You Are Not Your Thoughts

The 4 Stages To Dealing With Your Thoughts

How To Escape This Ferris Wheel Of Suffering


You Are Not Your Thoughts. The 4 Stages To Dealing With Your Thoughts. Picture of a woman looking troubled and holding her head.


You are not your thoughts, at least that's what your rational mind tells you most of the time, but that's definitely not how it feels at 3 am when you have woken up and can’t get back to sleep.

You lie in bed tossing and turning and as your brain wakes up that little voice in your head that starts nagging you with doubts and fears about money… and your business failing… about being unemployed (again)… about being unemployable… you try and ignore it but you can’t.

Later that day you are outside in the countryside, enjoying a walk in a forest, and feeling relaxed. You feel your phone vibrate in your pocket.

You try and ignore it, but it keeps on vibrating, and in a milli-second your mind is flooded with thoughts:

“What if there’s been an accident… Oh no it’s probably from work to tell me a client project has got delayed, and you need this project because you are self-employed…Oh dear god, I hope my (elderly) mother hasn’t had another fall and hurt herself again…”

On the drive back there is a news item on the radio rattling out statistics about the Covid-19 related number of business failures in your region… suddenly you are overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and fear…and your brain is flooded with thoughts of financial disaster.

Thoughts… thoughts… thoughts!

3 Core Beliefs

How do we deal with our negative thoughts: thoughts of anger, accusation and despair?

I am not a counsellor or therapist nor in way trained to offer any form of professional advice in dealing with these issues. What I am going to share with you here are my own personal experiences of addressing these issues and suggestions as to what has worked for me.

I must declare three core beliefs that I have and that underpin my take on you are not your thoughts:

  1. I am interested in what works. I am interested in approaches, tools and techniques that I can apply and put into practice. I only want to be informed about something to the extent that it helps me apply a potential solution that may be resourceful and beneficial to me.
  2. I see the universe as energy based, thus we live in an energetic universe . This perspective is science based and proven.
  3. I see that we live in a participatory universe. This perspective is supported by science but not yet fully proven by science.


We are going to cover a lot of ground here and in the follow-up article and I am including many links to third party resources and other articles on this site that will provide a more holistic understanding. I encourage you to follow up and read this material.

In dealing with our thoughts, I have found that there are four stages: awareness of our thoughts; understanding our thoughts; accepting our thoughts; and, living with our thoughts.







You Are Not Your Thoughts: (1) AWARENESS

The best way of becoming aware of your thoughts is mindfulness practice.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh defined mindfulness as: “…the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment…”

It is helpful to understand that:

  • Your mind is the repository of all of your pre-programmed reactions and response patterns.
  • Your body is the vehicle through which your emotional reactions arise and are expressed.
  • Emotion is your body's reaction to your mind.


If you are new to mindfulness practise and you are struggling to bring your unconscious mental activity into conscious awareness as thoughts, pay very close attention to your emotions.

Your (unconscious) thoughts are always reflected in your body as emotions. So ask yourself: "What am I feeling?"

Mindfulness practice will enable you to watch and observe your emotions and emotional states as they arise, and will empower you to not become totally immersed and identified with them.

How to practice mindfulness?

To make a start with this practice here are 6 basic exercises.

Also, follow these simple instructions for understanding the basics.

Understanding the basics of mindfulness meditation technique is fundamentally very simple – the hardest part is to just do it!

After some practice of mindfulness and with a developing awareness of previously unconscious thoughts as they arise, three things become apparent:

  1. The repetitive nature of these thoughts - they are rather like a tape loop.

  2. The triggers that give rise to these thoughts - such as: tiredness, stress, emotional vulnerability, other people, the media, circumstances and temperament.

  3. The energetic states associated with these repetitive negative thoughts create further repetitive negative results.







You Are Not Your Thoughts: (2) UNDERSTAND

Put simplistically, we can understand the origin of these thoughts from two perspectives:

[1]  The Hardware

This is the physiology - the parts of your brain -  that creates these thoughts.

This is centred on the amygdala, a major emotional centre in the limbic system. This is responsible for our flight / fight response.

The Chimp Model explains this and how it generates many of our unconscious and automatically arising thoughts.

These thoughts are non-rational and largely driven by survival instincts and pleasure instincts - sometimes referred to as our "animal nature".

Many of our negative thoughts stem from this region of the brain.



Professor William Irvine - Evolutionary Psychology - extract from Stoicism & Framing



[2] The Software

This is the conditioning from our primary caregivers and dominant adult figures in our childhood that creates these thoughts.

