In an earlier blog post, Anatomy of a Thought – Part 1, I defined the 5 types of thoughts every person experiences. To recap, those 5 types are:
Daily Diatribe – The feedback loops that we allow to run on in our minds unchallenged. They may include many self-depreciating and defeatist intonations that become unconscious, but nevertheless causative in our actions/behaviors.
I have a life – Thoughts that we formulate to label, evaluate, and categorize our experiences. These are the thoughts that help to validate our sense of identity because they create a connection to the things we experience, based on our unique belief systems.
Head Thoughts – Thoughts that we formulate based on our experiences, beliefs, conditioning, etc. These are the thoughts that emerge based on analysis, conclusions, or judgments and so on. They are 100% made up in our head based on the information we think we have available to us.
Soulful Thoughts – These thoughts arise from a higher source of thinking, a largeness of consciousness. The may have seeds of relativity to your perceived identity but may also appear from unknown source. These thoughts usually happen when we are quiet, open-minded, unattached to any specific experience, or even when we are dreaming.
The reason we might want to think about our thoughts in an anatomical way, is by doing so, we de-mystify the thought process and begin to see how these structures can be changed and improved. Dissecting thought patterns gives us an opportunity to go to the deepest layer to facilitate changes. If you have ever tried to make major changes in your life in the past and have not understood why the changes have not been successful, it is likely because you were trying to change an outer behavior or belief, when in truth the thought behind it is still unconsciously persistent. You might equate this potential for change to the types of change we would need to make for any type of physical problem, like if you had a broken arm. Wrapping the arm up and taking some aspirin will not get the arm fixed in the long run, even though you may get some temporary relief. You must mend the bone by re-setting it or adjusting the alignment and THEN wrap the arm and take some aspirin. The surface issue is never usually the root cause of the issue.
Thought contemplation and awareness are a healing tonic for being stuck, repeated suffering, feeling lost, alone, diminished, or unworthy. When we take deeper looks at how pervasive our thought processes are, we learn that most of the thoughts that we think are not only made up in our own mind, but that many of them are not even originally ours. This realization opens up many opportunities for us to begin to eliminate or re-direct our thoughts to better serve us.
For example, many of the thoughts we think in the “I have a life” or “head thoughts” come from our life conditioning, like from our family, social memes, religious ideology, education and so on. We don’t question them because they started as small seedlings in a mind ripe for growth (primarily youth) and then grew as we chose to reinforce them to make them a part of our identity. Questioning our current beliefs to our deeper values may reveal that we thinking one thing but really feel another. You will find these types of internal conflicts in all areas of your life, but they are especially prevalent in our religious, political, and social views because we have a hard time shaking loose from our learned root systems.
You may have noticed after looking at these categories of thoughts that the thoughts that appear mostly unconscious can actually be the most destructive. Yes, those “daily diatribe” thoughts have created some deep groves in the neuro networks of our mind. While it’s true that many of these thoughts are benign and non-sensible, many of them are highly inflammatory, like a persistent muscle pull. These sneaky unconsciously driven thoughts can give birth to highly painful or destructive “I have a life” or “head thoughts”. And these thoughts are by far the most persistent because we have been thinking them for decades, or more. For instance, think about the way we view ourselves in the mirror in the morning. Most of us have these underlying subtle thoughts that persist every morning, like “Yep, still (fat/ugly/old)”, “Geez, I look bad/tired today”, “This is definitely going to be a bad hair day”. These criticisms go on and on, day after day, sometimes very quietly but still leaving us feeling defeated, unworthy, lacking. This pattern has been going on for a very long time, so be patient with yourself while you institute some new patterns to replace them. And replace them you must! Because they are not true! They are totally made up based on some standard you have also unconsciously made up on what makes you complete or lovable, and so on.
