Why is it so difficult to delete, refresh or update the 60,000 thoughts we have daily? We can clear the cache of our computers and the data is instantly gone. Our thoughts seem to be hardwired into the hard drives of our consciousness; stored forever in a cloud called our past. This documented history can show up and negatively impact our lives and interpersonal relationships. We can easily be triggered and get caught in the web of, “I think, therefore I am,” spiraling down and leaving us spent.

You are not your mind. You are not your thoughts. You are a rich, deeply layered unique being that does not have to be ruled by negative fixed beliefs, the “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” that can hold you emotionally hostage. The messages we are given as children, such as don’t talk, don’t share, don’t feel, can negatively affect the present, leaving us feeling helpless to elicit positive change. 

A child approximately 5 to 11 years is a concrete thinker. Life situations are seen as either black or white, all or nothing. As a child grows, they are able to think abstractly or outside the box. If there is turmoil around them, they might internalize it, wondering what they did wrong, if they are good enough, smart enough, pretty or handsome enough and when in survival mode, might ask, “What will happen to me?” In adulthood, maladaptive behaviors such as angry outbursts (rage) and other issues with mood lability, depression, anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress, addictions, as well as anti-social behaviors can negatively impact adulthood and keep positive thinking and a positive sense of self at bay.

It is imperative to decide what hill on which you are going to die. This takes consciousness. Instead of feeling like a hamster on a wheel, become more cognizant of your thoughts. The Power of Now author Eckhart Tolle posits, “The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not ‘the thinker.’ The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated…You realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You then begin to awaken.”

  • Make a list of core feelings such as joy/happy, anger, fear, lonely, sad, shame, guilt, confused, frustrated. Check this list daily as a ‘feelings check’ exercise. This can help you become more contemplative, self-aware and able to handle stressful situations.
  • Challenge your thoughts. Question if your thoughts are true and how you feel when you think the thought. Then reframe the thought to decrease shame, pain or fear to create a more positive and empowering life experience. 
  • Ask yourself what you need to do in the moment to take care of you. Utilize compassion and sensitivity for the self that has been hurt in the past. You are now your inner child’s safe parent.
  • Visualize your thoughts like an ocean wave. Your thoughts can now gently flow in and flow out as you consciously do not get in your own way.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said, “Tracht gut vet zein gut.” Think good, and it will be good. Easier said than done, but all it takes is the first thought. I’m thinking you can.

Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC# 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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