Creating depends on you having a mind quiet enough to allow ideas to bubble up. Your emotional health also depends on your ability to get and keep a grip on your mind: on your ability to extinguish negative self-talk, foster productive obsessions while minimizing unproductive obsessions, and so on. Here are eight tactics for getting a better grip on your mind.
1. Recognize that you are the only one who can get a grip on your mind. There is no pill to take. There is no one to consult. You can let your thoughts go off in any direction they like or you can say, “No, that thought doesn’t serve me.” Only you can do that work!
2. Recognize that you do not have to accept, tolerate, or countenance a thought just because you thought it. Thoughts must be appraised before they are accepted. That a thought is true—“Wow, there are a lot of painters out there!”—is not a reason to keep thinking it!
3. Listen to what you say to yourself. If you don’t hear your own thoughts you can’t get rid of the thoughts that aren’t serving you. Yes, your thoughts can be extremely painful to really hear but it is better to hear them and deal with them than to let them cycle endlessly.
4. When you decide that a thought doesn’t serve you, dispute it and dismiss it. It can seem very strange at first to dispute and dismiss your own thoughts. Still, that is the work. This sounds like, “Thought, you don’t serve me, and I am dismissing you!” Mean it when you say it!
5. When a thought that isn’t serving you still lingers on, you must actively combat it. Brooding, clinging, disabling thoughts must be fought with—or else those will be the thoughts that you are regularly thinking!
6. After you’ve disputed and dismissed a thought, think a thought that does serve you. Creating thought substitutes that you begin to use is an important part of the process. Create and use thought substitutes that help prevent your brain from conjuring up its usual distortions and distractions.
7. Get in the smart habit of extinguishing unproductive self-talk even before it fully arises. Often we know that a thought is “coming.” Maybe we’ve been waiting to hear from a gallery owner who said she would call on Tuesday; and now it’s Friday. You know that a negative thought is coming! Extinguish that thought even before it arises.
8. Engage in active cognitive self-support. This means creating the thoughts that you want to be thinking and then thinking them. These thoughts might include all of the following: “I create every single day”; “I’m going to succeed”; “I’m lavishing my love and attention on my art”; “I’m not afraid of process”; “I show up”; “I am creating a body of work”; “I am an artist.” You can think thoughts like these if you choose to think them!
You may never have thought about the possibility of getting a grip on your own mind. I hope that you’ll seriously consider that possibility now!
That’s it for our anxiety series! To learn more: