Do You Believe Everything You Think?

29 June, 2012

Our mind is capable of producing all kinds of things; good ideas and damaging thoughts. The question is, do you believe everything you think?

I think this is an extremely important thing for one to consider.

I was sitting with one of my clients recently, who had - in my opinion - one of those 'aha' moments; they asked "what, so I can actually choose what I think?"

Bit of a radical idea, wouldn't you agree?

I have spent the better part of a decade coaching folk towards any outcome that is important to them: performance at work, communication in relationships, self-esteem and feeling better about Self, getting rid of pesky phobias and anxieties. You name it, I've coached it! Most people, during this process (and I am including myself in this) believed that they are supposed to 'control' their thoughts - block out the 'bad' ones and 'just think positively'.

It sounds OK, but the problem is that it's not so easy to group thoughts into 'good' and 'bad'. Plus, the more we subscribe to this idea that we are all supposed to be 'thinking positively' about everything all of the time, the more we end up beating ourselves up when this doesn't happen easily. We are subscribing to something unattainable: perfection. Perfection of life, perfection of thoughts.

So, given that this is impossible, shall we scrap that?

The distinction I choose to subscribe to is usefulness. Is the way you are thinking about a situation or yourself useful, or not useful?

Is it going to feel good, or not? Is it going to get an outcome (any outcome), or not? Is it going to get the outcome you desire, or otherwise? Is it going to change the reality of the situation, or not? Is it going to improve the relationship, or otherwise? Is it going to lead to progression, or regression?

If this resonates with you, and you know you can get carried away by your thoughts sometimes, then may I suggest a skill building exercise to practice:

  1. Choose awareness. So long as you are paying attention to what your mind is producing, the thoughts will cease to maintain power over your state of mind and your actions. See if you can keep a spotlight on that head of yours, and 'watch' what goes on with an attitude of interest and curiosity; much like watching fish in a pond or a road with cars going past. Most people have no idea what runs through their mind, let alone how much it governs their every day state and behaviours. Be one of the aware ones!
  2. Choose choice: Make the destination between what feels real, and what is actually true. The fact is that our brain believes our thoughts, much to its detriment. If you are afraid of flying, you'll know all you have to do is make that picture in your head of the plane crashing and your body responds to that (imagined) picture as if it were real; it believes it! You can remind yourself therefore, at any given moment, that this feels real - and the experience you have is real - but it is not true.
  3. Write stuff down: Writing your thoughts down will also help create a dissociation, i.e. the thoughts are not you or who you are, they are only thoughts, and are not real. Sometimes, you might write down what's going on in your head and you will notice patterns of thinking - this will help you realise again, these are only thoughts. Sometimes you will laugh at the musings of your mind, and think "what a load of crap!" and then decide to get on with something else, like enjoying yourself for example.

Your brian is highly capable (as you will realise) of producing all kinds of stuff. You get to choose what you pay attention to, and what you leave to the side: what is useful to pay attention to, and what is less-than-useful.

Let me know how you get on! I am very passionate about this topic and would love to hear from you below. Charlotte.

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