So recently I have been obsessed with how to shift my thoughts in a positive direction. I have written a lot about reaching for satisfaction, and this is certainly part of that. Tonight I’m focusing on the process of changing my thinking, hence my mood, hence my experience, while in the middle of an episode of negative thoughts. It’s one thing to look for satisfying thoughts when you are feeling pretty good, or neutral, but what about dealing with difficult thoughts once they have already taken over?
This is no easy task. Maybe you know what I mean: once you find yourself in a situation and you are overtaken with negative thoughts, which feel bad, sometimes it ain’t easy to shift your thinking in a new direction.
In order to move forward with this conversation, I need to make an admission that I am not very comfortable with. But here goes: I can easily get freaked out over shopping trips. Although this is probably an across-the-board thing for shopping generally, it seems to mostly come up over grocery shopping. But then again, that is the most common sort of shopping we do.
I’m not going to go into which stressful early childhood shopping experiences contributed to me having this affliction. Regardless, as an adult I have sometimes (no, mostly) been a real stress case when my wife and I go shopping. I do not like this about myself, and I definitely do not like how it has impacted my wife. Recently, I have had the fortune of doing a lot of inner work which has helped me start to peel away the layers of this particular rotten onion. I am (slowly) getting better at handling this situation.
Yesterday, my wife and I were at Costco, doing our monthly shopping trip, and I noticed myself getting really stressed, per usual. It really felt bad. However, this time I embarked on this trip mentally prepared. I knew something like this might happen. So I literally asked my wife for some time before we went in so I could close my eyes and get centered. I also (calmly!) kept her apprised about what was going on for me as we went.
As we walked in the aisles, I found myself overtaken by some depressing thoughts which I won’t go into detail about here. Suffice it to say that I have some deep emotional baggage associated with shopping, and when it acts up, I find it really hard to like myself, and I am focused on dissatisfaction and personal gloom-and-doom. I usually end up uncomfortable, stressed, or even angry and resentful. Yeah, sounds like real fun to be around, doesn’t it?
Anyway, what made this trip different was that I was conscious. And I was committed to having a different experience: I wanted this trip to go well (for God’s sakes!). Though the first part of the trip was low-grade miserable because of the aforementioned head trash, a moment came where everything changed.
I found myself over at the book section (oh wonderful books, ye saviors!). I quickly scanned for titles that interested me, but what caught my eye was the cooking section. Specifically, keto cooking books!
As it happens, my wife eats with the keto method. I found myself calling her over, and she expressed her surprise as I proceeded to pull out titles for her that I thought would interest her. We stayed there for five to ten minutes, I encouraged her to look over the books and pick out one she liked. Happily, she did.
In the course of this interaction, my entire mood shifted. I changed from coming from an unhappy, survival-based mindset to blossoming in love and enthusiasm! Instead of thinking about how my head was so messed up (etc), I was thinking about how my wife could enjoy a book in honor of her special diet! Instead of being stressed and distracted, I was filled with love and appreciation for her, and a desire to be generous.
This might be strange, but I can’t remember the last time I felt that way in a store. I’m sure it happens now and then, but the usual narrative is not nearly so wonderful. This was a big reminder of the power of a mind state shift. I was able to experience something new when I opened up to loving thoughts and feelings instead of the usual crap!
My conclusion: it can certainly take a lot of persistence and patience to wade through the mental shit that can seem so stubborn, but the light of consciousness is always possible!