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How to Take Responsibility for Your Thoughts & Perceptions

None of us have ever seen a thought. We’ve never held one in our hands. If pressed, we might have trouble defining the word. Even if we read the definition (“an idea or opinion produced by thinking or occurring suddenly in the mind”) we may feel no closer to understanding it. Yet, despite it all, these thoughts often wield absolute domain over our lives. So how can we take more responsibility for them?

The power of our thoughts is based in how we think and the emphasis we place on the thoughts.  For example, here are four ways we may choose to perceive our thoughts:

  • Imperfect
  • Abnormal
  • Dangerous
  • Out of Control

Let’s briefly break down each of these perceptions to help us understand more about our thought process.

Imperfect

If we weren’t already under enough intense societal pressure, along came social media to ramp things up a notch or ten. Log onto Facebook and you’re asked: “What’s on your mind?”  We want to answer the question in the “right” way, so we may be critical with ourselves.  When we’re documenting our life in real time, nothing less than perfection is acceptable.

Abnormal

Sometimes simmering beneath the “imperfection” is a deeper fear: What if my thoughts aren’t normal? What if I am not normal? For both good and bad reasons, culture helps us conform to group think. If we notice ourselves questioning this herd mentality, we may feel fear about fitting in. We wonder what others might think if they knew how and what we think. The circle goes round and round.

Dangerous

This component is more personal because it’s about how others see us. But worrying about dangerous thoughts is more about manifesting our fears. Let’s say your thoughts are currently consumed with a concern about a bad thing happening. If that bad thing does happen, was it because you and your thoughts “made it happen”?

Out of Control

We’re supposed to be clever, sharp, successful multi-tasking machines. At least that’s what most of us are conditioned to believe. But our thoughts are frenetic, freestyle, and often incoherent. They can appear to be dangerous, imperfect, and abnormal. All of this can sometimes add up to a sense of being out of control—perhaps the most frightening thought of all! This may result in:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Repetitive, negative, intrusive thought patterns
  • Living in a state of fear

How can we take responsibility for our thoughts and hence, take control of how we perceive things?

Switch

When a negative thought creeps into your consciousness, counter it with a positive thought. Maybe two! It helps to keep a list of such thoughts handy.

Be Curious

What does the negative thought want?  There must be an underlying need-often it is trying to protect you.  Can you empathize with it and get to know it better.  Perhaps it can relax and calm down once it’s been understood.

Stop

Your mind slips into a repetitive pattern. The same uncomfortabe thought is about to play and replay over and over. What might happen if you yelled “Stop”? There’s only one way to find out.

Counter

Another way to deal with an unwelcome thought is to greet it with a counter-activity—something good for you. Maybe it’s doing push-ups or calling your BFF or playing air guitar to your favorite hard rock song.

Quiet

Practice mindfulness, whatever that means to you: visualization, meditation, yoga, etc.

Write

Keep a journal of your thoughts. When you get them. How they make you feel. And what you did to deal with them. In calmer times, go through this journal to find patterns and, quite possibly, answers.

Expose

Many of our negative thoughts are lying to us. If you can identify that lie, you can see it for what it is. Write a list of these lies in your journal.

Truth

For every lie we discover, we can uncover many truths. An ideal way to start this treasure hunt is to begin working with an experienced therapist.

The sooner we begin taking responsibility for our thoughts and perceptions the sooner we will have more freedom and

by CounselingWise on September 12, 2016