Our minds love to be right. So much so, that they will go to almost any lengths to find evidence to support what they think is true. It’s why we remember the one bit of negative feedback amongst all the positive, or feel like our children are “always arguing”. As humans, we tend to focus on what is wrong, or bad, or might go wrong.
This isn’t always bad. There are good evolutionary reasons for spotting the bad amongst the good. It doesn’t matter how many harmless sloths are in the jungle – if there’s a single tiger, we’re in danger! Or one poisoned berry amongst the delicious fruits.
It’s also how we learn – if we didn’t remember bad consequences that had happened when we did something, we would continue making mistakes, potentially putting our safety at risk.
However, some of us take this focusing on the negative and REALLY run with it. Our minds latch onto a belief about something (“she doesn’t love me”, “I’m always lazy”, “people always let me down”) and then find lots of evidence to support this belief. Now, this would be fine if our beliefs were “she loves me”, “I am productive and energetic” and “people always support me”. And the ability to look for evidence to support a belief will serve us well. But only if we know what we’re thinking, can work out if our beliefs are true or not, and are willing to challenge what might be very deeply entrenched beliefs about ourselves and our views of the world.
Identifying our thoughts
Thoughts are slippery things. They can flash through our minds like will o’ the wisps, and it can be hard to pin them down. If you’re already doing the work of feeling feelings and journaling, you have a better chance of slowing your mind down enough to catch them.
The thing is, it’s not thought themselves that we need to worry about. It’s beliefs. The things we feel strongly about and attached to – the things we need to be “right” about for our world to make sense. So how do we separate thoughts from beliefs? A good way to weed these out are to focus on our “shoulds”.
Try making a few lists with the following sentence starters:
“Other people should”
“My partner should”
“My children should”.
This gives us a good place to start with uncovering strongly held beliefs. Anything that makes us feel self-righteous and stubborn is probably a belief that could do with a little loosening!
In the next blog post we’ll look at what do do with our discoveries.