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Having a Bad Relationship With Your Mind?

Updated: Mar 30

Jonathan Hoffman, PhD., ABPP

It’s not uncommon to get into a bad relationship with your mind. If you are in this situation, maybe you have an overly critical mind to contend with. Or a mind that craves constant attention. Some people have a mind that makes everything more complicated than it really is or is always predicting the worst possibilities without a good reason. Others have one that is sensitive or can’t stop bringing up weird, uncomfortable, or painful topics or memories. The different ways a mind can be vexing are far too extensive to list here. I get it.

However, as in any relationship, it takes two to tango. Take a moment to consider your own role in this bad relationship. Some people put too much pressure on their mind. They want their mind to say what they want to hear; like what they like; focus on what they want to focus on; practice selective forgetting; go silent on command, and so on. Any of these apply?

It may pay to remember that even though you’re “in a relationship,” you and your mind exist on different planes, mental and physical. This means that while it may not always feel like it, you ultimately can’t tell your mind what to do any more than it can tell you what to do. Yet, at the same time, you and your mind can certainly affect one another. Like most people, your mind can’t be at its best if you don’t get enough sleep or good nutrition, misuse alcohol or drugs or look at screens all day. It works the other way around as well - when your mind isn’t thinking straight, life will likely get harder for you too. I know, it’s complicated.

The best way to foster a more constructive relationship with your mind is to accept it for what it is. Don’t try to get your mind to be something it’s not. No one likes feeling controlled or misunderstood, including your mind. If you cut your mind some slack, it may cut you some too. You and your mind are in the same boat for better or worse, so you might as well try to make it a pleasant journey. Most importantly, don’t fall into the typical mind-body split trap. No matter what differences you and your mind may have, it’s better to go through life as one.

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