Detached mindfulness (A fantastic therapy especially for Generalised Anxiety Disorder). Here’s a quick guide on how to do it.
What to do when you ‘catch’ your worry and rumination (second fear)
Worry and rumination are both examples of ‘second fear’. Essentially, they are thinking styles, which, although people engage in for a reason, are ultimately unhelpful. Nothing good ever comes from worry or rumination. It is this worry and rumination that causes and prolongs your suffering.
Detached mindfulness is a way of taking a perspective on your own thinking processes in a detached way, without interpreting, analysing, controlling or reacting to them in any way. When you notice a worrying thought or image (e.g., what if….) or a ruminative thought (e.g., why me…if only…), it is important not to engage with these. Engagement involves responding to the thought, questioning the meaning of it, or having or continuing a dialogue with it in any way. It is important to remember that non-engagement is not the same as avoidance, such as trying to distract oneself from the thought or pushing it away.
Analogies of detached mindfulness:
The unruly child
Treat your intrusive thoughts as you might an unruly child that you have to look after (i.e. you cant avoid). You need to acknowledge the child is there but paying too much attention to it (engaging with it) would merely reinforce its bad behaviour, and attempting to punish the child (suppress it) would upset the child even further. Thus, the best thing to do is leave the child alone to settle of its own accord.
Intrusive thoughts can be treated as if they were clouds in the sky. That is, they are something that is passing by, and that we can do nothing about. They are part of a natural self-regulating weather system and attempting to stop or push them away is neither necessary nor possible. Even if we could, this would disturb the balance necessary for the rainfall and nature. Therefore the thing to do is let them occupy their own space and passively watch their behaviour over time.
Imagine you are on a train platform. Trains (of thought) will pull in. Rather than getting on them and become trapped inside (engaging with them), simply stand on the platform and observe them as they pull in and away. It may help to say to yourself ‘why get on this train of thought and become stressed and anxious when I can just stand on the platform and enjoy the scenery?.
*Remember cure lies in reversing the pattern and that begins in learning how to respond differently to your habitual worrying or ruminative thought patterns. In order to get a different result you need to try a different approach. It is simply the worrying and rumination that keeps you feeling the way you do…change it!