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  • Peg Hunt

Don't Believe Everything You Think

I saw this on a bumper sticker and laughed out loud—SO TRUE! We do believe our thoughts and they are not always accurate or helpful. We may draw conclusions without all the information (inaccurate), or we may harshly criticize ourselves or others (inaccurate AND unhelpful). In these cases, it’s not that thoughts are bad, it’s just that they are not facts.

Thoughts are just thoughts—they are not immutable facts, they come and they go, we change our minds, we see things differently after a good night’s sleep. Believing in the truth of our thoughts often creates needless suffering. If we can recognize our thoughts as just part of the story, instead of committing to them as The Truth, we may be able to lighten the weight or negative impact of our thoughts on ourselves or others.

First, like most skills, it takes practice to notice “I’m having a thought”. Building this awareness is the first step towards having a more constructive relationship to our thoughts. This works for both our positive and negative thoughts. (Just because it’s positive doesn’t mean it’s any more true than a negative thought. For example, if my thought is that I am the smartest person in the room I might miss some important information, be insulting, or fail to learn what I can from others.)

Often the way to notice a thought we are having is to first notice a feeling—it could be a positive or negative feeling. Whenever we are having a feeling, we can be sure there is a thought triggering it. What is the thought? After noticing, we can take time to understand it better so that we can choose a response rather than reacting as if it were a fact. Here are some questions that could help you be curious about your thoughts (pick one or two that seem helpful):

  • What led to this thought?

  • Is this thought true? How would we find out?

  • What are other perspectives on this thought? (e.g., What would my mom think about this thought? What would a friend or partner think about it?)

  • Is this thought helpful? How is it helpful? Why is it important to me?

Once we disentangle thoughts from facts and have more information about the thought, we may be able to see a situation less reactively and more objectively. Having a more objective view may allow us to see more possibilities for action which can lead to better decisions and lessen suffering.

If you enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to others. If you would like to explore more about how your thoughts are impacting your life, please contact me at for a consultation to see if coaching is right for you.

© Anne E. Garing, PhD and Peg Hunt, MS

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