Where Do Thoughts Come From?
Our thoughts are created by our mind. Our mind is constantly helping us to interpret the world around us. It describes what is happening, and tries to make sense of it by interpreting events, sights, sounds, smells and feelings. It is the mind's job to keep us safe, by recognising threats and letting us know about them.
Thinking is what the human mind does. It is automatic. The trouble is, our thoughts are not necessarily true, accurate, or helpful. They are often based on emotion, which drives our opinion, rather than facts. There is a constant stream of thoughts running like a river through our mind, and thoughts pop up randomly. Without even realising it, we are interpreting and giving our own meanings to everything happening around us.
How we think impacts on how we feel and how we behave. Over the years we develop preferred thinking styles, habits or biases. Our thinking style feels comfortable to us because it is what we are used to. However, our thinking styles can also mislead us, particularly if we are feeling low or distressed.
We tend to focus on things that fit with how we are feeling. For example, if we are feeling low, we think about and notice sad and negative things, about the past, about our lives, about others and the future. If we are feeling anxious, we think about and notice anything that makes us feel more anxious and we tend to see danger all around us.
This can be like a sponge and a sieve in our mind – we soak up all the negatives in our 'mind sponge', and all the more realistic, helpful positives escape through our 'mind sieve'. Sometimes, our thoughts can even stop us doing the things we want to do.
The worksheets below will help you to identify the thinking styles that most commonly come up for you. You can then try noticing them as they occur. Once you can notice them, this can help you to distance yourself from those thoughts if they are affecting your behaviour in ways you do not want them to.
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Worksheet 3.2 - Passengers On The Bus
Worksheet 4.3 - Stepping Back From Thoughts
Psychology Tools 'Unhelpful Thinking Styles' Factsheet