“Thoughts are things; they have tremendous power. Thoughts of doubt and fear are pathways to failure. When you conquer negative attitudes of doubt and fear you conquer failure. Thoughts crystallize into habit and habit solidifies into circumstances.”
I have enjoyed the beauty, depth, and symbolism of art throughout my life. While vacationing in Paris a few years ago, my sister and I went to the Louvre. Though we only had time to appreciate a small portion of the art inside that massive museum, the visit reinforced a thought that I had carried with me since childhood, “I wish I could draw.” I longed to put the feelings of my heart onto paper, but I knew that I didn’t have the talent. I often commented to friends that even my stick figures were embarrassing.
A few years ago, I was discussing mind chatter with a client. I explained how her thoughts affected her anxiety and that just because she had a thought, it didn’t mean the thought was actually true. I suddenly felt like a hypocrite. I, myself, still clung to the belief that I couldn’t draw. At that moment, I consciously observed my own thought process. I noticed the thought itself, “I can’t draw,” and separated myself from it. Could it be possible that I was choosing to believe it? Was I creating my own reality? I was filled with both excitement and fear at the realization that maybe I could draw after all.
That very afternoon I had a client cancellation. Inspired by my earlier session, I got out a pencil and decided to see what I could do. Slowly, a picture of trees growing out of a swampy lake came alive on my paper. Although elementary, the picture was a far cry from a rudimentary stick figure. I wanted to shout with joy. Just because I had believed my thought for years, didn’t make it true. It was just a thought.
The next step for me was to sign up for art classes, first drawing and then oil painting. Several weeks into the painting class, my teacher approached me and asked if I was doing okay. He explained that he had never seen anyone as afraid as I was to put brush to canvas, and he was right. My internal dialogue had been loudly telling me, “What do you think you’re doing in an art class? You are really going to embarrass yourself. You are a fool for trying!”
“Just because you have a thought, it doesn’t mean that the thought is true”
However, I was now prepared to take the counsel I had been giving my clients for years. Instead of giving in to my anxious feelings, I began to focus on my breathing. This brought me back to the present moment where I knew everything was okay. Then I made the choice to discover if the thought was indeed true, or if I had created it inside my head. The process took courage, but I made it through the art class with flying colors. Now drawing and oil painting are an important part of my life, made all the more sweet by the path of overcoming my fearful thoughts.
This process can work for you as well. Once you consciously observe and separate yourself from your anxiety-producing thoughts, you are in a place of choice. You can continue to believe the thoughts, or you can challenge them. This is a difficult skill to learn. You’ve carried these thoughts for years; they won’t just disappear because you start to look at them differently. You have to practice.
You can also use your imagination to reach a relaxed, empowered state of being. This is called guided imagery. With guided imagery, your body will connect to what you are imagining, thus giving you the solution towards working with your thoughts. For example, through imagery you can imagine yourself walking along the beach with the rhythm and sound of the waves relaxing and soothing you. In Empowered Life Solutions premium content, you can download the Floating Leaf Guided Imagery to help you practice this skill.
My process of coming to enjoy drawing and painting gives a basic map to follow in observing your own thoughts. Separate yourself from your thoughts. Challenge your mind chatter. Use techniques like deep breathing and guided imagery to bring yourself back to the present. From there, you are empowered to make a choice about your thoughts and your anxiety.