How To Take Charge Of Your Thoughts? You’re Asking The Wrong Question.
Being in control of some of your thoughts is one of the most powerful feelings you could have. But realistically, we cannot control everything our brains do; however, we can control how to respond to what the brain does and how it thinks.
Consider, for a moment, a time when you had a negative and destructive thought that you just did not seem to be able to get rid of; maybe it was even an obsessive thought. What did you do then? How were you able to manage that thought? Or better yet, how were you able to manage your feelings when you had that thought?
If you are like me and like most people, a negative thought like this comes more often than we’d like to admit. Maybe the thought was about that time you met with your boss and you were too nervous to discuss better opportunities for you in the company; or maybe it was when you had that last fight with your significant other before everything went to hell; or when you had that silly argument with your friend that made things between the two of you tense and awkward. In all of these situations, your thinking process might have been “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have done this or that instead.”
It is very common to fall into this pattern of thinking. As a matter of fact, everyone thinks this way in some capacity, even the people who are “in control” of their own thoughts; they just might have less of these thoughts than the average person does, and they might be able to deal with them in a better way than the rest of us.
So what is there to do? How do you get in charge of your own mind? And can you actually be in complete control of what goes on in your mind?
I’ll start by answering that last question. No. You cannot be in complete control of your mind and all of your thoughts. Your mind was evolved to think; you won’t be able to stop it from thinking. BUT, you might be able to better cope with these obsessive, negative, illogical, and destructive thoughts that you might have once in awhile. You might be able to tell your mind “I don’t need to think about this right now, let’s focus on something else.” Or even better, you might get to the point where you are able to tell yourself “Let’s not think about this situation in this dark and depressive manner, let’s try to think what positive experience we were able to get out of that situation. What could have been the upside?”
Earlier in the argument with the significant other example, someone with good insight over his or her thoughts can recognize some of his thoughts as irrational. For example, if one person is thinking that his wife is bossy and is always telling him to do chores around the house, he may continue to believe this thought without any questions. This thought can ultimately lead to feelings of irritation, anger, sadness, and guilt, and it might prompt behaviors such as avoidance of the chores, avoidance of interactions with his wife altogether, or resentment toward his wife that may end if constant fights. Someone with more insight and awareness, however, may be able to recognize that the thought of “she is always bossing me around” is just a thought, and may actually have little validity after they examine this thought closely.
So all of this sounds simple and great (I hope), but how exactly do you do that?
You might find this surprising but you may already be using a strategy of this sort and you don’t even think about it. In this case, the goal here is to make you more aware of this strategy, and to start using it consciously and actively when the need arises. If you don’t think you’ve ever used this strategy before, however, well, then you are reading the right blog.
A combination of meditation and the practice of self-cognitive behavior therapy can be really useful in increasing your awareness of your own thinking patterns, and what thinking errors you might be unintentionally engaging in. If you are unfamiliar with either of these two concepts and you want to read about them in more details, you can do so about meditation here, and about cognitive-behavior therapy here.
Meditation is the practice of self-awareness and acceptance. It is defined as intentionally and nonjudgmentally focusing on the present moment. It teaches you how to be more in the present and more conscious of your being; to be more aware of what happens in your mind and body, and to be accepting of your current state of being—to have the willingness to experience whatever you may be currently experiencing.
Moreover, Cognitive-behavior therapy is a tool that can be used to train your mind to catch the automatic thoughts that usually go through your head without you noticing them. Some of these thoughts can be negative and destructive. Cognitive-behavior therapy does not stop there, though. Once you have identified these negative automatic thoughts, it helps you challenge them and change them to more positive, constructive, and logical thoughts.
I hope by now it has become a bit clearer for you why I suggested the combination of meditation and cognitive-behavior therapy. They really go hand in hand as far as self-awareness and staying in and focusing on the present. It is through this combination that you can start to have better ways to cope with your negative, and sometimes painful thoughts.
This has actually come from a personal experience, too. I learned about the details of cognitive-behavior therapy roughly around the same time that I started to meditate regularly, and the results were powerful.