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Can we control our thinking?

Can we succeed in controlling our mind such that all fears, doubts, worries and negativity regarding birth are not part of our experience?

Having previously worked as a hypnobirthing practitioner, I am no stranger to the idea of guided imagery, visualisations and conditioning our bodies to relax. But what I used to hear time and time again from clients is that, at times, they just couldn't help but think the worst as their daydreams inevitably wandered off to dark places. What if...? The unknown of birth certainly presents fertile ground for insecure thinking.

So here's the truth. We cannot control what comes into our head. Much to our dismay and despite our efforts to the contrary through affirmations and other positive thinking techniques, our minds can fill up with the strangest of thoughts totally against our will. Try as we might to replace them or block them out, they still seem to lurk somewhere in the background threatening to rear their ugly head on another occasion. But don't panic. They are not so dangerous. They cannot hurt you.

Here it is worth exploring a little more about the nature of thought. A thought or fear, contrary to what we may believe, does not have a life of its own. A thought can only exist if we keep it in place by feeding it. Then, it may become so large that it does indeed feel like it is controlling us and not the other way around.

This implies that we need to do something in order to combat our negative thinking but in fact I am suggesting just the opposite. A thought is nothing more than energy passing through us. The content is almost irrelevant as we can see that as our moods change, so too does our thinking. This explains why one day when we feel on top of the world, we have an inner knowing that we will be ok no matter what. In these moments, we recognise our resilience in the face of whatever life throws at us.

Conversely, when we are feeling sick and tired with backache...just a few of the joys of being pregnant...we find our thoughts tinged with a bitter flavour. What we need to be mindful of in these moments is the fact that no thought can harm us unless we choose to invest energy into it by taking it seriously and adding on more thoughts to it. Before we know it we have crafted an entire 'what if' birth story and have even indulged in thinking about what that would mean and how it could affect us after the birth in our new role as a mother.

What happens more often than not is that we begin to feel there is something wrong with us for thinking negatively. We may judge ourselves, become self critical and tell ourselves that we should snap out of it. This often has the unfortunate effect of keeping the initial thought in place. Rather accept the simple truth that we all go in and out of negative thinking. It is part of life and nothing to be afraid of.

It is so comforting to realise the fact that our default setting is well-being and peace of mind. Thoughts left alone will pass by themselves and we will come back to equilibrium. There is nothing we need to do. Sometimes this can be painful as we sit with our negative thinking feeling the effects. But, safe in the knowledge that it will pass, we begin to take our thinking far less seriously. Look on it as psychological flu or a temporary passing storm in our heads. No big deal. The clouds will pass. The sun will again come through. Of course, it never left.

So next time you are attempting to shut out your negative thoughts and fears, be it about the birth or about your changing identity, rather just sit back, make yourself a nice cup of Raspberry Leaf Tea, and relax. Keep in mind that however much we hold a cork under water, once we let go, it always bounces back to the top.

Deborah Binun BSc MA MBACP Psychotherapist specialising in Tokophobia, Birth Trauma & Post Natal Depression

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