I think the most beneficial realization of breaking your thoughts down anatomically is the de-mystification it provides. Any problem broken down into the lowest common element appears much more manageable. When you see a thought is simply nothing more than a thought, not a metaphorical knife, or an earthquake, or a tragedy – then you see that your choice is what is causing the suffering. You may have a hard time letting go of that thought, but to see it clearly as just a thought begins to give us hope and clarity that changes are possible. So having said that, here is a mini 5 day plan to identify your own thought anatomy and then, if so desired, begin to implement some processes to make some life altering changes. Please keep in mind one important factor for change. You must have a strong intention for change or no process will ever be effective. The other thing is that your desired changes cannot ever be hurtful or diminishing to others, nor can they be purely for your own self-glorification (which usually equates in some subtle way to being diminishing to others). One final note on creating effective change with your thought processes – Behind/Within us all, there is a higher consciousness, a deep wisdom. For change to be effective and beneficial, we must include cultivating this part of ourselves to allow it come forward in almost everything we do and say. Connecting with this aspect of our being, the changes we implement in our lives not only touch our lives in magnificent ways, but they touch others in positive ways as well.
Mini 5 Day Plan for Thought Anatomization
- For 3 days, record every single thought you can in a written or digital journal. I KNOW this is hard, but do the very best that you can by recording your thoughts at the soonest possible time as you had them. Build mini-breaks into your routine through these days to go to the break room or your car to jot down as much as you can. If you see a lot of repetitive thoughts, you can refer to the prior thought by putting a label on it, like “A”. Look for ways to short hand words for your convenience. THIS IS A CRITICAL STEP IN THIS PLAN.
- After the 3 day period, take you journal and label your thoughts with one of the five types identified.
- Starting on Day 4, begin establishing new patterns of thought about your “daily diatribe” thoughts that are not serving you. If a thought is not loving, compassionate, invigorating, or nourishing – work on replacing right away. Break the physical pattern you perform when thinking these thoughts. For instance, going back to our look in the mirror every morning, a dramatic change would be to cover your mirrors, and a milder change might be to write in marker or use sticky notes to write a note to yourself like, “You are beautiful, inside and out”, or “You are Awesome!” Another common one in this daily diatribe area is road rage. Conquer this condition by adjusting your music, or being silent during your drive and try utilizing sticky notes or symbols hung on your rear view mirror that represent peace, lovingkindness to all, and serenity. The point is to break the pattern somehow – use your physical routines by changing them and the words you say while you go about them.
- Continue your journal with your ideas for change and your thoughts about how this change could benefit you.
- On Day 5 begin a new journey into more conscious thought (“I have a life” and “head thoughts”, by developing an acute sense of awareness to your thoughts. Use your feelings and emotions as your gauge to how your thoughts are making you feel. Non-serving thoughts make us feel bad, anxious, or uncertain. Label them when you notice them and implement plans to change them (affirmations, meditation, prayer, replacement). There are many methods, but by all means, do something.
- Finally, begin to cultivate your “soulful thoughts”. You can begin this on Day Again, there are many methods to do this, meditation is a fantastic tool for this, but exercise, developing awareness, nature, reading inspiring book/poems, and artistic expression are also great tools.
This is a mini plan, so expanding on this plan through your own research or by identifying things that are working in your journal is an excellent idea. Remember a couple of key points as you go through your plan and prepare for some amazing changes in your life:
It has taken you years to get your mind in this grooved up, almost brain-washed pattern of thinking, so please be patient, loving, and forgiving to yourself always. This is not to say that change cannot be immediate, but you should view any doubt and defeatist attitudes you may experience as a part of the “old” pattern of thought and march on. If a thought is not loving, compassionate, appreciative, expansive, unbiased and non-judgmental, accepting, joyful, and peaceful – it’s needs replacing. Negative or diminishing thoughts towards you or anyone will NEVER serve you, no matter how necessary or justified it may seem at the time.
Thoughts are just thoughts. They are not you or your loved ones, or your country, world, or your God. They can be tools or weapons, but they are not really much more than electrical impulses that if allowed, can control our life. Don’t give away any more of your power, divine or otherwise, to something you have total control over.
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