Does Your Brain Get In The Way? Try this!

My therapist Linda had this quote posted in her waiting room: “Don’t believe everything you think!” from Robert Fulghum’s book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  

She and I had been working on noticing and naming hard thoughts and uncomfortable emotions for what seemed like ages.  But I didn’t often arrive on time and sit in the waiting room, so this was the first time I saw this quotation.  She had alluded to this idea in different words – over and over and over, because I was in a time of life when thoughts were like storm clouds – heavy, thick, ominous.

“Great,” I thought, “I must have missed that day in Kindergarten and that here I am, 30 years later paying Linda to help me figure out what I should have learned from Mrs. Meneely decades ago.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I control these awful thoughts?  This is why I’m always grumpy. This is why I’m hard to live with. This is why I’m hard to love and why I’m messing up my kids. I really need to fix this. It feels like I can’t fix it. This is taking too much time. I suck at this. I’m a wreck….” 

Thoughts are relentless little critters, aren’t they?

Just like hearts pump blood and lungs breathe air, brains create thoughts.  An important function of keeping us safe and thriving – those brains are really good at doing their job.

But maybe TOO good… because not every thought needs to be thunk.

But there’s a very simple, though not always easy first step to working with this little quirk:

Notice that you are thinking.

Next time you are “trapped” in difficult thoughts, do a little thought inventory, like this:

“I’m having the thought that …”

  • I’m having the thought that I should have learned this years ago.
  • I’m having the thought that something’s wrong with me.
  • I’m having the thought that I cannot control my thoughts. 
  • I’m having the thought that I’m always grumpy. 
  • I’m having the thought that I’m hard to live with.
  • I’m having the thought that I need to fix this.
  • I’m having the thought that I cannot fix this.
  • I’m having the thought that this is taking too much time.
  • I’m having the thought that I suck at this.
  • I’m having the thought that I’m a wreck.

See the difference? Just a little bit of space goes a long way – essentially, not believing our thoughts as fact, but noticing them for what they are: thoughts. 

Coaching is a great way to practice noticing and naming those difficult thoughts, getting distance from them and then discovering thoughts that are more helpful at being the kind of person you want to be or moving toward your goals. Looking for a great resource to try this on your own – check out The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.

Because as Kelly Corrigan says (though try as I might, I cannot figure out where she said this): “We spend a lot of time in our heads, might as well make it a nice place to be.”

The Happiness Trap actually inspired the idea behind the Shero Reverse Book Club as I what I was reading had so many useful ideas and practices, many of which relate directly to the work I do coaching with the Enneagram. I wanted to find a way to share these insights with more people – so, shazam! And as much as I love listening to podcasts for this kind of content… I like connecting with actual people so much more. So… Shero Reverse Book Club was born.

If you are interested in being a part of a community who share knowledge, insight and support for your s/hero journey, join the club!

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