We are all familiar with urges creeping into our heads. Our brains are tricky, creative things—we know that urges have hit us and will continue to do so! Remember, having the urge come into your head is ok. It is what you do with the urge that counts. This is where STOP THOUGHT comes in. You can practice being mindful, keeping watchful for the point at which the urge comes into your head. When you see it, use the STOP THOUGHT technique to stop it in its tracks. When the negative thought enters your head, your response is to refuse to entertain the thought. The process is:
1. Recognize negative thought/urge.
2. Think: STOP THOUGHT! See the big capital letters, black on a white background.
3. Focus on something else right away.
4. If the thought comes back to you, repeat as necessary.
Here is an example.
It is 5:15 pm and you are stuck in rush hour. You had a rotten day at work and
the children are hungry and stuck in the back seat. You are stuck, and today, you
have had it up to here. You think, “That’s it, that’s enough. Today it’s enough,
and when I get home, I don’t care. As soon as I walk through that door I am
1. (you realize that you are getting cross and about to give yourself permission to drink tonight)
2. STOP THOUGHT
3. You change the radio station and start to sing along. (DIVERT) When you focus on the radio, you quit thinking about the urge. You defeat the urge by DIVERTing.
This works for fifteen minutes and then your youngest daughter begins to whine.
Your two oldest children are starting to get rowdy in this confined space. It is
raining hard, and there is no sign of the traffic letting up. You will be late and
dinner will be late. “That’s it,” you think, “surely I have had enough bad day now. I
want to relax now. When I get home—“
1. (you realize you are about to give yourself permission to drink tonight)
2. STOP THOUGHT
3. You take a deep breath and look out the window and you refocus. You really look at the cars, the way the car door fits into the body, the shape of the trunks. Bring your shoulders down as far as you can. You holler at the personification of the urge. (DISARM) When you get mad at the urge and tell it that it has no power over you, you feel in control. You defeat the urge by DISARMing.
Remember, this is your tool, so you can modify it. You can say NOOOOOOOO instead of STOP THOUGHT. You can see a stop sign instead of the words, or a big X. You can add to your STOP THOUGHT as much as you like: add, “HA! Ain’t going there, not me, no way.” Whatever works for you is ok as long as the STOP takes place.
The process is simple. As you learn to be mindful, you can incorporate STOP THOUGHT into your arsenal. With practice, patience, and persistence, you will find it easier and easier to use this mini-tool to your advantage.