When thoughts lie

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Photo by neONBRAND on Unsplash

In a podcast the other day, someone said all that thoughts ultimately prove is that they exist.

I paused. What a thoughtful observation in the context of discussing fear and trauma-driven decisions, misleading logic, and anxiety patterns.

Generally, we trust our thoughts, imagining they are logical, true and tested entities we can rely on to guide us in the right direction if we listen carefully, and long enough.

And thoughts can be all these great things except when they are not and they basically lie.

It’s helpful to remember that thoughts are not exactly objective entities representing an infallible wisdom that is somehow being channeled into us.

In fact, they are the a mix of many ingredients, some of which can be rather unsavory.

And, thoughts not only tend to cluster in patterns, but they are also quite accomplished at tricking themselves and each other.

Thoughts are also not as smart as we credit them to be. But they are quite good at hiding and totally misrepresenting things, usually in an effort to protect us, to maintain a familiar narrative, regardless of whether or not it reflects reality or serves us.

Bottom line, thoughts need to be carefully examined (ironically, by other thoughts!). But how do we know when to get suspicious?

Luckily, most of the time, it’s pretty obvious when something is off. It doesn’t have to be dramatic.

Any level of inner turmoil, anger, distress, conflict, anxiety, self-doubt, contradictory or destructive behaviors and depressive states are pretty accurate indicators. I’m simplifying of course but the point is, we know when we’re not ok, when what we do and what we choose and where we are isn’t ok.

And yes, sometimes it’s easy to identify the culprit. And yes, sometimes it’s also not so easy to identify the culprit, because it’s well hidden by other culprits. So we need a bit of talking to a professional who can help us recognize that or those culprits.

(And here I feel I have to re-emphasize that talking to friends or family isn’t the same thing as talking to a professional. Because all too often, some of the thoughts and patterns we need to get rid of were implanted, or at least nurtured by those very close to us.)

Of course identifying culprits is only the first step. It takes work to convince those thoughts to change their story or leave. And it takes work to convince replacements that their voices are valid and healthy. Sometimes, thoughts we exiled sneak back in to “help” us decide which new thoughts are keepers. Sneaky bastards.

But, all this is good work. And as uncomfortable as it can get, it’s often also funny, joyful, and so liberating that it makes you want to sing. Truly.

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