Catching Unhelpful Thoughts - My Interpretation of "Picking Daisies"
"Picking Daisies" is my latest painting in the "Guardians" series and it is a direct companion to "The Insidious Whisper" from "The Seven Gates" series.
"The Insidious Whisper" explores what happens when a person's internal monologue turns rogue during episodes of depression. It is like having another mysterious entity, shrouded in fog, whispering into one's ear. The things it whispers are not helpful thoughts. For my full interpretation: Click Here
One of the things that helped me in tackling these rogue thoughts is acknowledging that they exist. "The Insidious Whisper" has also aided me in having an image of where these thoughts are coming from. Now, when I have a self-deprecating thought, the image of the whisperer pops into my head and I can start to look at the thought differently.
I'm now going to state something ridiculously obvious:
Thoughts are thoughts.
This simple idea implies that thoughts are not necessarily the truth. If you are thinking that you are worthless, this is a thought, not necessarily the truth. If you are thinking that people don't like you because you are a terrible person, this is a thought, not necessarily the truth. If you are thinking that everyone would be better off without you, this is a thought, not necessarily the truth.
You get the idea.
When I was depressed, I believed every single word the whisperer was saying to me. I didn't even think to challenge my thoughts. During episodes of depression, thoughts were the truth for me.
I'll give you a simple example to show how false this notion is. When I was younger, I thought the sun went around the Earth. It was obvious. I could see the sun rising and setting, going around the Earth. It was the truth.
Spoiler alert: I was completely wrong. Amazingly the Earth goes around the sun. Something I thought was the truth was simply a thought and one that turned out to be wrong.
Here is where my depressed self would counter that argument. It would say that this is an example that relies on scientific facts that can be proven by anyone with the necessary skills. The only person that knows the facts about me is me. The thoughts that I have about myself are the truth. After all, I know myself better than anyone else.
When someone is depressed, they are probably the worst person to tell themselves truths. In fact, the whisperer is tucked in their brain, doing its best to lie to them and get them to believe vastly exaggerated and cruel thoughts. Now I know that, but during my previous periods of severe depression, I was unaware of this idea.
KEY POINT: Thoughts are just thoughts. They are not necessarily the truth.
This idea has allowed me one way to tackle depression. It has given me something invaluable - distance from my thoughts.
Imagine that you are working in a factory. But this isn't the usual kind of factory, it is a thought factory. On the conveyor belt are all of your thoughts steadily drifting past you. You are standing looking at all of these thoughts with some distance. You can decide which thoughts are valid, which thoughts you will package up and keep in your brain, and which thoughts are invalid. These thoughts can be thrown in the bin and dismissed as the futile attempts of a weak whisperer intent on bringing you down.
That small piece of separation between a person and their thoughts can be enough space to be able to challenge and dispose of unwelcome ideas.
If you can spot these rogue thoughts but find it hard to challenge them here is an exercise you can try. Take one of your thoughts that you would like a closer look at. It could be the thought that you are worthless. Imagine a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, someone you like, said to you that they thought they were worthless. What would you say?
Maybe you would point out what they mean to you. Or maybe you would give examples that show this idea is not true. You could even ask them why they think that, listen carefully, acknowledge what they are saying, and then look at their concerns in more detail. You would do things that any compassionate human would do.
This is how you could treat yourself. Would that not be a more reasonable thing to do? When you are mentally well, you try to be kind to the people around you, so why not be kind to yourself?
Looking back, I wouldn't treat my worst enemy as badly as I treated myself. I cut myself zero slack and put unreasonable demands on myself. I expected myself to be a superhuman. But I'm not. I'm human. Just like everyone else.
Sometimes you may question these thoughts and even after careful examination, still consider them to be the truth. Remember that you too are human. Humans make mistakes. No, that's not quite right. Humans make many mistakes. Accept it, learn from it, and show yourself some kindness.
I wanted to show all of this in my painting "Picking Daisies". I came up with the title late in the day, but it seemed to fit perfectly. Sitting on the grass, picking up a daisy, looking at its petals from a distance, and then either making it into a daisy chain or throwing it on to the compost heap.
A siege seemed to be the best way to show how these negative thoughts can be constantly thrown at someone who is suffering from depression. The castle is crumbling and the thoughts are becoming overwhelming. But there, in the centre of the castle grounds is a kind-looking robot, a robot who can look at things from a distance with its telescopic eye. The robot has the power, time, compassion, and distance to consider the validity of these thoughts and throw them out if necessary.
The thoughts that have been dismissed are now seen for the lies they are and are powerless. I showed this by the poses of the thoughts that had been thrown out and also by the change in the colour of their eyes. They are no longer red and malevolent. They are weak and unworthy of our future attention.
So now you have two powerful ways to combat rogue thoughts:
Recognise them as thoughts, not necessarily the truth.
2. Consider the thought's validity and either accept it, or throw it away.
If you have any questions or comments about the subject matter of this post, please let me know in the box below, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.