We so often get wrapped up in our thoughts that we forget that they are just thoughts. We act as if they are real and are really happening to us, right now. Our mind is rubbish at telling the difference between imagination and reality and we do not respond to an event, we respond to our interpretation (or thoughts about) an event.
This is one of the key tenants of NLP and of Mindfulness, to recognised that thoughts are just thoughts. Once we recognise that we can start to take control of our thoughts.
We can do this in two ways, practice both and notice which one works for you the best:
1. Literally Imagine Yourself Stepping Back
When you find yourself absorbed in a thought, memory or feeling, literally imagine yourself “stepping back” out of the thoughts so that it is like you are watching them on a TV screen. Notice the details (submodalities) of the image; the size and shape, the location in space, whether it is like a photograph or a movie. Pay attention to the sounds, are you talking to yourself? If so, what are you saying? Notice the feelings that this thought is creating.
Whilst you are doing this it is important not to place any good/bad value judgement on it. If you do you are interpreting the thought, and that means you have been caught in the trap of “thinking about thinking”, you haven’t stepped out of the thought, just added an extra layer of detail. You are, at this stage only interested in noticing the sensory specific data.
When you find yourself absorbed and being carries away by thoughts and feelings, start to label the thought. Say yourself “Having a thought about…”, “Feeling…”, etc. With practice you will start noticing the thoughts arising and be able to do something with them (or not, it is up to you).
It is important to practice this, to begin with at least, with every thought you catch yourself involved in. This way, you can start to learn to control your thoughts, not let them control you. You can intensify those thoughts,memories and and feelings that are useful and de-intensify those which you find un-useful.