The Nature of Thoughts
“Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts.” – Allan Lokos
You’ve known it for some time, yet you’re unable to take change the situation. Your thoughts take a nosedive when you least expect it, hurtling out of control. It happens at your most vulnerable moments of the day: late in the afternoon when tiredness sets it. Those incessant thoughts are thinking you. Why won’t they stop? Let’s step back from the drama as we explore behind the scenes. We must understand that thoughts occur all the time, even when we’re asleep. As long as we are connected to consciousness we continue to have thoughts. It is estimated we think approximately 70,000 thoughts a day according to neuroscientists. Many of these thoughts are repetitive. We rethink the same thoughts day in day out with little consideration. Recall the last time your thoughts were stuck? No matter how hard you tried, thoughts continue to emerge, in a fast and furious manner.
We should appreciate that thoughts are just thoughts. They come and go without an agenda. It is when we attach meaning to them that creates substance. Consider the same thought can have no impact at a point in time, yet other times cause upheaval. In her book Succeed, author Heidi Grant Halvorson suggests that the mind can become overstimulated at times, leading to a drop in willpower. Our physiology plays a role in determining our thoughts. When we’re tired, hungry or ill, our body relays neurochemical signals to the mind which causes erratic thoughts to emerge. Knowing this, we take refuge that thoughts come and go like ocean tides. There is no point in attaching meaning to thoughts than wishing every day was Friday. Whilst I acknowledge this may be a modest explanation, we cannot predict our thought patterns. To confirm this, reflect on what your next thought is likely to be? We don’t know what thoughts are likely to play out in our minds since we’re responding and reacting to our external environment.
Many people believe since they have thoughts, they must be true. Remember: thoughts often come and go from our mind. There’s no point attaching yourself to your thoughts since they’re not permanent. Thoughts can overwhelm us because the meaning we assign to them strengthens them throughout our neural network. In due course when enough attention is given to a thought, it transforms into matter or affects our physiology. Many of our thoughts live in the collective unconscious of mankind. Since we’re connected, the mass consciousness of humanity impacts our thoughts. Therefore, if we as a collective society entertain disempowering thoughts of: anger, rage, anxiety, sadness, and guilt etc. these energise aspects of our unconscious self to be released into the world.
Mindfully Observe Your Thoughts
“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind, anyway. It’s a death trap.” – Anthony Hopkins
So how can you take ownership of your thoughts so they don’t overpower you? Firstly, become acquainted observing your thoughts instead of becoming invested in them. What does this mean? If I ask you to close your eyes and picture eating your favourite food, you might recall that scene, while engaging the sensations that go with it. Observing your thoughts is not dissimilar. As thoughts enter your mind, instead of communicating with them, observe them purposely and objectively. You may label disempowering thoughts as they emerge, so you become accustomed to screening them. This means the next time they appear, your mind can learn to recognise and filter un-useful thoughts. For example, if visualising your favourite meal reminded you of an unpleasant experience, you might label the thought as “sad” or “angry.” The key is not to give life to the thought by conversing with it. Identify it and let it go. There are far too many thoughts entering your mind to catalogue them all. Overstimulation of thoughts may become a destructive habit. Many busy people become addicted to incessant thoughts, i.e. monkey mind which denotes the struggle to tame such thoughts. They feel empty without the mental drama since that entails being alone in silence. This may bring up many negative thoughts relating one’s self-worth.
Consciousness knows and sees all. Next time you’re at the park, observe the dogs or children playing. Your mind will want to add a commentary, although your nervous system knows what it sees and feels. This is consciousness functioning in the background. You know a red kite when you see it, yet your mind feels drawn to add the thought: “Look at the red kite” to confirm what it sees. To weaken the narrative on thoughts, allow consciousness to observe your environment to reduce the stress on the mind and body. Witness your inner voice by becoming acquainted with the language it speaks. For example, do you start sentences with: “I can’t?” or is your self-talk directed in the first or second person? “You should” or “I should” etc. Knowing this allows you to observe how thoughts play out in your mind. You have the power to master your thoughts by not becoming a slave to the internal chatter. As you become familiar with your mental landscape, your thoughts will no longer control your life.