Thoughts about Thoughts

“As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.” ― James Allen As a Man Thinketh

Did you know that researchers have estimated we have between 8 and 42 thoughts per minute – upwards of 60,000 thoughts per day?

Did you know that of these thoughts circa 60 – 70 % are repetitive and of these repetitive thoughts, circa 70 – 80 % can have a negativity bias? That is – they are rooted in fear, anger or frustration. This negativity bias is stronger in some than in others. It is a primitive skill that was much needed 20,000 years ago to keep us alive, but not so much now.

A Useful Question to Ask Yourself

I have had the great pleasure to hear Byron Katie speak twice at full day workshops. For those of you who don’t know her, she is an American, who upon reaching the depths of depression after a ten-year spiral, realized that by believing her stressful thoughts, she suffered. When she questioned them, questioned their veracity as in, ‘is it true’ or perhaps more emphatically – ‘Is it ABSOLUTELY true’ – then her suffering stopped. She came to understand that hanging on to and believing in her thoughts was keeping her in a highly negative and energy draining state.

‘The Work’

For more than 25 years she has been teaching ‘The Work’. A series of simple questions that can and will alter your life, if you do the work that is. Here are some excerpts from what she shared that day, that I want to share with you. In some cases I might have missed a word or two but the essence of her meaning is intact.

“Why do we have worrying thoughts? Because we do!”

“The thought I’m thinking now is the only proof I’ve got. It’s only my proof when I believe it.”

“I can’t detach from what I’m thinking as long as I believe what I am thinking.”

“Identify your thoughts and question those thoughts.”

“Have you ever said something in the moment you believe is true, but maybe later didn’t believe it? Others do this too.”

“Thoughts are recycled – we all experience all of them – we pass them on as long as we believe them. They are not unique to you.” (She had just asked the audience if the thought believed by the person she was speaking with on stage, was one that we all had experienced – several hundred hands went up in the room)

“Don’t run the other person’s life from out of your own head.”

“I can’t know what another is feeling or thinking – it’s all projection.”

“Who would you be without that thought?” (my answer = FREE!)

“How do I react when I believe the thought ‘my children don’t listen to me’ ? With guilt, anger, punishment?”

“Welcome every opportunity for anger, frustration, etc. because it tells you there is still work to be done.”

“Angry human beings are frightened human beings but rather than offer them compassion we give them more of the same.”

“No-one can make me angry – what I’m believing about them is making me angry.”

“Don’t think for the other person – are you psychic?”

I hope these ‘tidbits’ have given you food for thought. There are many more I noted during the 6 hours she spoke. Remember to check in with yourself. Not all of your thoughts are always true. Question your thoughts and ask if they are REALLY true or are they based on fear or projection (assumptions).

Neural Plasticity

As a teenager and young adult, I remember saying to myself (and others) “why is it so easy to be negative while I have to work at being positive?” Knowing what I do now, I understand why I had that thought and that belief. We are hardwired with a negativity bias – something that served our primitive ancestors but often standing in the way to our growth and development.

Chronic negativity is energy draining. It drains our resources and our resourcefulness. Neural scientists have discovered in these two decades that the brain is ‘plastic’. It is very adaptable. We can and do create new neural pathways until the day we die. Optimism can be learned and developed. I challenge you to do this.

To find out more about Byron Katie visit her website here. You can download a pdf file of the Four Questions here 

photo Mirjam Willaert

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