Are you distressed by your negative thoughts related to the current social unrest?

“I am useless as I did not go to the frontline of the protest to help”…… “I am a hypocrite because I went for a trip with family in Tokyo during this critical time in the city”…… “I may lose my job due to the coming economic downturn”……

Many people who came to see me in recent few months reported to have some of the above negative thoughts.  Sometimes, they ruminated about these thoughts for a long duration and felt very distressed. During their rumination, they looped into these negative thoughts as if they are all real. They strongly believed in their thoughts during the rumination.

With second thought or more rational analysis, we may easily notice these negative thoughts are just our inner voice and subjective interpretation, they are not facts. For example, many people do not go to the frontline of the protest, but they contribute a lot in the backend. Furthermore, even in this critical period, we still need to take care of ourselves. Going for a trip abroad as a stress management strategy does not imply one to be a hypocrite.

How to avoid ruminating about our negative thoughts and not to believe in them? We need to learn to step back from those thoughts and observe the content of it. That is, we need to be able to be aware of the fact that we are thinking a thought.

Here is a simple exercise: close your eyes and observe your breathing for a moment. Then try to observe if there are any thoughts popping up in your mind. You may imagine your mind as a moving stream and the thoughts are leaves floating along the stream. Sometimes, there may not be any thoughts in your mind, and this is alright. When you are able to observe your thoughts in this way, you are able to step back from your thoughts and not believing in it.  The next time you are being caught up by a negative thoughts, try to step back from it and realize that thoughts are not facts.

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