Living with Ghosts

Sometimes I find myself having sleepless nights. I find myself living with ghosts again. Not the kind that are in movies, stories, and media. But the ghosts of past, present, and future events. The ones that seem to rise up mostly when I am depleted at the end of the day.

Most of the time these ghosts are not friendly. There are visions of things I have “done wrong” and “should” have done differently or visions that point to other paths that might have been taken. Sometimes the memories are about people I haven’t thought of in ages. If attention remains on these ghosts I end up feeling like I’m in a bad version of “A Christmas Carol” being haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Sigh.

I started to journal when I can’t sleep and found, after some ongoing investigation, that the problem isn’t the “ghosts,” the problem was I believed that I wasn’t able to do anything else but be with them. It had never occurred to me that I could, by intent, move the focus of my attention away from them. Somewhere along the line I had been conditioned into thinking that once that sleepless, worried, self-absorbed thinking starts, I was done. I simply had to endure the time it took to filter past the ghosts. You will notice that placed the emphasis on suffering and not what was triggering the suffering. (Ghosts do that. I’m pretty sure it’s in their job description.)

Redirecting the attention is powerful and makes a better use of time. Now I make it a point not to just lie there visiting with those thoughts. I get up, walk around a little, but while I walk I am taking some really deep breaths. I mean deeeep breathing. The kind of deep breathing that expands down into the lower stomach area and the whole abdominal wall expands. This might not seem like much at first but what it serves to do is ground me directly into the body. It brings attention to where I actually am in the moment. Out of the head, where the ghosts live, and into the body and it’s current environment. It seems simple but I find it effective. Once I’m grounded in the present it’s far easier to find reading material, write a little, eat a tiny bit, because blood sugar is probably low, and hydrate. (No caffeine!)

This is not a quick or easy fix to those ghosts. But I find if I use patience, and keep turning my attention to those things that I choose to give attention, the ghosts give up. Yes they may start again, but I go back to moving attention to those things that add to my experience and move away from those things that detract.

I find my “ghosts” exist in my mind and will affect my moods and the way I relate to others if I give them life by paying attention to them. In the past I suffered from depression and anxiety that I attribute to thinking that “thoughts” are reality. Believing that thoughts are who I am instead of stories about things encountered or in the future. At best they can only vaguely represent what is real. I know now that thoughts are only a small part of the total of human experience. Why let them run the show?

May this be helpful.

Be well,

Bryan

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