aka: Sometimes Our Brains are Lying Liars
Yesterday, I wrote about how important it is for us to learn how to trust ourselves as we move through our lives. Many clients struggle with this. Maybe you do too. You’ll notice that today’s post title starts with an asterisk. Yesterday’s title ended with one–and here’s what I said after the asterisk:
Trusting yourself is important. At the same time, it is important to understand that sometimes our thoughts and feelings may be giving us inaccurate information. In the next few posts, we’ll look at when it is useful to challenge thoughts or feelings. Then we’ll explore some tools to help you be in better touch with yourself.
One of the things that can make learning to trust ourselves difficult is the fact that, sometimes, our thoughts and feelings don’t give us accurate information. So, we are trying to learn to trust ourselves AND learning when we need to be questioning our thoughts and feelings. I think it is hugely important to understand that both thoughts and feelings can happen without any active effort on our parts. Generating thoughts and feelings are things that our bodies and brains do all by themselves. And those thoughts and feelings might give us good information about ourselves. Or they might be a reflection of old patterns, habits, or painful experiences.
Not sure you believe me on this “thoughts out of our control thing?” Then I’m inviting you to try an experiment. Stop reading right now and try to think about anything but apples. Anything you want, just not apples.
How did that work out for you?
Did you find your brain crowded by thoughts of apples? That’s what happens to most of us. Our brains are powerful thought-generating machines. That’s what they do. The thoughts are sometimes useful and powerful problem-solving tools. The thoughts are sometimes useful sources of information about ourselves and the world around us. But sometimes, they are just thoughts. Just neurons firing away in what some writers and researchers have called “monkey mind.”
There might be some highly trained meditators out there who can fully control their thoughts. Maybe.
But for most of us, our brains will continue to generate thoughts. True thoughts. Untrue thoughts. Useful thoughts. Random thoughts. Thoughts all day and night. You get the picture.
If you are struggling with runaway thoughts, or thoughts that lead you to feel unhappy or judgmental about yourself and others, there are several tools you can try. You can use a journal to write down thoughts, so that they aren’t racing about your head. If you are struggling with persistent negative thoughts, you can try just noting the negative thought (not arguing with it) and then asking yourself what else might be true. Or you can use the tool I described earlier this week and practice “unhooking” from those thoughts.
Thoughts are sometimes useful sources of information. But they aren’t always true.
What has your experience been with thoughts and truth?