Most of us, whether we realize it or not, are addicted to thinking.
Don’t believe me? Try to stop. (Hint – You cant!)
From as young of an age that we can remember, we have “thoughts” occurring in our mind. Popping up and drifting away, there’s a constant dialogue going on in each and every one of our minds, every day, more or less ceaselessly.
Most of us have become quite comfortable with this voice in our head as well. We’re friendly with it. We trust the thoughts going through our head, and we believe that what our thoughts tell us are generally true.
For others though, thoughts can, quite literally, drive you crazy. The “monkey mind” jumping from topic to topic relentlessly, creating an anxious mind that is always racing around thought loops.
Or the depressed mind, always thinking the worst, with the natural reaction to be one of negativity, frustration and doubt.
These things called “thoughts” constantly bouncing around through our minds, more or less whether we like it or not.
If you think about it though, what the hell is a thought?
Can you touch it? See it? Feel it? Is it tangible in any way shape or form?
Can you control it? If so, tell me what your next thought is going to be! (Hint – you can’t)
You see, thoughts create the illusion that we’re in the driver seat. That we’re the ones in control.
We think “I” am thinking.
Are you really thinking though, or are thoughts merely happening?
Whether you like it or not, thinking is always going to happen. You can’t control it.
So much so that if you sat and tried to only pay attention to your breath and block out thoughts, it would probably be the most frustrating experience of your life.
That’s because there really is no effective way to shut off (at least permanently) your thinking mechanisms.
So if this is the case, if thoughts aren’t actually our creation at all, then why do we put so much trust and faith in them?
Why do we BELIEVE the thoughts going through our head on a daily basis? Have they proven themselves to be trustworthy?
If you think about it, thoughts are probably the most untrustworthy source of information.
Don’t believe me?
How many times have your thoughts made you do something that you regret? Whether it be drinking too much or eating the wrong foods, being lazy and not doing your work, making you impulsive when you lash out at someone.
If you think about it, your thoughts have their own agenda. They don’t care about you. They will make you do things that are not in your best interest.
The problem with thinking is that the mind can rationalize anything it wants to. With strong enough reasoning, the mind can get you to justify, rationalize, intellectualize – do just about anything to make you believe what you want to believe.
The easiest example of this are people with extreme depression. Many of these people believe that they are worthless, ugly, insignificant, meaningless, etc.
Does believing that this is the case make it true? Absolutely not! These people merely have convinced themselves that they are worthless, but their thoughts have led them astray!
More commonly we rationalize decisions and make justifications for the ways in which we behaved, to make ourselves feel better about what we did. We identify with our thought patterns and believe them to be true just because they are thoughts in your mind.
Remember – just because you thought it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because you believe it, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Now, don’t get me wrong – we can consciously use our thoughts to drive positive action. To get us to act in our best interests.
This is conscious thinking. The power of the mind. Directed, intentional thought.
To me, this is different than the thoughts that simply “occur”. Charles Haanel calls this the “static” vs “dynamic” mind. Thoughts that “occur” are static, whereas conscious deliberate thought has an “energy” to it, it’s a vibratory frequency. I like this distinction.
Positive thinking is incredibly powerful and I am a huge believer in it. You are what you think. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you believe you can or can’t, you are right.” I stand by this statement while simultaneously saying that I don’t trust my thoughts…but stay with me….
Positive thinking is merely the second layer – underneath the positive thinking lie feelings that are driving the action. Your feelings are in accordance with the positive thinking, and you act on it knowing that it makes you FEEL good for taking action.
In the same way that all memories have a feeling, I believe that all thoughts have a FEELING associated with them as well. Feelings are our reactions to our thoughts, and we can use our feelings as a compass to guide us when making decisions and taking action in our lives.
For example, take an area of your life that you’re not currently happy with. Sit down and think about that situation. As you sit and think, try to FEEL what is going on inside of you. What feelings are associated with that situation?
You might check in with the feeling associated with that thought and discover that it’s uncomfortable. Painful. Perhaps even overwhelming.
As you sit with it though, you can ask yourself questions about how to handle it. You might have thoughts of anger and FEEL the anger and visualize what you would do to handle that situation. How does it feel? Does that solution make you feel better?
Or you might have feelings of a different solution, a different way to handle it – how does the thought of that solution feel to you? Better? Worse?
Eventually, as you sit with the feelings and ask yourself questions, you will notice how your feelings move and shift, how they change…perhaps even transmute (but that’s for a different discussion!).
From my experience your body will always let you know when you’ve tapped into the right solution – Eventually you will find a thought that makes you feel calm, relaxed, at peace with the situation. Follow that thought and solution.
In this way our feelings can act as a compass. They can tell us what is going on inside of us. Help us to identify the feelings that are associated with thoughts and empower us to take action rooted in feelings.
This also teaches us how to sit with uncomfortable feelings as well. Instead of avoiding them, or acting as an impulse driven slave to them, we can sit with them and not react. We can feel the impulses that the discomfort would cause, and instead use that energy to drive ourselves forward rooted in awareness.
This is why I don’t trust my thoughts, I trust my feelings. I use my feelings to tell me if I should believe the thoughts going through my head and act on them, or if they are merely a thought that doesn’t have my best interests in mind.
I believe that feelings are the be all, end all. Even in the absence of thought, feelings still occur. Feelings are always there, giving us signals about how we should react to the stimuli around us.
I believe that when you’re dealing with feelings, you’re dealing with the subconscious mind. You’re dealing with the supercomputer that is your brain – and it’s a lot smarter than your conscious mind is.
The conscious mind thinks. The subconscious mind feels.
Let the supercomputer that is your subconscious do the work so that you don’t have to. Stop trying to think your way through your challenges in life and instead feel what you should do. 99% of the time your conscious mind is merely trying to rationalize a feeling anyway – it’s trying to play catchup to the subconscious….and it never will.
I call this “the futility of thinking”. We try to think our way through problems that the subconscious has already solved for us. Thinking isn’t going to help you – what you need to do is discover the feelings associated with all that thinking going on in your head.
I believe that we should always search for the feelings associated with any thought, and use these feelings as your North Star. Your compass.
Trust in your feelings, and make your decisions rooted in this connection to your body. Trust your feelings and let them guide the way.
Also published on Medium.