We were designed to be creatures of thought. Our brain is constantly processing our environment, our situation, producing thought after thought after thought. Have you ever stopped to consider just how many thoughts we have? We are living inside our own little bubbles, nattering all day long, and the only person who can hear this endless chatter is YOU.
We think and plan and worry and daydream and memorise and catastrophise all. the. time.
Sometimes, we think thoughts that help us go about our day-to-day activities. Intentional thoughts. Things like deciding whether to have tea or coffee in the morning. Intentionally trying to remember the train departure times.
It would be fair to assume that our thoughts are always acting in our favour. After all, aren’t we trying to preserve ourselves? The issue lies within our thoughts which are not deliberate.
Our thinking is not always accurate, correct, or a matter of fact. Sometimes they are. “that water is dirty” could well be a fact. Our thoughts which form opinions however, are not always factual and we actually base a lot of these thoughts on assumptions e.g. “he really doesn’t like me”.
CBT is a common form of therapy used to treat anxiety and depression amongst many other mental illnesses. The key principle with CBT is that we can change how we feel by changing the way we think. Because the “opinion” thought process is often the root cause of our pain, it is so important to identify what thoughts exactly we are having that are causing us pain and whether they are true.
The next time your mind reaches a conclusion that inevitably sends in you in a spiral toward depression or anxiety, take a moment to evaluate the events and environment that preceded your interpretation (opinion) of the situation. Your thoughts, in every sense, are “real”. Yes, you really did hear that “thought” that told you that you look fat today. BUT, that is not to say that the thought was a fact.
Thoughts can only turn into feelings if we pay attention to them. Due to the nature of thinking, it is all very well to say “oh, I’ll never have an untruthful thought again”… that’s unlikely. We’re going to get our thoughts wrong again, and again, and again. BUT we do get to choose how much attention we pay to those thoughts and also whether we force a more positive one into our heads straight after.
*stands in mirror*
e.g. “Ew Jess you look fat today”
followed up with a “HA, look, there I go again. I know I’m not fat, I just ate a chocolate bar. There’s a difference”.
(quite literally an accurate depiction of my daily internal conversations).
See, I could just run with that non-factual initial thought alllllll day long. It would influence what I ate for the rest of the day, it would influence how confident I felt in speaking to my colleagues. It would influence the way I hold myself. All because of one little thought.
It is frightening yet empowering all at the same time when we realise just how many non-factual thoughts we think. When we starve these non-helpful, hindering thoughts of our attention, we are letting them disappear without them getting to the “feels”. They don’t belong there.
Deciphering factual thoughts from fictional thoughts is actually relatively easier than you might think. Just ask yourself these two questions:
“what evidence do I have to back this up” (then if you DO have evidence, then question that evidence)
“would my friends say that this is a factual thought”
You’ll be surprised and amazed and bewildered and enlightened when you realise just how many thoughts that you’re having are simply just a steaming pile of bullshit.
Over and out.