Thoughts are Not Facts
A close friend hasn’t called in a while. You should call her, but really you want to wait a bit as you seem to be the one to always initiate contact. You would like her to initiate the contact this time. Last time you got together, things were rushed and you didn’t get your normal connecting time. Maybe she hadn’t even wanted to get together but you had initiated so she felt obligated. Things have seemed distant . . . maybe she was upset with you because you didn’t spend much money on a Christmas gift this year, but you really had to cut down. You thought she would understand. She didn’t invite you and your family over for the normal holiday evening together so maybe she wasn’t feeling so close to you anyway. Last year you had some really nice moments of talking but you had done all the initiating and if you left it up to her, then it doesn’t seem to happen. One time . . . Fact – A close friend hasn’t called in a while. Fact – you hadn’t spent as much money on her Christmas gift this year. All the rest of this narrative is thoughts filling in the blank space with interpretation probably based on your mood. Or is it that your thoughts are based on your belief that you aren’t quite good enough and so then the thoughts play out this narrative and then your mood gets you down? Or maybe your mood is down so the narrative plays that song?
We all have thoughts that come and go throughout our day. In fact, 98% of what we thought yesterday we will think today and tomorrow. Some of those thoughts we may be aware of and some of those thoughts are in the backdrop of our mind and we aren’t even aware that they are playing like a tape recorder over and over. Yet, our thoughts impact our mood and our day and what we go out and do in the world. This is especially true even if we are not aware that we are listening to our thoughts and taking them on as truth. We think they are an accurate reflection of reality. We may not even be aware of the narratives in our mind that play out.
I recall, years ago, when I suddenly realized that I could change my thoughts. It was like being hit in the face with a cold bucket of water. It had never dawned on me that my thoughts were not facts. It had never dawned on me that my thoughts could be changed. It had never dawned on me that I didn’t need to buy into what my thoughts were. It had never dawned on me that I could change my mood by changing my thoughts. Our thoughts impact us.
An example of the power of thoughts would be when something happens in our lives that may be hard to put in the backdrop of life. We might try, but the event moves to the front and center of our mind, probably through our thoughts. Thoughts arise. They arrive and begin to play out. They become connected, as one thought leads to another thought. Pretty soon, we have a narrative in our head about the subject matter. This can become elaborate as we get on a train of thoughts as they continue to play out. And depending on the thoughts, whether they are positive or empathetic to the situation, ourselves or the other person, or whether they are negative about ourselves or the other person or situation, they impact our mood. It’s possible, because of our thoughts, one day things are seen in a light positive way about the situation and the very next day we find ourselves struggling because we see it exactly the opposite and we are questioning it all over again. This is because we have listened to the thoughts and bought into the thoughts as truth and reality. But our thoughts change. They are not facts. They may very well play out differently day to day.
Thoughts are just thoughts. They are not facts. Thoughts come and they go. We don’t have to give thoughts the power to be facts. We don’t have to give thoughts the power to impact our mood. We can observe the fact that we are having thoughts. We become the witness to the thoughts. But we are not the thoughts. As the observer, we create space between us and the thoughts – between the observer and the thoughts. It gives us the opportunity to pause and realize that we are not our thoughts and thoughts are merely thoughts, they are not facts.
So spend some time today becoming aware of your thoughts. Just notice that you are having a thought. Label it as a thought. No judgment about the thought. It is a thought. It comes. It goes. You witness it. It can be the backdrop of other things. But you take the power out of the thoughts by becoming aware of the thoughts, what they are, and realizing they are only thoughts. They are not facts. You could write the thoughts down that you catch and begin a list of your thoughts. It helps to create the space between the thoughts as you witness them and begin to label them. You may find unhealthy patterns of thoughts that come in the form of assumptions, all-or-nothing thinking, judgments, critical self-judgments, self-blame, blaming others, jumping to conclusion, remind-reading, etc. If you have automatic negative thoughts, you might want to begin to notice them so that you can work towards changing those thoughts. Once we become aware of our thoughts, we can then also begin to change our thoughts. But first we must become aware of our thoughts and realize, a thought is merely a thought. Through the practice of being mindful, we can realize that these are merely events in our mind. These events no longer serve us as we work towards creating healthy patterns of well-being. We can do this by taking a moment to pause between our thoughts and our reactions and decide if we want to buy into our thoughts as facts or merely thoughts as we go about our day.Tags: change your life, Change your thoughts, mindfulness of thoughts, thoughts are just thoughts, Thoughts are not facts
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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