Turning the Mind, Fighting Worries

Sometimes I forget to put things here because they seem very basic to me, but then I go over them with a client and I realize that while they may be very basic and simple to learn, they are not inherently obvious to people.  So if you have, for example, been taught all about turning the mind through DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) or other channels, you already know all about this. It is a skill that we all have, fortunately, and can also be key in dealing with anxiety or worries.

The most obvious way to explain turning the mind would be, for example, to look at something, then to turn your head and look at something else. You are turning, in this case, your eyes from one physical thing to another. If you don’t feel this qualifies as turning the mind, do it this way: look at something closely, as though you will be asked to describe it. Then look at another object or scene in the same way. Now, close your eyes and recall the first scene, then replace it by the memory of the second. You have the ability to turn  your mind from one thought to another thought. It’s essentially that. When I choose to think about something like the salad I just had for lunch, then remember the doughnut I ate after lunch (happy National Doughnut Day), that is also turning the mind.

Now, about dealing with worries or anxiety. Here’s a basic procedure:

  1. Ask yourself, “What am I worried/anxious about? Be specific.
  2. Look at the specific worry and identify an action step that you can take, right now, to deal with the worry.
  3. Do the action step.
  4. Turn the mind to something else.

Example: I feel anxious. when I think about it I realize, I’m worried that my phone might get turned off.  I check my account status right now and realize that I missed paying the bill last week. I check my checking account right now and find that I have the money. I authorize payment right now. Then I turn my mind to something else.

Suppose, on turning the mind, that I now start worrying that I will be killed by an asteroid hitting the Earth.  I then go to https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ to see if there are any asteroids scheduled to hit the Earth. When I discover that there are none, I have no action item, so I turn the mind to something else.

There can be more to this, of course, but I’ve known folks facing complex medical issues with life-threatening consequences to maintain happiness in the moment by acknowledging that they’ve done every action item they can, up to and including estate planning, and now have no more action items. Note that I’ve used words like simple and basic but not the word easy. It may or may not be easy for you, but it certainly can be done.

Alfred E. Neuman from https://comicvine.gamespot.com/alfred-e-neuman/4005-12578/images/



About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in behavioral health, cognitive therapy, mental health, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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