Myth busting: Thoughts

“Nothing can bring you peace, but yourself”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

MYTH
I had a thought so it must be true

FACT
I had a thought and it is just a thought

MYTH
I had a thought so action must be taken

FACT
I had a thought and it is just a thought

MYTH
I had a thought and it says a lot about who I am

FACT
I had a thought and it is just a thought

 

While some thoughts do hold truth and can create uneasiness (and that is valid), the point of this myth busting exercise was to recognise that thoughts are no more powerful than we allow them to be. If we step outside our heads for a minute and observe what is going on, we can clearly see these thoughts as words or images floating in our mind. The meaning or judgment attached to them comes from us.

It is common for people to over-identify with a thought (e.g. I had a thought that I failed at something, therefore I am a failure), or to amplify them in their minds to become ‘truth’.  When we do this, we tend to feel pretty overwhelmed and often there is a sense of urgency to act on the thought. That’s when we know we have gotten caught up, or fused, with our thoughts, and they begin to take over.

Side note: we can choose to think anything we want,  but that doesn’t make it true. For example, I told myself dogs could talk, sadly this is not true. 

 

Ask yourself…

“How attached am I to my thoughts?”

“When I become attached, or fused, with my thoughts, how much distress does this cause me?”

 

Make a conscious choice to notice your thoughts instead. Really acknowledge them. Then, let them come and go, rather than getting caught up in them and making judgments about them. This is what we call defusion. When we do this, we no longer allow our thoughts to control us. Letting go of the struggle with our thoughts is real.

Like ‘leaves on a stream’, notice your thoughts and let them float by. When you do this, you’re not trying to ‘get rid’ of your thoughts, but allow them to come and go at their own pace. You may be pleasantly surprised with how this makes you feel.  Note: The picture above was taken at the Gawler Foundation retreat I attended in 2017, where I got to practice the leaves on a stream exercise in real life.

To learn more about this topic, read Dr Russ Harris’s work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

 

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