We all experience a neverending barrage of inner talk.
“What do I need to do today? Wow, it’s so warm. I don’t want to go to work. I wonder if my cat misses me. Why is coffee brown?” It’s non-stop.
Sometimes our thoughts are positive and useful. Other times, they are negative and distracting.
Here’s the thing; we are not our thoughts. They do not define us. We can’t even necessarily control them, but what we can do is practice not becoming absorbed by them.
First of all, what are thoughts?
From a psychological perspective, they are mental representations of our ideas, opinions, beliefs, memories, and projections about ourselves and the world around us.
From a neuroscience perspective, they are electro-chemical reactions, occurring at such a high volume and speed that it’s almost impossible for us to fully understand. If you want a more in-depth scientific breakdown, read this.
Our brains are the most complex structure object in the known universe and the complexity of our thoughts reflects this.
Can we control them?
This is a hotly debated topic among neuroscientists, philosophers, and psychologists.
As of right now, there is no answer that is set in stone. It’s a really fascinating subject and we recommend everyone do a little bit of research on their own.
What we can say, with some certainty, is that no one has full control over their thoughts all the time.
This might sound a little scary at first, but it can actually be quite freeing. This means that all of those negative thoughts, weird obsessions, worries, anxieties; that’s not who we are.
They are all just thoughts and they only define us if we let them.
Fuel for thought
Thoughts constantly appear in our awareness without us choosing or asking for them.
What makes a thought feel real is the attention we bring to it. That’s what gives them fuel.
If we cut off the fuel source, the thought disappears.
This is an extremely important concept.
If we do not attend to a thought, answer it, change it, identify with it, etc. it literally ceases to exist. If we let a thought be nothing, then that’s what it will be; nothing.
Once we understand and accept this we can start developing a new relationship with our thoughts.
They aren’t always inherently bad, inherently good, or even worth our attention; they simply are.
Observing our thoughts instead of participating in them is a game-changer.
Just like everything else we talk about, this is a skill that must be constantly developed. The first step is understanding the concept. The second step is to take action.
Get started with this free thought exercise.