Thoughts Aren’t Real

Thoughts are funny things. They trick us into believing they are important. They trick us into believing they are true. They trick us into believing they are us.

The reality is, they aren’t. They are just thoughts. You are allowed to question them. You are allowed to ignore them. You are allowed to pick lovely ones.

Sure, some get through the filter easier than others, but that’s just because they have built up the muscle to do so over time.

Thoughts are just another set of neural pathways in your brain, same as habits and behaviours. You’ve learnt which ones to pay attention to over time. I bet you have, on occasion, had the thought that you could just step out in front of a bus. I’m also willing to bet that you didn’t pay much attention to that thought and almost certainly didn’t take action on it.  Yet, when that familiar thought that you’re not good enough pops up, you really pay attention. It’s probably so familiar to you that you don’t even see it for what it is any more – in the same way you stop noticing the pictures on your living room wall.

There are a few major ways that are thinking is faulty. The clue is usually in the language we use. Here are a couple of warning signs your thoughts might not be accurate.

Over Generalisation. I always do this. Everyone behaves this way. Nobody has ever got around this. It will never change. Always? Everyone? Nobody? Never? Really!? If you catch yourself (or others) saying or thinking those words it’s time to stop and re-think.

Personalisation. I sent them a text 2 hours ago and they haven’t responded. What did I do to upset them? Why do they hate me? I bet it’s because of that time I did that thing. Then half an hour later they respond with “Sorry I was driving, coffee tomorrow sounds great! X” You let your own thoughts make you miserable for hours! Stop it!

Mind reading/fortune telling. If I ask my boss for that day off they are going to say no because it’s a Thursday and then he’ll think I’m taking the mick and find a reason to fire me. What I’ll do instead is not ask and quietly be furious that I can’t do that thing I fancied doing. I never get to do what I want. Yes, I threw in an extra over generalisation there, well spotted. If we want to feel really crappy about ourselves piling up the flawed thinking patterns works a charm.

Catastrophising. They should have been home 10 minutes ago? Where are they? I bet they’ve been stopped by the police. Or had a accident. They’ve either run away and left me or are dead in a ditch, there is no other explanation. I should probably start calling around the hospitals once I’ve stopped wailing uncontrollably. Oh, they’ve just pulled into the driveway.

These are obvious flaws in our thinking, but it pays to start noticing them. Start with the big things and once you’ve got your eye in you’ll start spotting more subtle ways your thoughts are tricking you.

You are not your thoughts. If you are the sky, your thoughts are merely clouds passing through. You can choose which thoughts to pay attention to, so pick lovely ones.

In the words of Eckhart Tolle “rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”

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