Controlling the Swarm of Thoughts in your Head

Do you find yourself with the 100mph head? There are thoughts of every sort and type zooming round your head. “What if they do this?” “What will they think about me if I do that?” You find yourself working out every possibility 3 or 4 moves ahead. You always seem to find yourself in a quandary about what to do for the best. You long to be someone who seems to know what is correct and can confidently strike out in the right direction.

You find yourself analysing every decision and berating yourself for every mistake however small. You find it difficult to let go of mistakes and brand yourself as stupid or foolish for making that mistake. When someone has a contrary view, you find yourself questioning your own thought process. You would really like to repaint your front room in a pastel colour but your partner says that you should have a bold colour and that you are not adventurous enough. You then find yourself trying to justify (to yourself) whether you are adventurous or not.

With all of these behaviours there is a sense that you are questioning not only who you are but whether your judgement is worthwhile – indeed, whether your opinion counts. The natural development of this is that you have a need to check every feeling and decision with others. Slowly it becomes debilitating as you become less and less sure of yourself and what others might think of you. Counsellors will describe this as an external locus of evaluation - or in other words, you judge yourself through the eyes of others.

So, how do you re-centre yourself? How do you get to a place where you are more confident and more able to treat life as it comes rather than the constant analysis that upsets you so much?

First you need to realise and accept that every situation cannot come out perfectly. As you look around at the people you think of as confident, you will see that they have made mistakes, or have done things which they are not as proud of. Lincoln would have bitter fights with enemies. Churchill battled with depression.

Challenge your unhelpful thoughts; “Who made it my responsibility for this party to be perfect?” “They had the affair and that’s my fault because I wasn’t attentive enough? That doesn’t sound right.” Learn to trust your instincts they will help you feel what is right for you. Others might disagree with you; that’s fine, but they can be wrong too.

Be very wary of thoughts that make generalisations. “I always…”, “there I go again…” or catastrophizing or jumping to conclusions. All of these thoughts need to be checked because it is very rare to get an absolute in behaviour; for example, if someone were always "wrong", it would take a great deal of effort to actually maintain complete "wrongness" all of the time. Think of the likelihood of the outcomes that you are worrying about; look at your experience and other's experience. Judge them by the same standard, not a higher standard for yourself.

Remember, you cannot control everything - you can only control the things that are within your sphere of influence. For example, while it is disappointing that it rains on the day of your barbeque, that does not make your responsible for choosing the wrong day - you can have no influence over the weather.

You can make a difference - you can challenge those unhelpful thoughts and begin to believe in yourself again. It may be useful to enlist a counsellor to help, though you may also be able to make progress on your own. What you should remember is that people just like you beat this every day, and surely that is a chance worth taking.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Glasgow, G46

Written by Graeme Orr

Glasgow, G46

I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling for both individuals and couples on the Southside of Glasgow. You may be struggling to cope with difficult thoughts or feelings. It can feel a very lonely place, with nowhere to turn. Problems happen to us all and at any time in our lives. If y...

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