We are not our thoughts

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We identify a lot with our thoughts and give them a lot of credence.

We feel a strong sense of ownership and responsibility for them.

After all, we brought them into this world, they’re for us to deal with.

There is an extent to which this is helpful, to which this ownership of thoughts has evolved as a survival mechanism to protect us.

“I need to eat.”

“I am in danger.”

“I need to get out of here.

Our identification with these thoughts helped turned them into actions which prolonged our life. And in the moments when our lives are in jeopardy, this process is incredibly useful.

But most of the situations for which these mechanisms were evolved, no longer exist. On the level of our day-to-day lives, we face very few existential threats.

Despite this, we are still bombarded with thoughts and messages with which we immediately identify. Unfortunately this identification with our thoughts is often deeply unhelpful.

One of the main reasons we identify with thoughts so quickly, is that we often assume they are true. We assume that our thoughts represent a rational and reasonable point of view about the world and that they are worthy of our attention and belief.

But this is not the case at all. Our thoughts are just messages which bubble up from our neural chemistry like a spring of water from the ground. We don’t ask for them, they just pop into our head.

They often have little basis in any kind of objective reality but we assume that they are telling us truths about the world. We do this partly because our experience of our thoughts is real – and most of the time REAL = TRUE.

It feels real when we have a thought. We can feel the impact of it in our head. We can hear it and we can see it.

We can also watch thoughts appear and disappear. If we take the time to just sit and become aware of what our mind it doing, we can observe our thoughts rise up, float around and then fall away.

But that doesn’t mean that what our thoughts say is true. It doesn’t make them actuate, observations of the world.

And it’s this tendency for us to conflate and confuse our REAL experience of our thoughts, with them being TRUE which causes us a lot of unnecessary pain and distress.

What’s not immediately obvious to us, is that we get to CHOOSE whether we believe our thoughts. We get to choose whether we act on our thoughts. And we get to choose whether they have an impact on us while they flood our mind.

These choices aren’t obvious to us however, because all of those settings are switched to “on” by default. By default, we believe our thoughts, we let them have an impact on us and we often action them.

But we don’t have to.

When we see our thoughts for what they are and don’t accept them as gospel, then we can be more skillful in how we deal with them.

We can choose whether to believe them.

We can choose whether to identify with them.

We can choose whether to act on them.

We are not our thoughts – and we should choose to remember that.