This is a vast subject and there are many psychological models and interventions used to address and "repair" this conditioning.

For simplicity, if we use Buddhist terminology there are three concepts to frame this:

  • Samskaras - impressions created in our minds and thoughts by our actions or, more damagingly, the actions of others upon us. If these actions are repeated regularly, they become a habit and are performed largely unconsciously. The stronger these habits become - as with all habits - they exercise increasing power.

  • Anusaya - latent tendencies which are these deeply ingrained samskara, or habits of response and thought, and which are largely unconscious.

  • Samsara - the cycle of being caught up in perpetual suffering, death and rebirth. This is often thought of in relation to reincarnation but in fact describes the hell on earth - in this life - that we create and endlessly put ourselves through with our samskara and anusaya - or our "shadow side".


Think of this as a ferris wheel of suffering!







You Are Not Your Thoughts: (3) ACCEPT

The mindfulness practices outlined above will go a long way to helping you develop considerable self awareness and insight into the causes and nature of your negative thoughts and the realisation that you are not your thoughts.

There is a vast industry of professional psychologists, therapists and counsellors offering a wide variety of interventions, coping strategies and potential solutions. For many people this level of professional assistance is necessary and beneficial.

However there are probably an even greater number of us who either just struggle on and do our best, or who seek to apply the insights gained from these practices to help ourselves work to a position of deep understanding that you are not your thoughts. I suggest 3 keys:

  1. Acceptance - The key to dealing with these thoughts is the practice of deep acceptance.
  2. Multiple Selves - The key to acceptance is realising that we are not one self but a composite of multiple selves.
  3. United We Stand - The root cause of our suffering is that when we deny (suppress or repress) any one part of us we deny the whole; in other words, united we stand, divided I fall.







You Are Not Your Thoughts: (4) LIVING



    Living With Your Thoughts

    Living With Your Thoughts

    We continue with this followup article which looks at how you can learn to live with your thoughts, and offers tools for doing this.









What Matters Is Not The Content Of Your Thoughts But Your Relationship With Your Thoughts









Further Reading:

Your Relationship With Failure

Why Embracing Your Fear Of Failure Is The Better Option

5 Buddhist Teachings on Working With Habitual Patterns of Thought

"Feeling Great" by David D. Burns - "Negative feelings always say something good about you"








Return from "You Are Not Your Thoughts" to: Renewing Your Mind

Or Return to: Techniques For Stress Management

 

Contact me




English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. The Challenges Of The Road Less Traveled

    Issues You'll Face When Playing The Long Game. The challenges of the road less traveled is loosely based around the phrase popularised by M.Scott Peck with his book "The Road Less Traveled". This arti…

    Read More

  2. How To Benefit From the Unseen Margins - 5 Key Tips For Success

    These Unseen Margins Can Have A Very Dramatic Impact On Your Life. To understand how to benefit from the unseen margins we need to start by understanding what they are and where we find them. In this…

    Read More

  3. The Art Of Thinking Clearly - How To Do More Than Just Survive And Reproduce

    3 Key Tips The art of thinking clearly starts with the sobering realisation that our brains are designed to achieve two things: Survival and Reproduction! 98% of our thinking is unconscious, automatic…

    Read More

  4. Algorithms to Live By - 5 Useful Rules Of Thumb

    5 Useful Heuristics From Algorithms To Live By The thesis of the book "Algorithms to Live By" is that algorithms developed for computers can be used by people in everyday life in a wide range of situa…

    Read More

  5. Finding Signal In The Noise - How To Avoid The Noise Bottleneck

    The Art Of Being Wise Is The Art Of Knowing What To Overlook. We are blessed and cursed to live in the digital age. We have access to more information than we can possibly handle yet we struggle to fi…

    Read More

  6. The Checklist Manifesto - Your Personal Safety Net

    A Checklist Is A Safety Net That Encourages Better Results And Prevents Avoidable Mistakes. The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correc…

    Read More

  7. How Not To Be Stupid - 4 Key Tips

    How To Avoid The 7 Causes Of Everyday Stupidity. We are all capable of everyday stupidity as we undertake routine tasks in our business and working lives and also in our personal lives. This is not ab…

    Read More

  8. Beginners Mind And The Voice Of Experience

    Only The Experts Survived Evolution. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." These are the famous words of Shunryu Suzuki in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Min…

    Read More

  9. The Art Of Being Alone Is A Skill

    Let's Make Today A Good Day. You may not have chosen the condition of being alone, and it may have been imposed upon you by circumstances beyond your control, but your response to the situation is wit…

    Read More

  10. Intuition & Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Calling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? We all struggle with these inner voices…

