Don’t Give it a Second Thought


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Psychology, Thought | Posted on 07-11-2018

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version. This post also has a corresponding video here.]

Are You Giving it a Second Thought?This week I want to share with you some recent insights I had about a way in which we innocently create our own moment-to-moment suffering in life.

During our typical day, we naturally go through lots of emotions such as anger, anxiety and sadness. None of which are a problem in and of themselves. They become a problem, however, when the secondary thoughts and feelings we have about these emotions, take hold.

Let’s look at anger, for instance. In and of itself, anger is no big deal. We might feel it in the car when someone cuts us off. Or perhaps when our boss needs something from us at work when we’re busy with other stuff. Left alone, our angry feelings pass quickly as we get on with our day.

In other words…

We don’t give them a second thought.

It’s only when we DO give them that second thought that we suffer.

What I mean by “giving them a second thought” is in addition to being angry about the traffic or the boss, we find ourselves even angrier about being angry! Perhaps we thought we were over our anger issue. Or maybe we don’t like who we seem to become when we’re angry. Or in many cases, we simply don’t like the feeling of being angry, so we beat ourselves up through our second thoughts.

It’s these secondary thoughts that create our suffering.

And it’s not just with anger where this happens. Suffering is also created when we have second thoughts about our anxiety or our sadness, or any other potentially uncomfortable emotion that happens to crop up.

The initial feelings of anxiety, sadness, or stress are constantly moving through us. But when we start to believe they’re a problem, that’s when they turn into one.

By now, you may be wondering why would we do such a silly thing to ourselves?

It looks to me that, in part, it has to do with the fact that we have this need to label everything–including our feelings.

So for instance, when we believe that we suffer from anxiousness or have some sort of anxiety disorder, as soon as we notice the first signs of it, we create a story about it in our mind.

In other words, we give it a second thought.

We may even have a conversation with ourselves such as the following:

“Oh no, here it comes again. Now I’m going to be anxious all day, or maybe all week! I hope I don’t have a panic attack. What if I go into the store and completely black out? Or what if this happens? What if that happens? Oh noooooooooo!”

All of which leads to even more anxiety.

Simply because we’re giving a normal, everyday emotion, a second thought.

And that’s when we’re screwed.

Once those second thoughts have entered the fold, everything spirals downward and we feel worse. What could have been a fleeting feeling, now hangs around us like a lead weight.

How might things be different if we could simply be okay with the initial uncomfortableness that comes with our emotions?

What if rather than jumping to conclusions about how horrible we are, or how screwed we now are, we simply went on with our day?

Most of the time, we do just that and all is fine.

Just like everything in life, the key is awareness.

As soon as we become aware of what we’re innocently doing, we’re on to it. The more aware we are, the more able we are to catch ourselves in the act, so to speak.

Through awareness, we are no longer a victim of our thoughts.

Seeing how our system works, and that our everyday emotions are a normal part of everyone’s life, allows us to not take them so seriously. In other words, to not give them a second thought.

It’s when we fight against our humanness that our mind gets all jammed up.

When we remember to go easy on ourselves, our lives become so much richer and fuller. We can see potential everywhere. And when we allow all of our emotions to come as they will (not just the ones we like), they will also go as they will.

Just like they’re supposed to do.

Can you see times in your life where it’s your second thoughts creating your suffering? Let me know below!

Here’s a video I made on this topic of second thoughts:


Prefer listening? Click the green arrow below!

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CONTACT JILL WHALEN to learn how she may help you be the best you can be.

Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.

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Hi Jill

Many thanks for this.

I wonder if one possible ‘cause’ of secondary emotions might be old conditioning about what’s ok to feel and express, and what’s not.

Anger, hurt, disappointment – and their expression – were all banned in my family of origin (except for my parents who were angry, hurt and disappointed most of the time and had no qualms about expressing them, at length).

I still banish myself from company quite automatically when I feel any ‘negative’ emotion. And it’s so habitual I don’t even see what I’m doing until after the fact.

Your blog has helped me recognise that pattern more clearly, so thank you!

Kind regards

Hi Kate, thanks for your comment. And yes, most everything we do and think is based on our conditioning. Absolutely. BUT…true insights have the amazing power to delete some of our old conditioning in an instant. Which is where the power of understanding this stuff comes in!

Hi Jill,

I love reading your posts, and also enjoyed your book too.

For me also awareness is the key, but sometimes the first thought escapes and turns into a thought storm, and that is when things get out of hand. If I become aware of the thought storm, then it usually blows itself out.

Awareness is so eludes me most of the time, how does one maintain it?

Kind regards

Hi Graham, glad you like the blog posts and book. Thank you!

As far as awareness is concerned, I don’t think it’s possible to be continuously aware. But that’s okay, we don’t need to be. The great thing about thought is that, fresh new ones can come at any time. And with them, comes awareness!

That said, I found that simply observing my thoughts throughout the day (as I mentioned in my book) was the most helpful thing for cultivating awareness, in general. Not so much observing the content, but just noticing that we’re thinking.