It’s interesting that we’re often told to ‘fix the problem’ and this can work really well when we’re thinking about issues that directly relate to ‘the problem’. I mean how are we going to save for a deposit if we don’t think about creating a budget and planning our weekly expenses accordingly?
Sure, we need to think – of course we do – and usually when the problem exists ‘outside’ of our minds thinking allows us to consider, plan and execute some strategies to solve the problem.
But when it comes to thinking our way out of unpleasant thoughts and feelings, thinking can be a little problematic. Sounds nuts? Well in some ways it’s less nuts than counterintuitive to how we’ve been told to ‘fix the problem’.
I love a metaphor that Dr Russ Harris provides for us to help understand this very interesting point:
Imagine a Campfire and its flames being thoughts. And they’re not really the kind of thoughts we want to be having!
What do we do? We have no water, so can’t just throw water onto the fire and presto – problem solved!
We do however have plenty of firewood lying around, and these pieces of wood are both say positive and negative thoughts.
Interestingly while throwing ‘negative thoughts’ (pieces of wood) onto the fire obviously isn’t going to help, conversely tossing on too many ‘positive thoughts’ (pieces of wood) could be just as detrimental.
What does this all mean? Well I guess simply said – ‘thinking’ our way out of difficult psychological experiences can in fact fuel the problem.
So what can we do?
Well, a fire can’t burn forever without fuel – and we know that we can’t just stop ‘thinking’, but we can learn to sit around and observe that fire without throwing logs onto it. In fact, with some solid evidence-based counselling we can work together to observe that fire that is thought and watch it slowly smolder in the distance rather than scorch our everyday experience.