    Read More

  11. Like A Prayer - Life Is A Mystery

    It Isn't The Process Of Prayer That’s The Problem, It’s The Way It’s Framed. Regardless of what we feel about Madonna or her song the topic of prayer often arouses strong reactions. Usually, it is som…

    Read More

  12. Fear Of Missing Out - "I'll Have What She's Having!"

    We Follow The Herd - We Mimic Other People's Choices. Fear of missing out - or FOMO as it is popularly referred to - is the feeling that everyone else in your peer group is having much more fun than y…

    Read More

  13. Free - Self Improvement Resources

    Exercising Balance and Discernment. I have just updated these self improvement resources with a number of additional sources of material that are practical and can help you change your life. Check it…

    Read More

  14. Your Higher Self - Your Hardwired Portal To The Universe

    This Is The You That Is Beyond Your Thinking Mind. This is the big you, the transcendent you, the you that is often referred to as your higher consciousness or higher self. This is the you that acts a…

    Read More

  15. The Power Of Gratitude - It's Good For You!

    Gratitude And Attitude Are Not Challenges, They Are Choices. The power of gratitude quite simply is that it is good for you! Many of us were raised by parents who instilled in us the social niceties o…

    Read More

  16. Living With Your Thoughts - 4 Tools To Help You

    Develop A Good Working Relationship With Your Mind. The first step in living with your thoughts is to understand and develop a good working relationship with all areas of your mind. The key to develop…

    Read More

  17. You Are Not Your Thoughts - How To Escape This Ferris Wheel Of Suffering

    The 4 Stages To Dealing With Your Thoughts. You are not your thoughts, at least that's what your rational mind tells you most of the time, but that's definitely not how it feels at 3 am when you have…

    Read More

  18. Finish What You Start - Action Will Destroy Your Procrastination

    4 Key Tips To Help You Finish What You Start. So why do you fail to finish what you start? Or in my case, why do I fail to even get started? There is a wealth of information out there about how to avo…

    Read More

  19. Going The Extra Mile - The Power Of One More

    Life Is Non-Linear, Which Makes The Rewards Of Continued Effort Disproportionately Big. In the pursuit of a long term goal you have to go countless extra miles to set yourself up for a big success. Go…

    Read More

  20. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More

  21. Dying To Self & Dropping The Ego

    Everything Does Not Revolve Around Me. The two phrases dying to self & dropping the ego are Christian and Buddhist expressions of the same fundamental truth - the need to correct the inbuilt, hardwire…

    Read More

  22. The Confident Mind - 4 Keys To Peak Performance

    Peak Performance Is Meditation In Motion. Peak performance is grounded in the Tao practise of Wu Wei which means "doing with out doing". This is all about how you take action by being so immersed in p…

    Read More

  23. Going With The Flow - The Balance Of Being And Doing

    Steer The Boat Each Day Rather Than Plan Ahead Way Into The Future. Going with the flow is about learning to become comfortable with uncertainty, and learning how to exploit the potential hidden withi…

    Read More

  24. 8 Principles For Success

    A Timeless Foundation On Which To Build Your Success. There are Universal laws and processes that work to support us and guarantee that we achieve all our goals. But first we need to know what they ar…

    Read More

  25. The Loving Father

    A Love That Will Not Let You Go. I had a loving father. I knew that I did, but I never felt it. My father was a good man but very damaged and unable to show his feelings. So I grew up knowing in my he…

    Read More

  26. Your Ebenezer Stone Of Help

    How To Stay Connected To Your True Source Of Power. Approximately 2,500 years ago the Israeli town of Kafr Qasim was close to the site of two battles between the ancient Israelis and their neighbours…

    Read More

  27. The Stockdale Paradox

    How To Deal With The Attrition Factor. The Stockdale Paradox is named after the late James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval commander and prisoner of war during the American-Vietna…

    Read More

  28. Embrace Your Fear Of Failure And Uncertainty

    We Celebrate Success And Ignore Failure. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did i…

    Read More

  29. The Wilderness Years - 3 Keys To An Exit

    How You Got Into The Wilderness Matters Less Than The Lessons To Be Learnt There. The wilderness years can be described as any lengthy time, longer than a year, that is spend aimlessly; without an imm…

    Read More

  30. Boredom – Your Greatest Threat to Results

    We Live In A World That Glorifies The Results And Not The Process. We all know what we should be doing, but the trouble with that is that sooner of later we get bored. The enjoyment fades, the excitem…

    Read More



Get new posts by email:









Zen-Tools.Net





Support This Site