How to Stop Thinking So Much and Start Feeling Better

by Ken Malloy

Doing the deeper work is all about finding and feeling unconscious emotions.  This is  the challenge —the goal—something we go after, and often, it feels like a problem. Likely, it’s very different from anything you’ve done before. And so, it’s a challenge that has to be approached in a whole new way.

Especially if you’re very good at getting things done, an expert at making things happen.. If you try to use these tools with this problem– the problem of thoughts you can’t stop and feelings you can’t find,  it doesn’t work. That can be a source of enormous frustration.

The old ways, the way you think things through, figure things out, and make decisions are useful to uncover new understanding. How you dig into process, into learning, expanding your awareness is through your thoughts. You figure it out.

When it comes to the deeper work, finding and feeling unconscious, often painful feelings (sadness, rage, or shame), leading with your thoughts simply will not work! Dr. Sarno put it to me simply when he said, “Ken, you’re not gonna think your way out of this one! Your brain got you into this. But it’s going to take more than your brain to get you out.”

Einstein said “We can’t solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

The fascinating thing about Mindbody Medicine, is that you must engage in this process through not thinking, but feeling. Your thoughts are not the way.  This means you have to quiet the mind—or at least put thoughts on the back burner for a while. You lead instead with your body, your experience, feeling your way into it.

Here’s where it’s helpful to ask ourselves the right questions: What is it to experience something… but not to think about it?  How do I get to the experience – not just thinking about the experience? What’s it like to learn not through thought?  Some call this wordless awareness, intuition.

The problem with over-thinking is that it holds you in a world of concepts. Now, you can’t just stop thinking… so what do you do? The process of getting beyond your mind starts with observing your thoughts, without judgment. You accept them, you see your thinking for what it is.

You are not your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts. That’s how you cultivate a deeper sense of self, beyond thinking. After you’ve observed your thoughts a while, eventually, you gain the ability to catch glimpses between thoughts. It’s in these moments that you experience the Truth: You are not your thoughts, but you have them. However, when you notice how much your thoughts run your mind and your life it’s more like your thoughts have you!

You can’t fight your thinking any more than you can fight with gravity.  All there is to do, is sit and observe your mind, see what it’s doing.  To sit, feel and deepen your experience of life is, outside of thought. Not below it, like drifting off to sleep, or passing out, but beyond it.

I remember setting a goal, telling myself:  “I want to lead more of my life from my heart, and not my mind.”  Maybe you’d like to ask what would that be like for you? To more fully experience life, to feel more deeply, and think less? You start by observing thoughts, looking for space between them. Listening to silence. Looking for stillness in that silence. In doing so, you make room for other experience: for feeling. For being. Not from, but rather beyond thought.

Too much thinking limits you to a world of mental concepts and abstracts. But you can relax and let your thoughts just be there, and look for space between them. When you do this, usually something else comes forward– sometimes a feeling– and often, it’s uncomfortable. Perhaps a little anger, fear, sadness, or shame… something rumbling below the surface.

If you’re not paying attention, the mind will dominate the experience with a kneejerk reaction: “Whoops! We’re not going there. That’s too painful. No thank you.” This is the mind’s desperate attempt to control, grip, and avoid; to keep you from feeling deeply.

And when you can see this happening– when your mind tries to stop you from feeling the smallest piece of unpleasant experience– as it’s coming forward from within, and you feel the feelings anyway… this is when you’ve stepped through the doorway into finding and feeling your deeper emotions. In Mindbody Medicine, this is the way to become pain-free.