There is a helpful way to respond to your internal events (e.g., thoughts, feelings, and sensations), and it’s not the way the scrupulous mind thinks you should.
Let’s take time to review and learn more about our thoughts.
The words you hear are speech, the words you read are text, and the words that come from your mind are thoughts. Thoughts often consist of opinions, evaluations, or assumptions related to how you feel at any given moment.
The question is, do you believe every word you hear and read? Most likely not. So do you need to believe every word (i.e., thought) your mind provides? Thoughts are part of your inside world. They are natural, internal, private events. Do you need to believe every word your mind says? Perhaps not.
Your values are your guiding light. But should you find yourself unable to “control” your thoughts, you may believe you have failed God and others or that God has failed you. You may think there’s something wrong with you. (“I’m bad because a swear word showed up when I was thinking of God.”) The scrupulous mind may insist you are your thoughts. But, remember, you are not your brain; therefore, you are also not your mind or thoughts. And yes, they are part of your human experience.
Thoughts Have No Intrinsic Meaning
What internal experiences arise as you read the following words?
¿Hize trampa en mi reporte de impuestos?
Huh? These words won’t trigger you unless you know Spanish, the scrupulous mind is targeting your value of honesty, and you tend to get stuck with the content or meaning of your thoughts.
Did I cheat on my tax return?
Now, you may have gotten stuck on those words. Your mind’s tendency to give meaning to and find relationships with certain events (real or perceived) happens quickly.
If you don’t know Chinese, these are just lines. Your mind can’t create a relationship with them. What happens when you know these lines mean “integrity”? Notice how quickly your mind comes up with thoughts or words to give integrity a meaning that could get you stuck.
The point is that thoughts are just words; they have only the meaning you attribute to them. You may categorize your thoughts as “bad” because of the relationship you have with them. We are able to attach meaning to anything and everything because of our experiences and our capacity for language, but these connections are not always helpful.
What thoughts tend to get you stuck because of the meaning your mind assigns to them?
For example, if someone says the word taxes, your anxious mind may fixate on the time you thought you cheated on your taxes. You probably didn’t, but even just hearing the word can create intense anxiety, doubt, and guilt. You get caught up in the meaning your mind has linked to that word.
Write the words that get you stuck and notice what shows up. Remember, you get stuck with them because of the relationships your mind has created.
In Imperfectly Good: Navigating Religious & Moral Anxiety to Release Fear and Find Peace, you can learn skills that will help you change your relationship with your thoughts and other natural internal experiences!
Imperfectly Good is coming soon on Amazon. Stay tuned.