Note: This is part two of a series on how our thinking can either help us or get in the way of happiness. Read Part 1 Here: Thinking Stuff
In part one, we touched upon ways our thinking serves us, and ways it does not. For today, we are moving into that personal world of thinking, where our thoughts tend not to serve us. Let’s begin by considering this: your brain really doesn’t care about what you feel. It just has a job to do. If there is a puncture on the skin, the brain signals pain. If a thought shows up, the brain responds to that. If it happens to be a thought that produces happiness, so be it. If it happens to be a thought that creates sadness, so be it. The brain just does its job.
At the same time, however, your body/feelings are the victims (and so are you) to the thoughts that repeatedly and consistently show up. There is this very consistent ‘train of thoughts that shows up in your brain in a habitual manner. Research suggests that it is likely that 95% of the roughly 12,000 thoughts we have today will be the same as those we had yesterday. Some days vary, but most days are like this.
The Habitual Train of Thoughts
Imagine this: We wake up each day and the thought train begins. We don’t choose it, but it starts rolling. Imagine each car on the train carries thought, and each thought is a variation of the one before it. At the end of the train, is the caboose where all the emotions are felt. Sometimes the caboose carries a lovely feeling, and other times a very painful or unwanted feeling. Sometimes the caboose is mildly pleasant, or unpleasant. Sometimes it brings anxiety. Sometimes it brings fear. Sometimes it brings anger. Sometimes it brings ecstasy. Sometimes it brings joy. Sometimes it brings love.
But each train of thought inevitably comes with a consequence, which is the feelings carried by the caboose at the end. Feelings show up on the caboose. Yet, it’s the train of thoughts that produces that feeling.
So, here’s the rub! We really can’t control the feelings that show up at the end of the train. We just can’t control that. Whatever we feel…we feel.
What most of us don’t understand is that we can influence the train of thoughts that produce those feelings. It’s like saying, we can’t control the effects of poison if we drink it. But you can control whether you drink the poison if someone were to offer you some.
Why It’s Hard to Change a Feeling First.
The secret is beginning to emerge! You can begin to get a sense of why it is so difficult to change what you feel if you are always dealing with the consequence of your thoughts. After all, how can you change where the train of thoughts takes you when you are always living in the feelings found in the caboose? You can’t!
You are just a victim of where your thoughts have taken you.
There are times, when we move into more saddened and depressed thoughts, where our thoughts spin out of control. We are constantly living in a state of despair, anxiety, sadness, and depression…because we just keep focused on the caboose. Each thought requires the brain to generate a feeling. The brain has no choice. And now, the feeling PULLS for a new train of thoughts to support the last feeling. It’s a cycle many of us cannot get out of.
Wake Up to Secret Power: Awareness
It’s time to wake up! It’s time to wake up to where your power is to control the quality of your life! Notice when you live in the caboose, it’s like you don’t even know where the train is going. When the train is headed in a positive direction, it’s all good. We feel in control and happy. We give little thought to this.
Yet, when the train is headed down the misery path, we get lost. We live in that caboose, with all those feelings stacking up, and have no clue about how to get control of things. We try to fight our way out of that misery, but the train of thought remains the same.
If we are to drive this train of thoughts in a better direction, we must become aware of how this works, and make haste to get to the front of the train! We MUST step out of the feelings of the moment, to choose a new train of thought.
Choosing a New Train of Thought
This involves two simple, but very difficult tasks. First, we choose to become disinterested in the train of thought we are on. In fact, so disinterested that we internally (and externally, if no one is around) declare our disinterest in the thought/feeling that is bringing us misery or limitation. We state strongly, ‘This thought is the source of misery. These feelings are a trap. I choose to step out of them now.’
From that point forward, we do our best to ignore and nurture disinterest in that painful thought train. (And remember, for many of you, you have taken a ride on that thought train thousands of times, and there is nothing new to glean from another ride!)
Secondly, choose another thought train that supports and uplifts you immediately. And here’s the secret: Choose one that requires some positive action right away. The more the thought train compels not only a great feeling but a positive action as well, then this is better. For example, after turning away from a misery-making thought train, one could start a thought train with, ‘I am worthy and whole and deserving of happiness. I ignore my critics. I’ll walk around the block and remind myself of all that I am grateful for.’
There is an infinite number of ways to do this. And this is always easier said than done. But the value of recognizing these thought trains, and choosing to change which train you ride, is a well-proven solution for a better life.