So what am I saying here? Simply this: a ‘thought’ is a mental event- nothing more.
A thought passes through your mind. A thought is like the ‘software’ rather than the ‘hardware’. When we look at a computer screen what we see is the software. Some of us make the mistake of assuming the software is the computer. But of course it’s not. Our thoughts are like the software – it and they can be changed. When the software is changed, we see something different on the screen.
Thoughts are not necessarily linked to reality. One minute I could be feeling quite successful and content, and then I hear some news like: “Deb you failed that test you did last week,” and suddenly my mood changes. I feel like a failure because I’m thinking: ‘I failed’.
In that moment, have I changed from being a successful person to being a complete failure?
No, not really. Essentially I’m the still the same person I was 10 minutes ago, it’s just my thoughts that have changed. I still have all the same successes under my belt as I had 10 minutes before but now I have that horrible bad news and I lose sight of all my successes. The bad news is so close it’s like when you sunbathe and someone stands in the way and blocks your sun. The sun hasn’t gone in, you just can’t feel it. This is what we call emotional thinking – because I feel it or because I think it, it must be true. Big mistake. Thoughts and feelings are not always to be trusted!
When you get a negative thought you can challenge it. You can take your thought to court. You can examine the evidence so in defence of my thought ‘I’m a failure’ I could write down a list of evidence to support that thought. Don’t stop there!
Now I have to do the prosecution part. Remember, the thought ‘I’m a failure’ is in the dock: “So Deb, what is the evidence against this thought?” This can be a harder list to write, but persevere. You might have to enlist the help of a friend if you find it really hard. You might even ask yourself: what would I say to a friend who was thinking this thought?
So many times I have worked with people who have a thought which they believe completely:
No one likes me
No one takes me seriously
Everything I do goes wrong
I know I’m on to a winner when people start talking like this, because there is always someone in the world who likes them, always someone to take them seriously, always something in life that has been achieved.
When we are about half way down our ‘evidence against the thought’ list, the facial expression begins to change, and they start to feel the slightest bit better. Why do they feel better? Because their thoughts are starting to change! They have swapped the software. A more balanced view begins to emerge and their feelings follow suit.
Hope begins to return.