We have between 70,000 and 100,000 individual thoughts every day and they are constantly trying to help us interpret and make sense of the world around us; describing what is happening – the sights, sounds, smells, feelings….
Without even consciously realising it, we are interpreting and giving our own meanings to everything that is happening around us. We might decide if something is pleasant or nasty, good or bad, dangerous, safe or unsafe…
These thoughts are simply electro-chemical impulses in our brain.
Thoughts are NOT statements of fact.
In the words of Srikumar “Our mental chatter is fake news!”
Epictetus, in the first century, said: "Men are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them".
It is not the event which causes the emotion - and our behavioural reaction to it. It is the meaning we give to that event - or what we THINK ABOUT that event.
As a consequence of our previous individual and unique experiences; our upbringing, our culture, religious beliefs and family values, we all make very different interpretations and evaluations of situations. These interpretations and meanings result in the physical and emotional feelings.
· Something happens or we notice something, which triggers a thought.
- Can be words, an image, a memory, a physical sensation, an imagined sound, or based on our intuition or a sense of just knowing
Never ASSUME! Because assumption makes an ASS out of U and ME: ASS|U|ME
- Believable. We tend to automatically believe our thoughts, usually not stopping to question their validity. For example, we've all seen the posts on social media recently of people judging others behaviour - like the nurse who doesn't wear her uniform to drive to work - and has a note left on her car windshield lambasting her for going out and endangering the NHS! Thoughts are not necessarily true, accurate or helpful. Ask: Is this fact or opinion?
- Are automatic. They just happen, popping into your head and you often won`t even notice them.
- Our thoughts are ours. They can be quite specific to us, perhaps because of our present or past experience, knowledge, values and culture, or just for no good reason at all. Some thoughts are so out of keeping with all those things, and that can make them seem all the more distressing, because we add some meaning about why we had them (I must be a bad person!)
- Habitual and persistent. Our thoughts seem to repeat over and over, and the more they repeat, the more believable they seem, then they set off a whole chain of new related thoughts that lead us to feel worse and worse. They can follow themes, for short periods, or very often, throughout years and decades.
Use the STOPP technique to help you learn to notice, question and decide how to react to your own thoughts consciously:
Just pause for a moment
TAKE A BREATH
Notice your breathing as you breathe in and out.
In through the nose and out through the mouth. Make the out breath longer than the in breath. Breath deeply, from your abdomen.
- What thoughts are going through your mind right now?
- Where is your focus of attention?
- What are you reacting to?
- What sensations do you notice in your body?
PULL BACK - PUT IN SOME PERSPECTIVE
- DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK!
- What's the bigger picture?
- Take the helicopter or strategic view
- What is another way of looking at this situation? Reframe
- What advice would you give a friend?
- What would a trusted friend say to you right now?
- Is this thought a fact or opinion?
- What is a more reasonable explanation?
- How important is this?
- How important will it be in 6 months time?
- It will pass
PRACTISE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU - ASK YOURSELF - PROCEED
- What is the best thing to do right now?
- What is the most helpful thing for me, for others, for the situation?
- What can I do that fits with my values?
- Where can I focus my attention right now?
- What will be most effective and/or appropriate.
Pure Founder Lesley Samms MSc ANLP provides one to one professional development, mentoring, coaching and NLP.
If you would like to book a free exploration session please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org