Begin to watch and listen to your thoughts. Indeed your thoughts do define how you feel, behave, and thus how you are in relation to your experiences and those around you.
Are you aware of the thoughts you carry in each moment, in each experience and each day about yourself? Do you ever stop to notice how these cause you to have certain emotional experiences and behavioural expressions- whether pleasant or not? If you asked yourself some key questions, what would the picture of who you are and your place in the world look like in your mind? For example, what do you deserve in life? What experiences ought you to have? That is, what experiences do you believe you ought to have? It is important to become aware of this, as, often it is not in line with truth and reality.
We adopt certain beliefs from our experiences growing up, that tend to add certain meanings to our whole life. Whether you are good enough to get what you deserve. Whether you are capable of achieving what you want. Whether good things are meant to happen to you. Based on these beliefs you have certain automatic thoughts in response to your experiences. Should your beliefs give a skewed and inaccurate idea of who you are, so too will your automatic thoughts give you an inaccurate evaluation of your circumstances. These lead to emotional responses and behaviours that are often maladaptive, and above all unpleasant. Awareness brings the opportunity to alter those beliefs, and as a result, the thoughts that are birthed of them. You can in fact choose new beliefs, based on truth, leading to more accurate thought responses. In so doing you can alter your very existence. How you think about yourself and your experiences- is indeed the genesis of how you exist.
So much happens in our thought world every day. We think thousands of thoughts about the past present and future, about what could be, and what it means. The patterns of our thoughts are so crucial to become aware of, as they essentially create our reality. Assessing your thoughts and aligning them with reality is necessary. If the meaning you make of your experiences is not reflective of reality, what results is internal existences (and behaviours) that have the propensity to magnify or worsen our reality.
Some examples of thought patterns that are not in line with reality*:
· Mind reading- assuming that everyone is thinking negatively of you.
· Catastrophizing- making assumptions or predictions of the worst-case scenario, based on little to no evidence.
· All-or-nothing thinking- allowing no room for the in-between, or shades of grey, of life
· Mental filtering- focusing only on the negative.
· Overgeneralization- the assumption that due to one bad thing happening more experiences that are negative will follow.
· Personalization- assuming responsibility for negative experiences happening
· Should statements- applying rules to how things should be or occur.
Challenging these thoughts is key in aligning them with reality. It is important to weigh them up against the available evidence in a given situation that indicates what the true reality is. Often, in the end, you find that you do not have enough information to conclude that, for example, the worst outcome will be the result. Often there are; moments shared, words said, results seen (perhaps in previous similar instances), that indicate and are proof that our thoughts are painting an incorrect depiction of what could be or is happening.
Become aware of how you think about what happens to and around you, as well as who you think you are in relation to them, which can be extremely illuminating. It can also indicate your core beliefs regarding your place in the world. In response to an automatic thought, you have about an experience, for example- expecting the worst outcome, it may help to ask yourself “what does that mean about me?” repeatedly until the final, core-root layer of what your existence means in the world is uncovered. Often people have the experience of being shocked at how harsh their self-evaluations are when this awareness awakens. Paired with self-compassion, instead of self-berating, is necessary as in adopting the beliefs you were not at fault but doing the best possible (or available) in response to certain situations.