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Escaping your mental jail

Prison bars with a lock

Most of us live our lives restricted by our own thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize our own toxic thought patterns. Since they are with us all the time it is easy to be blind to that they even exist.

The mental jail

The mental jail consists of thought patterns that limit our freedom to relax and enjoy life. They also restrict us from understanding what we truly value and how to be what we want to be (as opposed to what we should be).

Common toxic thought patterns are:

  • Never being “enough”
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Victimhood
  • Shame
  • Doom
  • Perfectionism

Becoming aware

To free yourself from the shackles of your toxic thought patterns, you need to become aware of them. Awareness truly is key to change. Becoming aware of these thoughts has a tendency to slowly, but surely, melt them away. It is hard to have such destructive thoughts when being truly aware of them.

Bringing these unconscious thoughts into the light of consciousness can feel a bit scary at first. However, bringing them into the light removes their power. The thoughts don’t seem as scary when they are in the light of awareness.

Here are a few different ways to help become aware of them:

1. Using a timer

Set a timer for every 15 minutes for a full day. Whenever the timer rings, write down what you are currently thinking. Are there any patterns? Are there certain thoughts or judgments, about yourself or others, that come up over and over again?

2. Journaling

Putting our thoughts and worries down on paper helps us gain clarity. Are there certain things that keep on coming up over and over? In that case, it may be something that really limits you. Again, just becoming aware of these things, by putting it down on paper, has a magical power to start reducing its strenght.

3. Talking with others

Sharing difficulties, worries, and fears with others usually make them seem less powerful. Sharing with a friend is a great way to feel more accepted and less alone. Realizing that we all share these things can feel comforting. They can even seem a bit silly when saying it out loud.

I’ve had a deep fear ever since I was a child that I’m boring. I think a boy in my class said that to me once when I was nine and it stuck with me like glue. When I shared this fear with my husband he started laughing. He said that he has never once found me boring. Talking with others about our fears can sometimes bring light to how silly and unproductive they are.

Sharing with a therapist can also be a great option if you can afford it.


Freeing yourself from your own mental jail can provide a lot more freedom in life. Getting clear on what we truly value, as opposed to what we think we should value, makes it easier to enjoy life intentionally and spend the time on the things that matter.

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