Don’t Believe Everything You Think…

How about some good news? Your moment-to-moment thinking about what is possible or not for you is not the truth about what is possible or not!

Huh?

Our ability to think is an amazing talent, without doubt, however, have you ever stopped to consider that your ability to think and the result of that ability are two different things?

Thought content, (the end product, or result, of the process of thinking), can and does appear very real and compelling to us. 

However, consider this: is my thought about a sandwich actually a sandwich? Is my thought about another person actually that other person? Is my thought about a situation from the past or a worried thought about the future actually that situation?

Upon closer inspection, we can start to get a sense that our thoughts cannot, by definition, be true for they are a representation for something, just as the word ‘lamp,’ is not actually a lamp. And yet, if I am caught up in my thinking, it can feel as if my thought is actually the thing itself. 

For example, if I am caught up in thinking about how someone important in my life has been insensitive towards me, that they were not valuing me, what happens?  Generally, I start to feel angry, or hurt, or victimized or any number of difficult feelings. 

It starts to look a lot like that other person has caused me to feel the way I do, which is often an invitation for me to think even more about that, and build up even more resentment or reactivity. 

These feelings, which have been flamed through my overthinking, then tend to impact my behavior. I might become withdrawn, or behave rudely when I am in the presence of that person. Or maybe I end up gossiping or ‘throwing the person under the bus’ when I am talking with other people, prosecuting my case about the poor behavior of the other person towards me.

Is my thinking about the person actually the truth about that person? Is my thinking about their insensitivity even accurate? How would I know?

Perhaps they were struggling with their own difficult thinking and weren’t even aware of the way in which they behaved n my presence. Perhaps they were feeling aches and pains or had constipation. Maybe they were caught up in worries about finances.

There could be any number of other reasons that they would not be completely available, interested or attentive to me in that moment. Yet, I have concluded that the person is insensitive and that they don’t value me and then I go on to pay the consequences of that thinking, (some form of suffering) certain that my thinking is true and accurate.

Even more interesting is that I have concluded that my well-being is actually dependent on the good opinion of other people. But is that true?

Imagine knowing that the core of your being is one of wholeness, and that other people literally do not have the power to make you think, feel, say or do anything. How might that change the way in which you go through life? Take a moment to get in touch with that…you’ve got time, go ahead and try that on…

What would it be like to have the insight that other people can not make you feel better and they can’t make you feel worse?

Could you imagine how your life might be if you really understood that other peoples’ opinions and behaviors did not define you, limit you or cause you to feel the way you do? 

Could you imagine living with the realization that other peoples’ thoughts and opinions and behaviors belonged to them and not to you?

The only thing that gets in the way of us realizing and experiencing our own invulnerability is our thinking in the present moment. When we take insecure thinking seriously, and do not see that our experience is created moment-to-moment via our current stream of thought, we will always feel off-balance and will be constantly engaged in blaming others and attributing how we feel and what we do, or fail to do, to other people and other situations outside of us.

You can practice taking your thoughts less seriously…really, you can. Look for opportunities each day to notice what thoughts are competing for your attention. 

Could you take this moment and simply notice what thoughts are vying for your attention?

If you notice that you have been grinding away with difficult thoughts or worries, notice what happens when you relate to those thoughts differently. 

What happens if you simply disengage from those thoughts? Just see what happens if you leave them alone, best you can…

You can see they are there. The thoughts are still on offer. What could be more true than the thoughts that are in your mind right now are there right now? It’s not helpful, (nor effective!) to try and get rid of thoughts, as that is yet another way of interacting with the very thing you don’t want.

“What you resist not only persists but will grow in size.Carl Jung

By seeing thoughts as just thoughts and feelings as just feelings, you begin to realize that you are the experiencer of those thoughts and feelings. With willingness, you can make room for those inevitable negative, difficult or insecure thoughts. They are going to show up, but how you show up for them is a choice that is available to you in this moment and in every moment that is to come. 

Those thoughts and feelings that arise do not define you nor do they represent a real obstacle to you continuing to move forward in the direction of things that matter to you. 

Our thoughts are about as solid as a cloud, but until we realize that, we tend to accept them as fact, as truth and we tend to get fused with them and they seem as solid as steel.

