We over-identify with our thoughts. Many philosophies throughout the centuries have reinforced the idea that what we think, we are. What we think, we do. It’s counter-intuitive to propose otherwise, but I’d like you to consider that given what we know about how fluid our thinking is, how contradictory it can be, we may not at the core of ourselves, or be the thoughts we have.
How many times do therapists write about cognitive distortions? All the time. Things like catastrophizing, all-or-none thinking, jumping to conclusions, ignoring the positives and so forth. Just look on the net for examples of distorted thinking! Some sites list 10. Others, 50. There are probably as many specific examples of distorted thoughts as there are people.
Distorted thoughts are really part of a cognitive set. That’s a framework that gives a fast way to interpret everything that happens to us. You can think of it as a group of boxes. Some situations go in the “emergency” box. Others go into the “I like this!” box. The boxes are how we feel and think about people, events, and things.
The problem is a person either has to have tons of boxes, or one huge box that’s on a continuum of “good” to “bad”. There are problems with both approaches. Ultimately, our pain comes from misfiling our interpretations into the wrong boxes, having the wrong criteria for a box, or maybe, from having boxes at all.
We know our physical senses can mislead us. We know our emotions can be real, but result from incorrect interpretations or incomplete information. The idea that our very thoughts might not be accurate is a bit tougher to swallow. As I said above, we tend too much to identify our core selves with thoughts. Some of those thoughts may be random. Some may be recurrent and distressing. Others may be the result of faulty information. Some thoughts we may very well change.
Remember, we are at the centre of our being. Our emotions, thoughts, actions, senses, everything, are only tools, wonderful tool, but tools nonetheless, to our greater consciousness to interact with the world.