1. Maintaining Distance from Thoughts

November 28, 2023

Are you going through a rough time? Here's something to try. Close your eyes for just 30 seconds. Try not to think about anything during this time. It's only for 30 seconds. Now let's begin. This simple exercise can potentially shift your life in a new direction. So don't just skip it. Give it a try. Ready? Then let's close our eyes and begin these 30 seconds of thoughtlessness.

What happened? Were you able to cease all thoughts? Did your mind become an empty, peaceful space? Probably not. You may have considered pressing matters. Perhaps past memories surfaced. Or possibly thoughts like "why am I doing this?", "why does 30 seconds feel so long?", or "this is boring" occurred. Regardless of the specific thoughts, one thing is evident. It's impossible to stop thinking.

I tried not to think, but it turns out that stopping thought is impossible. Then who is thinking? If we actively control our thoughts, then stopping them should've been possible. But we couldn't stop. It's certain that our thoughts aren't under our control. Thinking we can freely control our thoughts is a long-running human illusion, inevitably stemming from evolution.

Therein lies the secret: realizing we don't freely control our thoughts. This realization is the ultimate goal of all psychotherapy, from Freud's, Jung's, and Adler's psychoanalyses to cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. This secret is also the basis of meditation and Buddhist teachings, which have been propagated as major insights for thousands of years, as well as mindfulness from a more scientific perspective. Several well-known self-help books worldwide address this secret. Regardless of the method—therapy, religion, spiritual awakening, or self-improvement—the essence of all these approaches converges on 'distancing'.

"Distancing" refers to the process of realizing we don't control our thoughts, stepping back from them, selecting the thoughts we want, and moving towards a life aligned with our values. We will learn about three fundamental premises of distancing, and explore its three stages of practice. Lastly, we'll examine how distancing manifests in our lives through several examples.

Research has shown significant effects of distancing, particularly on emotional issues like depression and anxiety disorders. Its effects are as potent as antidepressant medication, but more enduring. If you're going through a challenging time, this discussion could serve as a key milestone, pulling you out of the mire of depression and anxiety and leading you in a new direction.

With that, let's embark on the first chapter of this transformative journey.

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