Much of our daily life is actually spent in our mind, interacting with our thoughts about other people or situations, and not actually interacting with the people or situations out in the external world. 

Would you rather be thinking about your life, or living your life as it is happening? Interacting with a narrative or being engaged in moment to moment experiencing of this one precious life you have?

“I am not a victim of the world I see.’ A Course in Miracles

What this points to is that the world out there is not causing us to suffer, but rather the suffering we are experiencing is a function of us taking those difficult thoughts that arise, unbidden and unwelcome, seriously and experiencing the result of those thoughts.

There is no other possibility than to feel victimized if we are unaware that the cause of our experience comes from within and is projected out into the world.

“Perception is projection.‘ A Course in Miracles

We think we are seeing the world as it is, but we are always experiencing the world as we have created it with our moment-to-moment thinking.

If I am taking seriously the thought that I am no good and that it is highly unlikely that things are going to change or be different, I will have the experience of those thoughts being true and will feel dispirited enough that I will likely take the action of non-action.

I will find (invent) evidence for my lack of worthiness or agency. I will find a way to twist the words of people or skew the meaning of the events around me to support my conclusion, and then feel vindicated that my thoughts about not being good enough are true.

And the cycle will repeat over and over, ‘proving’ to me that I was right.

If I am willing to take those thoughts less seriously and allow my mind to settle, more often than not, helpful and insightful thoughts will begin to arise in that cleared space.

The insights that we need are always available, but if we are not available for them, it will seem that they are not available to us.

Clearing the mental busy-ness of our minds is the first step to being available for fresh, insightful and inspiring thoughts that will allow us to regain our bearings and get into action. 

It can often come as a surprise to realize that our mind wants to settle and be more clear. There is nothing to do in order to have a quieter mind. You can’t force your mind to settle and become clear, you can only step back and allow. The innate correcting ability of our mind wants to go in the direction of peace of mind and clarity and will do so if we loosen our grip on overthinking and over-analyzing.

Our penchant is to overthink things. See if this is true for you. I know that I have had many commutes on a congested highway into the office that were filled with contention, arguments, proving my points, justifying my words and actions, until I awoke to the realization that I was the only one in the car and that I had innocently been taking my thinking very seriously.

In coming to my senses, the world around me actually starts to open up. As I continue to drive, I see the beautiful shapes of trees, the birds flying around gracefully, and see the interesting landscapes and other people maneuvering their cars towards their destinations. I have a sense that I am back in the flow of life, moving through it at the speed of life. 

My mind settles down and a sense of peace and stability appears.

Our propensity to over-analyze. We incessantly think about our thinking and engage in difficult thought content and this is largely a function of having practiced doing it for as many years as we have been alive. We are so accustomed to doing it that we think doing so is the norm. 

Analytical thinking is not wrong nor bad, and in fact, it is very helpful if we have discrete things to work out and have the variables at hand. For example, using the analytical mode of thinking is very helpful when planning a vacation, or estimating materials needed for a remodel of a house. But analytical thinking applied to many areas of life is not only unhelpful, it’s harmful.

We overthink and evaluate other people and situations all day long. It can be helpful to see that there is actually a positive intent behind that activity. We are all trying to get a sense of control and safety in what can appear to be a chaotic and uncertain world.

A helpful question to ask, though, is how is that working for you?

Does your worrying or overanalyzing result in more safety and more control? In other words, does the activity of entertaining difficult thoughts deliver on its’ promise? If so, there is nothing to change! However, if not, might there be another way to navigate through life?

Here is a shortcut…do not take your thinking so personally. See your thoughts for what they are, words and images and nothing more.

You are free to dismiss thoughts, disregard thoughts or engage in thoughts. It’s your mind, and you can use it any way you want to use it! Instead of having your mind use you, what happens when you use your mind?

Give yourself the gift of realizing that you are the thinker and not the thoughts.

You experience moment-to-moment whatever thoughts are in your mind. 

Start getting good at practicing thought recognition today. Find fluency in deciding whether a thought is helpful or harmful. If the former, proceed. If the latter, let go.

You don’t have to believe everything you think!

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