Our mind tends to create thoughts constantly and relentlessly. Our thoughts are just moment in time, existing only in the synapses of the brain. However, we take them seriously. We tend to believe everything we think, and that causes so much pain. Writer has written a blog post on Thought Management 101 and recommend the readers to refer to this article on this website for more information about thought management.
According to Dr. Mathew McKay, there are seven kinds of thoughts;
1. Observations about the present moment.
2. Memories of past moments.
3. Judgments about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong.
4. Storytelling Thoughts that try to explain why things happen.
5. Future Thoughts that develop scenarios for things that have not happened.
6. Planning, Fantasy thoughts
7. Fortune telling thoughts.
It is important to differentiate one thought from another. You need to observe and watch your mind. The more you know, the less your mind will control your moods and your life. The present moment is a precious time. It is when feelings are felt, when decisions are made, when change is possible. However, we tend to focus more on the past, our old hurts, old mistakes, and painful judgments about others and ourselves. Learning to live in the now takes a simple shift in our awareness.
There are some pit bull thoughts too. They are about judgments, condemning evaluation of others and ourselves. Many judgments grow from some ideal of beauty or attractiveness. Anything less than the ideal is labeled ugly. Some pit ball thoughts originate from rules about competence, hard work, or proper behavior. Anyone who breaks the rules seems worthy of blame. It is possible to change what happens with the pit bulls. The most important thing is to notice them to help lose the power of hurting.
Let’s look at the thoughts which are story telling in nature. Our mind tends to tell stories about things that happen to us. For example, my father has not called because he is angry with me. We tend to do mind reading and make silent assumptions about what others think and feel about us. Our minds are story making machines and our stories are just pieces of fiction and not reality. Story telling can become dangerous. We make things up and then act as if they were absolute facts. When you begin to ask questions, you will begin to see the absurdity of some of these stories.
Another type of thoughts are planning and fortune teller thoughts. We tend to take our own crystal balls. A little voice in your head keeps whispering, What if? Sometimes we get addicted to this type of thinking. We begin to believe that by worrying about these thoughts, we can magically prevent them. This creates anxiety in us too.
As opposed to the above type of thoughts, there are Planning thoughts. Such thoughts do not create anxiety. They tend to solve problems rather than anticipating problems. When we plan, we begin to strategize steps to take to cope with things and overcome the problems. It is advisable to observe your mind and learn to distinguish planning from fortune telling thoughts. It is better to plan even though worry thoughts will pop but as soon as notice and you switch gears, you will begin to think of the steps of problem solving.
Future thoughts and fantasy thoughts tend to give you a vacation from real life. Some fantasies are healthy because they create desire to make things happen in your real life. Some help you visualize new goals and some help stress relief. But fantasies can harm as well. You can spend so much time in a pleasant but unlikely future that you lose contact with the present. Some fantasies can obstruct making hard choices and real changes. Begin to notice your fantasies and see them in the context of present moment. It is good to take reality breaks. Each time you see yourself drifting in a prolonged fantasy, take a deep breath and shift for one moment to the present. Try to focus on the thought what can you do to make the present moment better?
There are thoughts which are seducer in nature. For example, “I don’t really have to go the gym today.”These thoughts are just the bad kid in high school convincing you to do things against your better judgment. These thoughts attack your well being and are not conducive to positive behavioral directors of life. They do not prompt you to do things right and mislead you from your values. When these seducer thoughts come, accept the voice of distraction as a voice, an angle, but not reality. Now let the seducer thought fade into the background, and bring to mind the task that you might be avoiding. Pause and take three deep breaths and then visualize that you are taking care of that task. Once the task is complete, you will feel like a winner and get motivated.
Sometimes we get rogue thoughts like thoughts of harming someone etc. These thoughts come but they don’t have the intent or motivation. They don’t prompt you to act out on them. They are just thoughts but not reality.
There are bossy thoughts too. These thoughts are driven by anxiety. Best thing is to observe and notice when they pop up. Choose your actions and say to yourself that you can chose to have these thoughts but you will do your action anyways. Don’t let these bossy thoughts change you.
There are some thoughts which are rainy. This means that they bring negativity to your awareness. For example, you might become pessimistic about a date or your new job. When these thoughts come, try to do something different from what the rainy thoughts are telling you. Take actions towards something you want to experience even with the rainy thoughts. This will help you make the right choice.
Often we get one track thoughts. These are thoughts which are obsessive in nature. When they come, try to do mindfulness exercise to reduce its intensity. For example, if you are having a fear thought, you can take a moment to notice what else is going on for you. Mindfulness exercise will help fade the thought away.
There are thoughts that run in packs and groups. They are often part of a group of thoughts. Because each life experience is linked to many others that have the same theme or emotional tone, we often find ourselves stick on a chain gang. In this situation, it is important to observe the chaining process and then to turn our attention to the here and now. Mindfulness tends to break the chain by focusing on the simple human experiences that make up our lives. When you start to inhale and exhale, you might feel that the chain of thoughts will surface but do not pay attention to them and instead, focus on your breathing. Slowly these thoughts will lose their power.
Some of these thoughts lead to an action. Thought is generated in the head and before you know, it, you act on it. This can be an automatic process. Sometimes thoughts can become road block too. For example, your head thinks that you should go to the gym but another thought pops up and tells you to visit a friend and have a drink. Notice these thoughts have “but” in them. Just remember that you have the choice what to do with these thoughts.
It is important to remember that your beliefs play a big role in what you do with your thoughts. Instead of taking every thought as gospel, you can choose to stop believing everything you think. Try to change your negative thoughts into positive ones. A thought is just a thought. It is not reality. Thoughts can be a source of suffering when we believe them and take them seriously. It is good to label these thoughts. When you label them, it becomes easier to realize that they are not reality. It is also good to let go of judgments. It is also helpful to draw your thoughts into picture to soften the impact of thoughts and distance from the thoughts. When you draw a picture with crayon or marker, you could turn a thought into an animal, a cloud, a tree, a baby, an angry old man, your mother or whatever comes to your mind. You may want to add your picture to the art work and then notice how close or distant you are from the thoughts. Are you stronger, bigger than your thoughts? Go ahead and redraw the picture with yourself at the size and distance you want to be. This exercise will help give a concrete form to your thoughts and it is also very therapeutic.
Some thoughts put so much weight and pressure on your mind for example thoughts like, ‘Why me?’ Paper weight thoughts can put so much pressure on you but you can take action to do what matters to you by being aware of its existence and taking action anyway. There are some thoughts which just pop up. Again, by being mindful of these thoughts, you will help them fade. Just recognize them for what they are, and focus on the action.
In this way we see that there are multiple types of thoughts and sometimes we are not aware of them. However, mindfulness helps and makes you conscious of their existence. Once you recognize them, you are able to do something about them. Thought management is a skill that can be cultivated with practice and awareness. Cognitive behavioral therapists teach this skill to the clients when they have to make a daily record of their thoughts, identify the error in each thought and come up with a rational response to counter the irrational thought. By becoming aware of the cognitive distortions present in your thoughts, you can reduce the intensity of the negative emotions that you feel as a result of your thought. Thoughts are automatic and they are always popping in our heads. With conscious awareness, you can minimize the control of these thoughts in producing negative feelings and emotions in a person.
Reference: Leave your mind behind by Matthew Mckay, Ph.D and Catherine Sutker.