1 - It has no filter for false or unhealthy thoughts.
You can be 100% certain of something and be 100% wrong. The upsetting thoughts that you’re going to fail at something, that you can’t recover, that something bad will happen, or that others are judging or angry with you, can be entirely false. So can the related thoughts that you wouldn't be able to stand it if your worry was even partially true.
2 - You are inadvertently brainwashing yourself.
Accepting thoughts as facts without questioning them allows them to grow and spread, and they will. Thoughts are like seeds in a garden; whether they are weeds or flowers, given the fertile space to grow, they will thrive.
3 - Self-talk is going on whether you are aware of it or not.
Most of your brain activity is completely beneath your level of awareness. All of the knowledge you are carrying around with you which includes how to walk, talk, write, drive, and a million other things, also includes any other thoughts you have repeated – healthy, unhealthy, true, or false – your brain doesn’t care. If thoughts are repeated, they become deeply rooted and automatic.
4 - Your brain will reject ideas that conflict with whatever it already believes.
This means that even if your brain is given indisputable facts, it will seek to find a way to filter out and reject them with those deeply rooted automatic thoughts.
5 - Your brain can hijack itself with emotions.
Powerful emotions can take over your thinking and your behavior. Your brain is built for survival – sense danger, take action, and think about it later. When you experience intense fear or anger, self-protection kicks in within 20 milliseconds. The problem is that these emotions can generate false or unhealthy thoughts that that remain after the danger has passed, taking root and becoming part of your belief system.
6 - Images can be worth much more than a thousand words.
The images you carry with you hold immeasurable knowledge and beliefs. You may be certain of however you see yourself, others, the world, or the past and future in your mind, and yet these images and views may be entirely unhealthy and false, just like any other thoughts.
7 - You have the ability to make purposeful changes in your brain.
You can learn from mistakes, you can change your mind, change your thoughts, change your habits, and change your life. You can refocus and reimagine the images you carry with you. The thoughts, “I can’t change,” or “This is just the way I am,” are both false and unhealthy. The indisputable fact is that you can make changes. Question the thoughts that pop into your mind or that have been with you for a long time because the thought, "I just know I'm right," can actually be partially or completely wrong. Use self-talk to purposefully tend to your thinking, to consciously brainwash yourself with true and healthy thoughts that you have carefully developed and that you can believe. This may feel unnatural, which just means it’s different from how you're used to thinking. With focused effort and repetition, the new, healthier thoughts will become habitual and will start to feel natural.
8 - These changes are an inside job that only you can do, however there are two forms of therapy that can quickly and effectively help you do this. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you identify false and unhealthy thoughts and to develop healthier ways of thinking. Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) can help change distressing images and views that you may feel stuck with. When the images are changed, your brain will shift to healthier perspectives of the facts. ART helps you let go of the distressing images, emotions, and body sensations, which you really don't need to hold onto. This can profoundly and quickly improve your quality of life. See more about ART at www.acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com.
Marsha Mandel is a therapist with a private practice in Cornwall, New York. www.mandelcounseling.com