The world we have created is a product of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
A recent statistic claims we can think up to 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s quite a lot of thoughts!
But how well do we know our thoughts? You may think, “Of course I know my thoughts! I’m the one having them!” But just being aware that you’re having thoughts is not the same as knowing them— that is, their origin, how they affect you, whether they are reasonable and realistic, or even whether you can have power over them.
Have you ever considered questioning your thoughts, or do you just accept whatever comes into your head as normal thinking? Most of us probably don’t think about questioning our thoughts. But, if even half of our thoughts we think each day are negative, it’s easy to see how letting those thoughts exist unchecked and unquestioned can make staying positive, productive and goal-oriented difficult.
The reason: a particular thought can pop up, and it gets our attention more than the others, especially if it’s negative. That’s usually because we have some kind of energy or an emotion around it, and it just doesn’t seem to go away. Even if it recedes somewhere to the back of our mind, it will usually pop up again, sometimes when we least expect it, especially in times of stress, agitation or flux.
A thought that doesn’t go away is a thought that’s trying to tell you something more than just what’s on the surface. And if you don’t pay attention to it, it’s probably going to stick around and make sure that you do. That isn’t a problem if it’s a productive thought like reminding you to pay a bill, or call a parent you haven’t spoken to recently, for instance, but if it’s a recurring thought that’s negative or causing anxiety for no apparent reason, that can be an issue.
What Is That Thought Trying To Tell You?
The only way we can know what a thought is trying to convey is by questioning it, and that means finding out where it came from, what it’s doing there, and what purpose it serves for your well being.
A positive thought is useful and productive, and makes you feel good about yourself. Recurring negative thoughts do nothing but make you feel bad and diminished in some way, and most often hold no purpose in serving your well-being. Yet many people will accept those kinds of thoughts as real and hold on to them, whether they are based in reality or not.
For instance, people suffering from anorexia steadfastly hold onto the thought that they are fat, even when they can see their skeletal frames in the mirror. While that is an extreme case, it is an example of how strong and pervasive negative thoughts can take root in our minds, convincing us that they’re real, even if the mirror says otherwise.
The Origins of “Says Who?”
From the very beginning of my practice I tried various ways and methods with my clients to encourage them to question and challenge their thoughts as the way to push through and address what was holding them back.
Not too long after I started coaching I began to notice a pattern with my clients. The beliefs they held about themselves that invariably caused them the most grief were often those that weren’t based on their own original thoughts; that is, they were opinions of others they had listened to and accepted as their own.
My clients would say things like, “I’m afraid I’m going to fail,” or “I’m not successful at relationships,” or “I’m never going to realize my dreams.” My own exploration into overcoming my fear-based thoughts helped me realize that the negative thoughts they held about themselves that would invariably pop up, whenever they felt anxiety or insecurity or ran into some sort of obstacle in their lives, were often not even their own. These thoughts would then become a part of their belief system.
They never challenged or questioned them, never thought, Do I have to think that about myself? They just accepted it as true. And then it occurred to me to ask, Why wouldn’t you want to challenge or question a belief about yourself that’s causing unhappiness and making you feel bad about yourself/insecure/less than? Why wouldn’t you want to find out the source of why you hold that negative belief about yourself?
The Tug-of-War of Two Minds in One
One day I was counseling a new client who was dealing with those types of negative, nagging thoughts; those second-guessing, self-sabotaging thoughts, such as the belief that any risk or chance she took in her career was going to mean she was going to fail and lose everything. It was an extreme view that had little evidence to support it, especially since she was a very smart, talented, capable woman, yet those thoughts were holding her back from taking the positive steps she needed to reach her goals professionally. She was stuck.
“I know I’m going to end up in the poorhouse!” she kept saying, as if it was going to happen any minute. I was used to extreme or exaggerated feelings and concerns like these from my clients, and how they would let negativity fester in their minds without ever even considering challenging it to find out if it was based in fact, or simply fear. But what struck me as curious about this particular client was that, with her new business starting off so well, she clearly was on an upwardly mobile trajectory. So why would this negative thought, which was in direct opposition to the positive “reality” she was experiencing, have this kind of power over her?
