Automatic thoughts are extremely powerful.  Strong, rooted as deep as a mighty tree.  Even after years of working on new thoughts, the gnarly roots, still embedded, attempt to re-sprout.

Lots of resistance came up for me recently, while learning a new nature-based coaching technique, Sit Spot.  It’s based on a native American tradition of routinely sitting in stillness, in nature, to broaden one’s awareness and connectedness to — well, everything.  I made a big commitment to this training, and yet, I found myself resisting and not fully engaging in the learning process I set out to experience!

I kept dreaming of my spot in AZ, visualizing it, longing for it.  I moved past the ambivalence of wanting both places, and yet still rebelled against finding a Spot in CA.  What was the automatic, old rooted thought that was behind the ambivalence, and subsequent resistance to CA?

I am being forced.  I am trapped.

Of course, this thought is not true.  But it took me awhile to even look at it.  I just stayed in the resistance, and didn’t question it.

QUESTION EVERYTHING THAT CAUSES YOU DISCOMFORT.  Without questioning, you are sitting in the discomfort, you are accepting it as true, and you are unaware of its roots.

Finger on the Trigger

This is what happens if you don’t pay attention to the discomfort.  It will get bigger and louder to get your attention!   Often, there will be a series of seemingly unrelated events where you find your emotions are triggered.  Something doesn’t go your way.  Expectations aren’t met.  Assumptions turn out to be different.  Often, the simplest of things will set it off.  Here’s an example.  On a day that I was resisting my Sit Spot, I had a benign conversation about a change in travel plans with my husband.  I became uncomfortable, and my discomfort escalated to upset.  My husband had a meeting that conflicted with a planned trip, which meant he’d have to return sooner, and I would have to change my plans.  No big deal, right?

Gnarly roots.  Old thoughts of feeling forced.  Trapped.  Now the sprout has pushed through the surface and has reared its ugly head, though I remained unaware.  I responded with words, that turned into an argument.  And then I stopped and finally looked at it.

Of course, thoughts of being forced or trapped are not true.  Things change.  Circumstance — work meeting.  Reality — had to leave earlier.  I either go with it or I resist it.  But I wasn’t consciously CHOOSING to resist.  The only reason we resist any circumstance or reality is because we are believing these twisted, automatic thoughts!  And we’re reacting to them because we’re not even aware — we’re not looking, and we’re not questioning.

My thought.  My issue.  My business.  No one outside of me, is doing anything TO me.

Emotional triggers are extremely important to pay attention to!!  They are the loud speaker broadcasting the way out of discomfort.  Now, being the Master Coach that I am, I caught the trigger right away.  Here’s what you do when you’re triggered:

1.    Become mindful.

Stop talking.  STOP TALKING!  Observe what you are saying.

2.   Can’t see it?  Feel it.

Observe what you’re feeling in your body.  It requires lots of energy to hold something down or keep something in, and it will squeeze you like a boa constrictor until it manifests in your body as muscle or joint pain.  Scanning the body to find clues, will lead to your inner boa constrictor, which feeds on negative, limiting, automatic thoughts.

3.  Be curious.

Observe the thought behind the feeling.  Or try this.  Observe the thought, feelings, actions that come up when you are resisting — without changing anything.  Just observe.  Now,  imagine yourself doing the opposite of what you observed.  (For me, I imagine myself actually going out the door to my Sit Spot.)  Identify the most uncomfortable, scary feelings that such actions would cause.  Again, rely on your body.  The feeling in your gut.  The feeling of being at risk or unprotected from something dangerous (for me, being forced or trapped.)

4.  Test Your Assumptions.

The secret of change is to question if your thoughts are supporting who you are and what you want in the world.  Imagine a different set of assumptions that would allow you to follow through and keep your commitments, and that would still keep you safe.  The easiest way to do this is to work on the small stuff first (which will test your deep rooted assumption.)

For example, it was easier for me to follow the emotional trigger around a schedule change, and then apply my findings to the bigger issue (Sit Spot) to reshape my original assumptions.

Change is hard, until it’s not.

When you make a commitment to a new action or behavior, you may be surprised when you repeatedly fail to follow through.  What are you NOT looking at?  What are you NOT questioning?

Resistance will keep blinders on you.  Your focus will be so narrow that you will miss what is right in front of you (which ironically, is exactly what Sit Spot teaches!)  Circumstances can set off  automatic thoughts, which will trigger emotions, which will result in action.  If the thought is negative, (false, limiting, automatic) then the feeling will be discomfort and the action will match the negativity (mad, sad, fearful, resistance.)

Change is hard if you assume a sense of danger or risk.  Change is exhilarating when a path of safety is made for you to move forward towards your commitments.  Detecting and changing your automatic thoughts will make the difference.

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