As Alice, from the classic novel and film Alice in Wonderland, follows the well-dressed rabbit down the rabbit hole, one is left to wonder â€“ why? Most advice would say to stay away from the uncertainty of the rabbit hole. However, the rabbit hole can be symbolic for oneâ€™s mind and how we sometimes let ourselves go down the rabbit hole of our thoughts, whether we intend to or not. For example, when your friend doesnâ€™t answer their phone, you might begin to wonder why they didnâ€™t answer, even though the first logical thought is to assume they are just busy. Your thoughts may wander to thinking that they are ignoring you, that they are hanging out with new friends and didnâ€™t invite you, or that they donâ€™t care about you to the same extent that you care about them. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole here are some suggestions to stop your mind from wandering to these unwanted thoughts.
1. Remember that even though it may feel personal, it probably isnâ€™t. We tend to have a bias towards the negative, which can often make us feel like others are criticizing us, ignoring us, or have some sort of complex plan to mistreat us. But more often than not, what may feel like a personal attack is just someone being preoccupied with themselves.
2. Acknowledge you have gone into the rabbit hole. When you start making assumptions based on insufficient information, take a step back and tell yourself not to worry until you have a chance to talk to the person. If you canâ€™t detect that you have gone down the rabbit hole, you wonâ€™t be able to stop it.
3. Focus on yourself to identify the trigger. Notice how you are feeling right before you go down the rabbit hole? Often people go down the rabbit hole when they are feeling overly tired, anxious, stressed, or annoyed. Once the trigger is identified, try finding a way to calm down and distract yourself. I recommend writing a list of things that you can do when your feeling overwhelmed. For example, watching Netflix, breathing exercises, stretching, listening to music, or going for a walk. These can help center you in these moments.
4. Remind yourself of the facts and bring some context into the scenario. Referring to the phone example â€“ what time of day is it? Does this person usually answer their phone? Is it possible they donâ€™t enjoy speaking on the phone? Is there a productive way you can raise your concern about the lack of telephone response with the person? Do you always answer your phone when people call?
5.What can you do in this moment to be productive? This may be thinking about the situation more deeply, or it may be moving on to another task. You can almost always come back to a situation later, let time give you some perspective.
6. Forgive yourself and move on! Sometimes itâ€™s okay to go down the rabbit hole, as it can be beneficial and sometimes even fun to consider multiple scenarios and let your mind wander. You shouldnâ€™t feel guilty when your mind leads you to negative thoughts. Just accept that this will happen from time to time and know that it will pass. Be kind to yourself!
By:Â Sara Pishdadian
Sara Pishdadian is a graduate student studying Clinical Psychology at York University. You can follow her on twitter to hear more about her research interestsÂ https://twitter.com/sarapishdadian.