In order to heal and to improve ourselves it is critical to manage our thoughts. Not control; manage. Start by paying attention to your inner monologue. What kinds of things do you fill your void up with? Are these things you would enjoy hearing from loved ones? If not, you need to work on what you tell yourself.
When I was getting sober, I stumbled on a technique for mental hygiene that has proved helpful. When I caught myself thinking about things that led me into self-destructive mental cull-de-sacs, I would simply imagine a stop sign. That’s it.
This works because, from childhood, a stop sign is a potent symbol. We must stop what we are doing and take a moment to make sure everything is safe. Not only does it disrupt out process, it reassures us. The stop sign keeps us safe. It imposes borders, however illusionary, on a chaotic world.
So, when your mind is taking you someplace you’d rather not be, picture a stop sign. Visualize it as clearly as you can. Look at it. Then, pull the movie camera of your mind outwards. Where is the stop sign? Is it someplace you remember? Let your mind wander from that sign so long as it doesn’t go down any of those nasty, dark roads it likes so well. As soon as it does, crack the whip and get back to the stop sign in its simplest form.
At first I could only manage about five or ten seconds between stop sign mental reboots. But the longer I could stay focused on that sign, the better I got at getting free of those bad thoughts. If nothing else, it was a break from my toxic inner monologue. A break that did not require poisoning myself with booze in a search for oblivion.
If you don’t like what you’re telling yourself, what you can’t stop fixating on: