This is a guest post by Vered Ehsani
The word I am referring to here is powerful, creative and it is mine. And yours.
Our words are filled with the power to change our thoughts and create our reality. When I use words consciously and with clear intention, this power can transform and energize my life. However, when I’m not conscious of the story behind my thoughts, then a hidden agenda can control my thinking, my emotions, my decisions and my life.
For me, this realization started with the word “should”: I should really go for a jog – it’s good for me; I shouldn’t have lost my patience. These aren’t bad thoughts, are they?
But then I began to dig around behind the “should”, and found a whole story running in the background. It’s kind of like a virus that works quietly and invisibly in the hard drive of your computer, sabotaging all the good programs without you knowing it.
So for me, the story behind “should” was: “You should go for a jog, but you really aren’t going to and you’re not able to, no matter how hard you try. And you shouldn’t have done that – you are a terrible person.”
Behind the “should” and “should not” lurked doubt and guilt. These nasty cousins pulled me down and drained my energy every time I used “should”.
So I decided to experiment with this monologue. The next time I started a thought or a sentence with, “I should do that…”, I stopped myself.
I literally paused and thought about what I really wanted to do or not do.
I then made a clear and conscious decision, and I stated my intention with confidence: “I will do that.” Or “I will not do that right now.” And when I began to think, “I shouldn’t have done that yesterday…”, I’d stop and state, “I did that yesterday. Next time, I will do it differently.” End of story.
By making that small but powerful shift to the words used by my internal voice, I could feel doubt and guilt slipping away like shadows before a bright light. Instead of feeling pulled apart and drained by negative and conflicting emotions, I felt energized and positive.
An extension of this idea manifests in my reaction to other people. A car pulled out in front of me and my first response was, “Unbelievable!” But what was behind that word? Something like: “That driver is an inconsiderate, stupid lunatic who tried to run me off the road.” Really? Where did the facts for that conclusion come from?!
So instead I changed the thought to focus on the simple fact: “The car pulled out in front of me.” End of facts. There is no need to build up a story. All the anger that had started to build up and scatter my energy immediately vanished as I laughed.
My husband made a comment one evening that immediately set off a very familiar silent critique in my mind that had nothing to do with the facts or his obvious intentions. So right then, I stopped the dark, draining mumbling and focused on the fact of what he had actually said and intended. And all the poisonous thoughts faded away, because they were never real. They only seemed real when I fed them with my attention and energy, at my own cost.
So I’m choosing my thoughts and words with greater care these days. I might have other stories working behind the scene, but for now, I’m just energized with the awareness that I’ve rid myself of a couple of them!
Vered lives in Kenya with her husband and two children. She is very involved in various programs for the moral empowerment of children and youth. Vered loves writing, especially for young readers (her teen novel “Diary of a Part Time Ghost” will be available on Amazon and CreateSpace in February 2011). If you are interested in connecting with Vered personally, you can get in touch with her here.
Lisa’s Note: This article reminded me to pay close attention to all the background “stories” I have running through my mind during the day. Do you find this to be true for you as well? What inner dialogue have you caught yourself in lately?
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Oh Vered, I loved the bit about the car pulling out. I’m going to show this to my husband. He is always stopping me at the facts (we all love a bit of drama don’t we?) and it’s good advice. When I remember to do this there is SO much more energy to go around. Your car story is going to help me with that remembering! Lol x
I love “all the poisonous thoughts faded away because they were never real.” Like when we don’t feed the angry wolf, she can’t survive 🙂 Thanks for writing.
Great article! I thought this was a much-needed message. I’m a big fan of taking control of your thoughts since your thoughts are what controls your actions. The only part that kind of left me wondering was the idea of choosing to not to ‘build a story’. I believe 99.9% of the time we are going to do build some sort of explanation whether we like it or not, because it’s how the human brain works. We cannot just turn that off, and I think there is a big push in our society to pursue that ever-elusive ‘don’t worry be happy’ fantasy. We have all been subjected to it and lulled by its siren seduction. It’s just sounds so dreamy to simply choose to not have bad thoughts, but I think we need to be aware of and accept our limitations as humans. Our complex makeup just will not allow us to be reduced to raw data processors. We need to be aware that we are yearning for that very enticing & important skill that doesn’t really exist and is unattainable. I think it is an important step to acknowledge that ball & chain.
Because to actually accomplish a new perspective it is crucial to deliberately REPLACE destructive thoughts with more constructive ones as a discipline and a habit. (Doesn’t sound as much fun as ‘don’t worry be happy’ but hey, this actually works!) Instead of having thoughts that make you feel like a victim, think about how you are actually lucky or have the advantage. Replace the bad thoughts about the other driver with, ‘isn’t it nice that I don’t have to be in such an extreme hurry/under such pressure/have such a bad home life that I have to drive like that/treat people/disregard others like that.’ Replace bad thought about husband’s perceived criticism with ‘he would not intentionally hurt my feelings and he loves & appreciates me on a daily basis, so of course he didn’t mean that the way it came out’. Every time you look in the mirror and criticize yourself, argue with that mean thought, and then make yourself find something nice to say instead. Never let a destructive thought go unattested.
This article touched lightly on the replacement of thoughts, but besides discarding the ‘don’t worry be happy’ pipe dream, I find replacement to be the very most important aspect of controlling and improving your thoughts.
Wow! Thanks for such a thought-provoking article!
Really insightful comments!
I think the concept of replacing the story for a truer or perhaps even more emotionally uncharged one is useful. What I got from Vered’s perspective was that our inner dialogue, our stories are often strongly emotionally charged and without reason (that is emotionally negatively charged)– and this creates a whole direction for our day.
While replacing the negative emotion story with what is simply true before us at that moment, that is, the simply stated “facts” can dispel the intensity of that negative story.
And then. At that point, I could really see how useful and healing it would be to generate a lovingly charged story to replace it, especially in terms of dear and close relationships in order to continue to make a habit of thinking well and highly of those we live most closely too. Those positively charged (*and still true!) stories could now generate a very good direction in our day.
Great food for thought 🙂 !
Vered, thank you for sharing this with us. It really helps me.
Thanks for all the comments! M Frog – interesting comments. Actually I found (for myself at least) that focusing my mind on the fact of the situation removes the emotional energy that I use to build up a horrible story in my mind. I find I don’t have to try to eliminate bad thoughts or replace one story with a more positive one or force myself to “don’t worry, be happy”.
Of course there are a few occassions when the fact is: I’m angry or upset or unhappy, and I sit in that fact and let myself be angry etc. Let myself cry or whatever. I don’t think it is necessary to feel 100% “happy” 100% of the time! I’m not making any effort to suppress or hide legitimate emotions or thoughts. What I discovered through this exercise though is that a surprising amount of my negative internal monologues and thoughts and emotions are coming from subconcious emotions that are sparked by a word or thought that isn’t based on any reality. When I focus on that fact, the energy behind the negativity evaporates and I often find, without effort, that there is truer story already sitting behind the fact and it is usually a more loving, positive story anyway.
Excellent article! Love all the comments!
It is truly amazing how much wasted energy we can devote in our subconscious to something that isn’t, in fact, Real or Fact.