At the end of a recent mindfulness course, one participant who was reflecting on what she had learned, stated: ‘I’m going to stop winding myself up’...

She looked very peaceful and liberated as she said this. At the beginning of the course, she wouldn’t have said she was ‘winding herself up’. In fact, she probably would have said that other people and situations were doing that to her.

Sometimes we are so caught up in our reaction to what is happening (or not happening) that we don’t realise how much we are winding ourselves up. Yes, the circumstances that we are facing may be difficult or inconvenient or someone may have been insensitive but our thoughts and subsequent feelings around that don’t make things any better and actually make us feel worse. As we blame other people and think about all the things that are wrong and what this means, we are in effect, giving away our power. We don’t want to feel like this – angry, impatient, wound up, stressed – and yet we react the same way over and over again. It’s like someone or something pressing our buttons.

The good news is that we don’t have to remain stuck in this pattern, we can take back our power. But we have to wake up to what is happening. Where are our thoughts taking us? What are the interpretations we are making? What incidents in the past are we linking it with? How are those thoughts making us feel? How are they making us behave and how does this behaviour feel? When we start to pay attention to these things, we start to see how we are layering more unpleasant feelings onto our original experience. We are ‘winding ourselves up’.

We don’t have to like everything that happens in life or walk around with a big smile on our faces all day. But once we see how much suffering we add to our experience – noticing our reactions and how these reactions feel in our bodies and minds – this gives us a different perspective. Gradually we start to see that we don’t have to react in the same way each time and we don’t have to feel this way over and over. It’s about taking back our power, waking ourselves up – it is from this place that we can take better care of ourselves and learn new ways of responding.

Sarah-Linda Johnson
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