This week in my online course, The Journey, where I teach women the Return+Reclaim+Receive Path, we’ll be talking about thoughts.
Your thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs have a significant influence on your lived experience. That’s why learning more about you through exploring your thought life is crucial to returning to your authentic truth.
I’m so convinced about the benefits of looking at and working with thoughts, that if there was only one thing I could teach, I would teach how to work with thoughts.
Your thoughts create your emotions.
This statement can be difficult to accept. Your mind will immediately think of exceptions like, “What if someone robs me at gunpoint?” Or, “He betrayed me. How could I possibly not feel horrible pain about that?”
And while it’s true that getting robbed at gunpoint is scary, and being betrayed can feel very painful, your thoughts about these events will have a greater impact on you than the the actual situation.
If you are robbed at gunpoint, you may feel fear or even terror in the moment. But the truth is, your fear is probably based on your thoughts about what might happen in the future — getting shot, killed, or kidnapped. Once the incident is over, which usually lasts less than a minute, more thoughts will come. And those thoughts will determine the emotions you feel about the incident.
If you think, “He could sense I’m a weak victim, and never stand up for myself. That’s why he robbed me,” you will probably feel shame or anger. But if you think, “I could tell he was high on something. People on drugs, or who have addictions do really dangerous things. He’s going to feel terrible about this later when he gets sober,” you might feel concern or even compassion for the person who just robbed you.
Betrayal can be more challenging to navigate when it comes to the thoughts/emotions connection because betrayal has a way of feeling very personal.
The “betrayer” may have lied, they may have stolen, they may have cheated, or they may have been unfaithful. But if you think the lying, the stealing, the cheating, or the infidelity are about you or that you were the target of the betrayer’s misdeeds, you will have much different emotions than if you think the other person lacks character, made a terrible mistake, is a sociopath, was deeply unconscious, or is on a self-destructive, one-way, addictive path toward losing everything important to them.
Most thoughts are misperceptions, illusions, or downright lies.
I have seen this so many times I can’t keep track. Someone experiences something in their life — someone said something to them, did something, or failed to do something — and the explanation they have for what they experienced creates very painful feelings.
And the worst part is, they don’t question whether what they are thinking is actually true.
For example, a few years ago my sister sent me a very long, important, and heartfelt email. It was one of those emails that you want to take your time answering, which I did. In fact, I was so careful about not sending my response before it was ready, that I removed her name from the To field of the email, and replaced it with my email address so that I wouldn’t accidentally reply to her before I intended to.
Unfortunately, when it came time to send the email, I forgot to re-enter her email address in the To field and sent it only to myself. Some time later I heard from my sister who, to her credit, asked me, “Did you receive my email?” I had no idea she hadn’t received my reply.
Imagine if she had made up a story where I intentionally ignored her, didn’t care about her, ghosted her, etc. We’ve all done this. Imagine the painful emotions she would have, and how justified she might feel — based on the thoughts she was thinking.
These are the kinds of thought distortions and outright untruths we fall for on a consistent basis. And because we do, one of the best things you can do is to consistently question yourself about any thought that makes you unhappy. Ask, “Is it true?” Many times you will know immediately that the thought is not true, and at the very least you will realize that you can’t know for sure whether or not what you’re thinking is really true.
The inability to observe your thoughts and question them will cause you unnecessary pain and suffering.
As you can tell, when you are not curious — or better yet, suspicious — about your thoughts, you are in for a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
The good news is that you can choose to think differently. You can choose to notice your thoughts, to be curious about them, to question them, and even to admit that your thoughts are wrong, delusional, or downright lies.
It takes courage as well as a strong dose of honesty and humility, but the payoff is immense. And the best part is that you will feel better without any need to search anywhere other than inside you.
There are several tools I’ve learned over the years that I love to use for working with thoughts. I’ll share those in my next article.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer (2020)