What put an end to all this nonsense was the method I am about to present to you. The method is based on the solid foundation of the truth, and the truth is, my thoughts were really stupid. If I was really concerned about having a heart attack, I should go get a checkup. Otherwise, the thoughts are counterproductive, self-defeating, and not at all helpful for anything. They are just stupid. It's kind of embarrassing to catch yourself thinking a stupid thought, but just admit it, and put the thought in its place — the garbage can. If it's a stupid thought, dismiss it as not worthy of your attention by saying to yourself with some emphasis: That's stupid!
This is something to say in your mind with a sense of disgust, and to say to yourself when you're thinking something that: 1) you're in the habit of thinking, 2) that doesn't do you any good at all, and 3) that is a really stupid thought.
Every time I drank tea and felt my heart beat and thought I was going to have a heart attack, I put the thought down. I ridiculed it. That's a stupid thought. It's ridiculous! I said it to myself like I would talk to a four year old: Quit being silly! You're only scaring yourself.
It worked like a charm. Every once in awhile the thoughts came up, less and less as time went on, and I just dismissed them again with the attitude of a king being bothered by an annoying jester: A wave of my hand, an annoyed look on my face, and a simple, "Guards, get that silly clown out of my sight."
The truth is, our minds come up with some stupid stuff sometimes and every once in awhile we notice it and fixate on it. Normal streams of thought that aren't about anything in particular, according to researchers in the field, are a chaotic jumble of randomly generated "value-free" ideas, images and symbols. David H. Barlow, PhD, psychologist and director of the Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders at the State University of New York-Albany says:
If we were somehow able to build a thought recorder, what we would record would be just about every kind of thought imaginable. Sexual thoughts, violent thoughts, some of them very strange and bizarre — but for the most part, fleeting. They go in one ear and out the other, and a millisecond later you've forgotten about them.
But sometimes, for one reason or another, you stick on something. Sometimes one of those random thoughts will make you feel something, and you attach yourself to it. Sometimes that's good. If it is an idea related to a goal of yours, it might be useful. But sometimes, you stick on it because it scares you or makes you mad or sad. And often it is something you can do nothing about. In that case, the thought is stupid and should be ridiculed into oblivion.
But please remember this: When you're ridiculing your thoughts, you are not ridiculing yourself. Your thoughts arise spontaneously. You are not doing it. Your mechanism, your brain machinery is doing it. You can take over, but if you're not deliberately thinking, your brain will simply produce the thoughts it has been conditioned to think by training, circumstances, and biological fluctuations. So do not ridicule yourself or beat yourself up or make fun of yourself or do anything that makes you feel bad. You are ridiculing the thought.
This method won't work for everything, of course, but for some thoughts, it is a simple, elegant way of getting beyond them.
Handle counterproductive thoughts by ridiculing them (not yourself).
Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.