21 September 2013

Mindfulness, balloons and tangled thoughts

I've always struggled with mindfulness therapies, often finding it hard to 'switch off' and 'be present'. In the past it's almost been like mindfulness makes it worse. It's sometimes opened up a gap for Ana to creep in. Even convincing me I'm not good enough at mindfulness. 

But one of Dr B's approaches is a little bit different. It's called 'mindful inquiry' (he uses a technique called 'The Work' by an American woman Byron Katie) and I'm finding it useful in untangling thoughts and beliefs I've held on to for a VERY long time. 

I like it because it makes me REALLY think about the recordings on my inner mixtape. The broken record making me ill. Are these thoughts REALLY true? Can I prove it? Like REALLY prove it?

I actually feel like it's slowly combing out my tangled thinking.

So, in therapy this week we were talking about a specific belief that causes me a lot of pain and something central to me developing anorexia. It's a belief I've always carried with me for as long as I can recall. One that's become tangled up in so many areas of my life. One I've accepted as truth. 

Okay, so I admit, I am guilty of taking thoughts and making them my truth. Holding on to them, tightly, especially if they prove my own theory that 'I'm not good enough' (at anything) As Mrs W used to say, despite all evidence to the contrary 'all roads lead to Rome' with my thoughts. 

But what if all these thoughts were just balloons

I wasn't born holding any balloons, well, at least I presume I wasn't. 

So somewhere along the line I've caught hold of these 'thought balloons' and held on to them. I've felt like I needed them, even when people have suggested they're not a good idea. I know where a few of the balloons have come from, but others, I don't have a clue. 

We all have so many balloons float past our heads, every second of every day. Everyone does, but they only stick with us if we hold on to the string.

I've been holding on to some of my balloons for so long, adding more, trying to let go of others. They've become tangled, tied tightly around my wrist.

The thoughts began to control me, carry me along, whisking me away. 

People have been shouting LET GO for years. 

But it's not that easy. Even if I try letting go of one, it's knotted with another. I know I need to untangle them first. 

That's what I feel therapy is doing for me. It's helping me untie the strings from my wrists, so that I CAN let go of the balloons controlling me and the direction I go. 

After all, I can't fully enjoy life holding on to all these balloons. 

Maybe this makes no sense to anyone else BUT me, but I know my balloons are labelled with 'Not Good Enough' 'You're Fat' 'You could have done better' 'You're not healthy enough' 'You could be fitter' 'You're not as thin as them' 'You're greedy' and so the list goes on... But they're all thoughts that aren't much fun to carry around any more. Trust me.

What Dr. B and Byron Katie's 'Mindful Inquiry' is helping ME do, is identify the balloons I really need to cut from my wrists and questioning how helpful they are and where I picked them up from in the first place. 

I've then got to be brave enough to let go and hope they whisk Ana off instead. Hope she'll chase after the balloons, instead of me. But It's only me that can release them.

It's also building the reassurance that even if these balloon float near by, because I'm now aware of them, I can choose to grab hold, but trust me, I'm done with these balloons, especially if they bring Ana back with them.

Byron Katie's book 'Loving What Is' is helping me alongside the work I'm doing with Dr. B. You can get it on Kindle or order from Amazon if you fancy trying it too. Like I said, I've struggled with mindfulness before, but this makes sense to me. She's also on Twitter @ByronKatie


  1. Sarah, this is really insightful. And it does make a huge amount of sense. You're completely right that letting go of the balloons that don't make sense (or fit with your inner values, or however you define it) will gradually release your mind to be free from anorexia. You are making great progress, and that IS something to be proud of. I know you can do it!

  2. Wow. You've petty much voiced everything going on in my head right now. Fantastic. Keep fighting and untangling those balloons!

  3. In treatment, I really struggled with mindfulness and meditation. It didn't help me to sit in silence. I would just dwell on thoughts. I found that listening to music with lyrics and focusing on the lyrics was a better form of meditation and mindfulness. I always worried, too, that I wasn't "good" at being mindful, but the truth is, everyone is individual and no one method works for everyone. So, I had to find different ways to calm my mind and be present. I'm glad that you found something that works for you.