Out, Damned Thought!

You might remember the line ‘Out, Damned Spot…Out, I say’ from?the?play?Macbeth. ?The line is spoken by?Lady?Macbeth, whose husband?has killed?the?king?of?Scotland?at?her?urging. Her?guilt over the murder gradually drives her insane.? When she speaks this line she is sleepwalking, and she imagines that a spot of?the?king’s?blood stains?her?hand.

Have you ever felt that way about a thought you were having – that you just wanted it ‘out’? ?It might not be driving you insane (or it might) but it certainly might be pre-occupying your waking hours, impacting your energy, and affecting your overall mood.

I read an interesting blog post in Forbes by Alice Walton? called How to Kill a Thought (in a Good Way).? I couldn’t stop thinking about it (in a good way). ?Our thoughts often feel like unwanted intruders, and sometimes we just want them out!

It is true that ridding yourself of unwanted thoughts can be easier said than done.??If you focus on the thought (because you are trying to get rid of it), you actually might end up nurturing it and it will grow even bigger.? Then, it can become embedded even more strongly in your brain! ?If you try to ignore it or hide from it, you might also be inadvertently ‘feeding’?(reinforcing) the thought.? Either way, the thought grows.? Now, that’s frustrating!?

So, consider this simple process to begin right away.? First pay attention.? Notice? what you notice.? Then, start immediately to rid yourself of unhelpful thoughts:

Remember that thoughts are not facts.

Your thoughts are simply that – your thoughts. ?They are not the facts of the situation in which you find yourself, but are instead a reflection of the story you are telling yourself about the situation.? Facts are concrete, observable to everyone, and the same for everyone.? Thoughts are your interpretations of the observable, concrete facts you notice.? Sometimes the line between them can be blurred if you don’t take time to separate them.??Mindfulness can help!? Check out Elisha Goldstein’s recent blog post Making Mindfulness Work?.

Nag in the other direction – even bigger.

One thing we know about your brain is that – while it is beautiful and amazing – it can only be in one place at any one time (hold one kind of thought at a time). ?So, when you want to get rid of a negative, nagging thought, you have to replace it with a positive, nagging thought.??And, yes, somehow nagging – repetition over and over – is required!?? Your brain spends more time on the negative, naturally.? So, you have to work extra hard at spending time on the positive (according to Barbara Fredrickson, three times as hard.)? Andrew May has a cool 48 Hour Positivity Challenge to help you with this?in Executive Style??- check it out!

Nurture the new positive feeling, regularly.

When you start to feel better – be mindful of the better feeling – focus on and nurture that feeling. Where is that feeling in your body?? What other sensations do you notice when you are feeling more positive?? The more you focus on the positive emotion, the stronger it will grow?and spread until finally, the damned negative thought is history!!

You can do this.? You are all you need.? In an interview in Huffington Post Healthy Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn said?’Today, people recognize that they’re not going to find well-being from the outside, or from a pill; they’re going to find it by looking inside.’? He continued with this sentence which might just make you pause for?a moment or two to process it :?’ All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realizing you already are what you are looking for.’?

You are what you are looking for, thoughts are just thoughts, and?mindfulness can become your new habit.? Out, damned thought…Out, I say!??

Deri Latimer, B Mgt, CSP, is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri provides practical strategies for mental health ‘at work’; impacting individuals and organizations?to increase resilience to change, energize engagement with the organization, and propel meaningful performance results that last!??www.derilatimer.com





4 Replies to “Out, Damned Thought!”

  1. Hi Deri,

    I am going to find those positive thoughts…. come hell or high water!!!!!!! Not too sure what that phase really means but I have heard it often enough. LOL With the positve thoughts comes a smile.

    thanks again


  2. Hello Deri. Thank you for this post…it couldn’t have come at a better time. My nine year old boy suffers from anxiety and is a sensitive boy, who just recently has been in conflict with some of his friends at school. In fact it seems like a lot of his friends at school. In his mind, Josh thinks that is friends are annoying and they bug him and they are stupid and they don’t understand him, etc.

    I found myself telling him to think about his thoughts…hahaha…imagine a nine year old boy thinking about his thoughts. Is it possible? I will try to find a way to help him plant positive thoughts in his head to overcome the negative ones. I am sure I will have some trial and error in my future to convince him that his thoughts are not facts of the situation.

    Thank you, Deri, I always take something away from your posts.


    1. Thank you so very much for you comment, Bob! I appreciate you sharing your experience with me.

      I am sending another exercise that I have used in workshops – and with my own children. Josh might like this one. I love it because of it’s simplicity (my son actually learned this as part of a trial program through Health Sciences Centre when he was in grade 2…they were testing a program that they were launching to help children with anxiety and worry).

      You could add in some situations that Josh is facing…describe the situation (what are the kids doing, how are they behaving), then what are the unhelpful thoughts Josh might be having (annoying, stupid, don’t understand me), then what are helpful thoughts Josh could have (they do not realize they are hurting me, they are doing what they can to be ‘in’ and popular, everyone tries to fit in the best they can and sometimes they don’t realize how their actions affect others)…then you and Josh can talk about how he can decide to behave as though his more positive thoughts are ‘the truth’ – he can smile, join in, hold his head high, etc. …and then notice what happens.

      Also, there is a lot of work being done to help kids learn to meditate (it quiets the brain and helps you to think about your thinking).

      Here is a place to start – some reading…there is a TON of information on the internet.

      Plus Goldie Hawn wrote a book called ’10 Mindful Minutes’ directed specifically at children.

      One more thing – I have a book called ‘Wake Up To Your Habits’ and it includes questions you can ask someone when they are experiencing negative emotion (or when they want to create positive emotion) – plus there are body exercises included. It is a ‘manual’ of sorts that you can use to tune into your story (your thoughts) and then answer some questions to change your thinking, do a body exercise to shift things physically, then decide on a course of action that works for you. If that interests you, I’d be happy to send you an e-copy, as a gift for Josh.

      I commend you for looking for ways to help Josh. Life is full of joys and challenges — and I always think that the more tools we can have in our tool belt, the better we’ll be!

      Warm Regards to you both!

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