It was as if there were two minds working concurrently, yet in direct opposition with one another—a phenomenon I often saw with clients who were doing well. There was a part of their thinking that wasn’t supporting their forward progress, and was actually trying to undermine or sabotage their positive efforts.
Whose Belief Is That?
As she continued to profess with certainty her negative belief that she was destined to end up penniless—despite all evidence to the contrary—I came to the conclusion, with equal certainty, that I was not going to let her accept her negative belief as true for her, and I wanted her to know that, in no uncertain terms. It was crystal clear to me that I had to do something to challenge her thoughts to get her to change her thinking, and not accept that negative belief about herself.
“Says who?” I asked her, suddenly. The question literally popped out of my mouth before I could even think.
Yet, in a way, it was exactly the type of question I had long wanted to ask my clients when they would get stuck believing their negative thoughts (that often didn’t originate with them) that were holding them back. Those negative thoughts were frequently the result of something someone else, like a critical parent, insensitive teacher, or angry partner, said to them at some point in their life, and they believed it without ever thinking to question or challenge it.
Have You Heard Someone Say That Before?
My client looked at me curiously, like she wasn’t quite sure what I was asking her. I took it further. “Who said that you’re not going to be successful and end up in the poorhouse? Have you heard someone say this before?”
She thought about it long and hard. I kept going. “Maybe,” I said, “you’ve been walking around with this criticism and judgment of yourself for years and it’s not even your own?”
I saw my challenge percolate in her mind, followed by a gradual dawning of awareness. It was her “Aha moment,” happening right in front of me.
“You know,” she said in a stunned voice, “my father always used to say ‘we’re going to end up in the poorhouse’ when we were kids. I never made the connection until now!”
“Did that ever happen?” I asked.
She shook her head and softly said, “No.”
“Can you see,” I explained, “how you took on your father’s fearful thinking and made it your own, which became a belief?”
“Yes, but I don’t want to think that way!” She declared emphatically.
“That’s good,” I told her. “Because you don’t have to. Replace your father’s negative thoughts with your own positive thoughts about yourself.”
She laughed, and said, “You make it sound so easy.”
“It is,” I said. “Hard to believe, but it’s true.”
Within a fairly short time my client found the confidence to work toward her goal of launching her new business, which took off and is doing well. Even though negative and defeating thoughts still pop up for her from time to time—it’s unrealistic to think you can banish negativity forever—she now reports that she is much better equipped to identify and deal with them.
I found that the first question I had my clients ask themselves after Says Who?—“Have I heard someone say this before?”—helped establish where the thoughts came from, which then helped determine whether the thoughts were original, or just the opinions and beliefs of others that they took on as their own.
And even if it was determined that the negative thought was their own, the method was still very effective at tracking the source of their negativity. By taking responsibility for it, they could overcome it.
Being In The Driver's Seat of Your Life
To know that we are in control of who we are and everything we think, and can change our thinking to be exactly what we want it to be, is a very compelling and empowering concept. However, it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers to change years of familiar habits and patterns of thought. It is the willingness to explore what I like to call the “truth of our thoughts” (what our thoughts really want us to know) that is necessary and essential for the Says Who? method to work effectively.
If you want to be in the driver’s seat of your life, and manifest your own “original” reality, which means your truth and vision of the life you want to live, you must know your thoughts, and that means all of them—positive and negative. By doing this, you can remove the negative thoughts that are impeding you from creating the positive life you desire.
Reshape your thinking to be in alignment with your desires. Remember, you are the gatekeeper of your mind, and can decide what you want to let in—and what you don’t.
©2016 by Ora Nadrich. All Rights Reserved.
Published by Morgan James Publishing,
About the Author
Ora Nadrich, a popular Huffington Post writer, is a Los Angeles-based certified Life Coach and Mindful Meditation specialist. From a very early age Ora has been a seeker of knowledge, with a particular interest and talent in discovering how our thoughts work. Ora has also facilitated a popular Women’s Group for the last several years. Learn more at www.OraNadrich.com