You’re a little lost. You’ve been driving around for a while trying to find a way to get back to the main highway. So far, no luck. You’re coming up to an intersection that looks promising. You slow down and start to turn right and you see a sign that says, “Dead End.” You sigh. You back up. You wish you had a GPS with you.
But wait. Is it possible the “Dead End” sign is wrong? What about the sign that says, “Slow down for schoolchildren”? Maybe the nearest school is five miles away. A street sign with the wrong name? How about a “Moose Crossing” sign? We have those in Vermont. (When I was driving in Costa Rica years ago I actually saw a “Tarantula Crossing” sign — I’m not kidding).
Most road signs are reliable, so we don’t question them. If we see a “Dead End” sign we don’t usually keep driving to see whether the sign is giving us truthful information. We just turn around.
But our thoughts are not street signs. Much of the time our thoughts aren’t reliable. They’ll give us bad advice. They’ll tell us things that aren’t true. They provide inaccurate information.
Maybe you’re familiar with some of these “thought-signs.”
- “I’m peeing a lot. That’s a symptom of diabetes. I bet I have diabetes.”
- “I’ll never be able to get this done in time. There’s no way I’m going to finish by Friday.”
- “If I don’t do a great job on the presentation, I’m going to be fired. I’ll be out of a job.”
- “He never really loved me. I’ll never find someone who really loves me.”
- “I really don’t know what I’m doing. I just suck at this job and everybody knows it. They just don’t say anything.”
Sometimes your thoughts work in teams. The first one entices you, and then the second one punishes you:
“Go ahead and have that piece of chocolate cake. You’ve been doing great on your diet. You deserve a small reward. Don’t be so rigid.”
(You eat the cake.)
“Why did you eat that cake? You have no self-discipline at all. No wonder you’re so fat. You’ll never lose weight because you never stick with your diet.”
Debbie Hampton, who blogs at https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/ says:
“Sadly, many of us live our lives like a ping pong ball – bouncing from thought to thought and shooting up, down, off of the table, and across the room erratically depending on the ideas zipping around in our heads. It can be exhausting, anxiety-provoking, and maddening. I know. I did it for far too long.
When you realize that your thoughts are not facts – not even close – life gets a lot easier. You don’t have to believe, get distressed by or act on them. All you have to do is observe them, like a movie. It can even be quite entertaining at times!”
What a wonderful idea! Your thoughts are entertainment. You don’t have to treat them as wise or helpful. You don’t have to believe them. They aren’t necessarily giving you factual or accurate information. They’re just entertainment. Sometimes they’re not very good entertainment. But you can just watch them like you watch a movie or a sitcom.
You can even change the channel. You know how you do that. You pay attention to what’s actually going on around you. You pay attention to real life instead of thought-life.
Please don’t try to change your thoughts, because that just gets you more involved with them. Just observe them. Let them be. Let them put on their little show – their little drama.
Signs can help you find your way around town.
But you can get lost in your thoughts. Really lost.
Gregg Krech Author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (2002)| Author, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness (2004, 2011)| Author, A Finger Pointing to the Moon (2000)| Editor, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living (1993-Present)| Director, ToDo Institute (Vermont) (1992-Pr......