The Art of Quieting Your Mind When Distracted

By Ken Wells - 07/08/2022


Series Three: Blog Forty-two

The journey in addiction recovery teaches that healing is not a one and done experience. Effectively, we apply the wisdom gained from early experiences in recovery and use it to rebuild healthy behavior and intimacy in relationships. Along the way it is easy to become distracted and derailed from principles of sound recovery. For addicts there are times that your mind races out of control. It might involve a craving for a drug of choice or an unbridled rumination about over control toward someone or some situation. Whatever the thoughts, your monkey brain creates an inner critic that rules. This negative imaging takes you away from centered living.

Self-parenting is a required skill set necessary for addicts to deepen their recovery from sobriety and into the experience of serenity. Getting at root causation for addiction is a journey into family of origin. In this exploration, an addict learns to identify and understand unresolved family-of-origin issues that trigger current addictive behavior. The recovery assignment is to address unmet developmental needs by giving back carried shame to parental caregivers. This process involves a lot of grieving. Treatment helps to accelerate this process. Addicts in recovery learn that the practice of grief is a lifelong journey. Throughout the ups and downs of everyday living, there are many resets and redos in practicing self-parenting.

Here are some suggestions to consider:

Create a still mind away from the daily fray of recovery living through mindful meditation: Mindfulness requires a beginner’s mind. When your mind is empty, it is ready for anything and open to everything. A beginner’s mind is open to numerous possibilities while the expert is open to only a few. Quieting your mind depends upon the skill of meditation. When you meditate you focus on your breath as it rises and falls. When your mind wanders, you simply notice the distraction and bring yourself back to the breath. As you practice, little by little, you will begin to discriminate the raw sensory events from your reaction to them. Eventually, you will experience a gradual stillness within.

Make a list of grievances that painfully distract you from the present: Nothing changes until it is real. (Fritz Perls) Nagging discomfort shows up in many ways. It can be physical and emotional. Physical pain is a way for the body to tell you what is out of balance. It is an alert system signaling that something is out of balance and needs to be addressed. Listen to what your body has to say! Emotionally you feel up and down. Sometimes joyful and sometimes depressed. Listen to your emotions. They will tell you what is out of balance. Upon listening, make a list of issues present and past that trigger emotional pain and anger. It doesn’t matter if on the list is an issue you have previously addressed. If it still causes pain it needs to show up on your list. The list is a way of concretizing what is going on inside of you.

Create a safe spot: You may have completed significant anger work toward a caregiver’s neglect and abandonment. However, as time goes by more anger work is needed. To do this work, you must establish a safe space. Grief work involving anger expression is seldom one and done. It is a lifelong process. Create a place that you can visit old wounds that trigger anger. It can be helpful to have a friend with you who will serve as a fair witness. Direct the anger by focusing on the person who hurt you. Share unedited anger expressions toward the person. Allow the anger to flow and just be there with your feelings. Then, redirect your anger to the issue of abandonment, neglect and unmet need that was so hurtful. Then, redirect your energy of anger toward what you want to create. This is the point where you transform your anger from a negative expression to creating a positive outcome for you. Invest the energy to establish a boundary, and a commitment to love yourself with healthy self-parenting and self-esteem. These steps are not meant to be assembly lined. It is simple but each step will take time. Take whatever time you need.  You do this as many times throughout your life whenever you are aware of the need to grieve. Sometimes people use a tennis racket and a pillow in a garbage bag to express anger. Other times it has been a punching bag, heavy exercise with venting, a long run, or twisting a towel with verbal expression. It can include journaling, writing an article, poetry or music expression. There are many ways to express your anger. Beneath the anger are feelings of sadness, disappointment, regret etc. It is important that you treat each feeling with thoroughness in recognition. Allow yourself to be vulnerable without judgment. There is no room for an inner critical voice to invade this process.  Your safe spot is very important. It can be a physical place.  It is important that you are able to take your safe spot to a mental space that you can access in your mind’s eye because you will not always be able to connect with your physical space. Quieting your mind requires that you periodically will need to take time to work through feelings of grief throughout your lifetime.

Visualize yourself caring for your vulnerable self with kindness and sensitivity. Feeling the raw feelings of hurt, resentment, anger and disappointment is hard work. Keeping the inner critical voice out of the process is even harder work. You will improve through ongoing training and practice. It will be necessary after doing your emotional work that you visualize yourself as one who is capable of expressing feelings. Affirmation and visualization practices is often overlooked by addicts in recovery. It is important to affirm and nurture the work that you do in your safe spot. Affirmations are a powerful antibody to the mistaken beliefs that shame triggers. Visualization is a pre-meditated energizing force that propels transformation of distraction into quieting your mind in recovery.

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