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We are all familiar with the notion, you are what you eat.  It’s a straightforward concept; what you put into your body has a direct impact on your physical health.

When it comes to our mental health, it is no different. In our daily stream of consciousness, thoughts will come and go, and the way in which we attach to or identify with these thoughts will have an impact on our emotional health.

What do I mean by this?

I want you to imagine you are experiencing something stressful.  It could be in response to a significant change such as relationship breakdown or struggling to juggle multiple demands on a daily basis.

You find yourself thinking, “I’m finding it hard to cope right now”.  This may be a rational and normal response to the situation.  Yet it could also be a negative thought which is known and familiar to you.

Before you know it, the rational thought “I’m finding it hard to cope” quickly becomes “I can’t cope” which is irrational since it is likely you are coping.  This is the point at which you have attached negativity to the thought.  This can be further compounded by other feelings being evoked such as being out of control, overwhelmed, inadequate, and not good enough.  If you are someone who suffers from low self-esteem, this spiralling of emotions can have a devastating effect.

It is not the thought itself which causes us pain and suffering.  It is how you interpret and attach meaning.

How can you manage this?

“Passengers on bus” is a diffusion technique used to manage the relationship between thoughts and unhelpful/negative emotions evoked.  Essentially it enables you to create space and distance between the thought and the emotion.

bus driving on a road

Imagine you are the driver of a bus from the moment you are born, and the passengers on the bus are a product of the thoughts and beliefs we have internalised from our experiences.  Some passengers will be positive, whilst others sit quietly.  Inevitably there will be other passengers who are negative and scary.  It is often these negative passengers who will make the loudest noise, cause the biggest disruption, and can make us feel uncomfortable.

Coming back to my example of coping, as the driver of the bus you would think “I can see the ‘I can’t cope’ passenger is making a racket.  I’m just going to keep an eye on them and ensure they stay seated at all times”.

This is a technique which acknowledges there are certain troublesome passengers who will always be there.  It encourages you to be aware of them and stop them from attaching to thoughts.  In the process, if preserves your self-esteem and self-worth.

Remember, you are not your thoughts, and you can choose how you find meaning in that thought.  I recently read a quote by Allan Lokos, a meditation teacher which I hope you will find helpful.  He said “Don’t believe everything you think.  Thoughts are just that – thoughts”.