have dog hair and trail dirt on them and wash and replace. It might be time for an oil change, I need to look at the odometer, it might be pushing 3500 since last service. Oh, and that damn S belt squeals when I start it up in the cold. Probably needs an adjustment on the pulley. I visualize doing the things I can at home and then making an appointment on the phone with my service guy at the independent shop I like. I visualize him taking my call and the dirty overalls he wears and that nasty oily appointment book he writes in to schedule my work. I visualize driving there on Tuesday and then walking to the cafe two blocks away and sitting with my latte and being appreciative of my reliable affordable car and just taking a few moments to relax and do nothing at that little black steel and wire table under the magnolia tree in the back patio. I listen to the water in the fountain and taste my coffee.
If you scroll up you will realize these are long, complex, visually stimulating, memory intensive STRINGS of thoughts. I can "go to" one of these thoughts and start at the beginning and work my way through and it will be a little different each time. And it takes several minutes to do it. Try it. Go read them again. You will see that these are personal to me, related to my real life, contain no medications, and do not require a co-pay.
Practicing "go-to thoughts" is super effective in killing whatever thought was in my head before. Ruminating about that hotel room? GONE, gone gone. I can't even remember sometimes what I was thinking about before. And each of these thoughts ends with a moment of meditation and finding something to be grateful for.
Try to think of a couple different scenarios that would work for you that are based on your life and your environment. They need to be thoughts that don't take you to triggery places. For example, I don't worry about running into the AP in the grocery when I'm shopping for salad, so that works for me. If your WS is into playing out sexual fetishes with vegetables that might not work for you so much, so work through your thought ideas and see if they have triggers in them. If that thought keeps hitting on a trigger, find a different one.
Practice all three thoughts for three days. Alternate between them. Work on developing the pathway, the story line in your head. Reproduce these thoughts DELIBERATELY.
Changing your thoughts is VERY possible with this method. It is a great way to get yourself calmed down, to break your rumination, to kick out that AP that is living rent free in your brain.
This is an awful process to have to go through after discovering infidelity. Your situation and your mind take you to terrible places and you need to be able to extricate yourself when it is unbearable. Take control of your thoughts and you will be on the way to getting control of how you FEEL. Sometimes we feel so helpless and victimized and like everything is falling apart and we have no control over anything. But we can OWN our own thoughts. Nobody can take away going to your happy place in your head. Happiness is out there for you, you can get back to a place of contentment and peace, no matter WHAT happens.
May you all find a moment of peace and contentment when you need it.