~ We are not our thoughts. We are the awareness.
~ Our thoughts are not the truth – just thoughts. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral.
~ Thoughts can sit dormant in our subconscious and spring to life at any time, without any warning- and may in fact feel like a brand new concept that we might even think we’ve never thought before.
~ Our brains and bodies can’t tell if a thought is based on real-time activity, subconscious memory… or pure imagination.
~ Every single thought you have can be assessed in terms of whether it strengthens or weakens you.
~ A single negative thought can change the course of your life.
So can a single positive thought.
~ Change your thoughts, change your life.
Crikey – who’s in control here?!! It sounds like I have power, I can change my thinking and therefore myself; and then it sounds like thoughts can divebomb me at any time and my brain and body might respond with behaviour patterns that I created years ago!?! Huh – I don’t get it: what do I need to know or do to manage my thoughts to live the life I want??
I guess we’re not quite over thinking yet! So far, I think the biggest message around this subject is awareness. When you catch a thought or thought pattern that you know or suspect is not serving your best interest, you can stop and take a look at the thought itself – not just the content of the thought. For that matter, whenever you are feeling stressed, upset, fearful, unsettled, confused: it’s a pretty good clue that your thoughts might not be serving you. Thoughts that serve you feel safe, secure, peaceful – even if they’re negatively manifested, for example, yelling intuitively at a stranger invading your personal space: you may not know if a stranger is danger, however, your instincts know what you need to feel safe, and it’s quite natural and okay to enact those responses. (You can always soften the blow after the fact should you feel compelled!) Likewise, foundationless or forced Pollyanna thinking could hint at denial or limiting beliefs, which will also feel unsettled or unsafe.
Righty then: you’ve busted your thoughts for making you feel unsettled… stuck on repeat… going nowhere good. Now what? Well, that’s a very big discussion… ranging from simple thought-stopping tools and techniques right on through to in-depth cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). One of my favorite simple tactics for understanding the sabotaging nature of thoughts and thus managing them (learned first from a therapist then reinforced by good ol’ Dr. Phil) is: follow the thought right through to the end. Basically, identify if a thought is true or false. Take the common stressful thought: I hate my job. This one could give tornados a run for their money! Here we go:
Thoughts of the dread of having to get yourself out of bed and go into work even one more day spinning and spinning, slowly picking up whatever thought debris is in its path: nasty bosses, horrible commutes, the raise you didn’t get, how tired you are when you get home, guilt at not being home for the kids, how bored and unfulfilled you feel…
A little momentum and: what can I do, I can’t quit, I’m unappreciated, I’ll never make enough money, is this all there is for me, will I ever find my purpose, can I ever find a job that I’ll like, I don’t know what to do, I’m stuck, what do I do, I can’t talk to my boss… (and on to REPEAT:) he’s nasty, my commute sucks……..
That’s a lot of clutter for one little thought: and each acquisition of debris comes with it’s own little storm! That’s adrenal suicide, and thought overload. Here’s the same thought, following it through to the end:
I hate my job – I dread going in to work everyday.
So, what if you quit your job.
Well… I need to make money.
So, what if you have to find another job.
Well… it will be hard, I hate job searching!
So, what if you hate job-searching.
Well… I need to make money, I’d just have to do it.
So, what if you just have to do it.
Well… I’d have to get some help.
So… what if you have to get help.
Well… I don’t know where to look.
So… what if you don’t know where to look.
Well… I could google or ask people.
So, what if you have to google or ask people.
Well… I’m sure I would find some help.
Yay! You now have positive thoughts, a basis for an action plan to a desired outcome, happy chemicals flowing, increasing energy, a sense of safety knowing that you are in control – and one less worry. You get it: follow the thoughts through and at the end of the day, you’re not dead. I refer to it as free-floating thought: thoughts that are going nowhere because you haven’t followed them through to the end to see if you end up dead. Free-floating thoughts take up ENORMOUS head-space and energy and the sooner you nip them in the bud, the sooner you will take away their power by understanding that the anxiety and falsehoods of your imaginings are always worse than actual facts/reality. Following thoughts through will dead-end them with some kind of answer – generally a positive one, because you won’t stop the “so what if’s” until you’re somewhat happy!!
My other most favorite simple tool is talking to my thoughts – giving “thoughts” an identity. When I feel uneasy, anxious or unfocused, I stop and see what’s going on with my thoughts at the time: where are they leading, are they based on anything real or useful? Giving them a role separate from “me” gives a sense of control: I can take a step back and realize that thoughts are simply popping out randomly from my collective memory – “I” am not necessarily choosing relative or productive thoughts. It helps me see thoughts as simply a tool the body uses to offer up potential ideas for something that has yet to solidify a pathway to a peaceful action/feeling, or duh, I would have taken it without all of these lingering thoughts! As stated, if I feel dis-ease, my thoughts are not useful, so I might have a conversation with them that goes something like this:
Caught you again you sneaky little thoughts: you’re really not helping me much right now!!
I appreciate that you conjured yourselves up to let me know that there’s a better way of creating what I want – so you can go away now!! No, really – you can go now: I’ll clear my mind or choose affirmations or
thoughts that are more empowering and create the right kind of chemicals in my body to allow me to better move forward in a way and in a direction that is healthier and more peaceful for me – so you can go. Thanks again for making me check in with myself – I’m good: beat it!
Yes, I actually do speak to my thoughts like that – though often I can get away with a good “scram”! It’s taken some practice to be able to firmly and concisely tell my thoughts that their current employment is over, and stop them trying to bargain their way back in; and really, what that’s about has nothing to do with vocabulary and everything to do with gaining confidence that I really do have power over my thoughts. I can now catch my thoughts quickly, laugh and have fun busting the little guys – and can pretty much discipline misbehaving thoughts in one good talking-to! This is totally based on the “change your thoughts” theory of Wayne Dyer; and giving thought a personality separate from me nurtures the Eckhart Tolle thought vs. ego ideology. Keep in mind, this is not about simply denying all things negative, it’s about choosing a route to create the best likelihood that you can move in your desired direction, by changing brain and biochemical responses that enable you to capitalize on what your body has to offer to do so: primarily neurotransmitters and hormones that calm you and support you to both feel better and take productive action. It’s amazing how well thought-talk works to raise your consciousness and get you in a positive frame of mind and body, once you get the hang of it! (I also talk to my aches and ailments!) Anyway, what do those rampant, churning, directionless, idiotically repeating, cortisol-producing, brain-path hijacking, negative thoughts do for you – absolutely nothing! EXCEPT: remind you, you have power!!
I’ll do a few more posts on managing thought before I move on to another topic: rest assured, we will be revisiting this subject often! “Thought-stopping” has many permeations and techniques, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Even the simple tools above take time and practice: do not despair (and they payoff in spades)! Negative thoughts will always be a part of human behaviour. I’m just a firm believer that being raised with a solid sense of self, and a lack of a need for comparison regarding self-worth or success, will take a lot of the ammo away from our minds. Identifying thoughts and their power, and maneuvering them favourably, should be second-nature. Where we stand now though, we could ask: can manipulating your own thoughts have a down-side? I love the thousands of studies that accompany all of this new research on mind/brain/body: you can’t imagine how far rats and fMRI’s have gotten us recently! For your amusement, here’s some nice light research about thought suppression and its effect re: forbidden romance, your golf swing, and…Basil Fawlty? Sans rats!
Next: 8 Ironic Effects of Thought Suppression (page 2)