I know this can sound weird when you first hear it, but bear with me. It’s an important concept that we often try and introduce early in therapy and coaching. It underpins a lot of the work we do.
We probably have thousands of thoughts a day. Some of these can be painful, difficult and even intrusive. But we also have neutral thoughts, useless thoughts, enjoyable thoughts, and silly and bizarre thoughts and most of these we pay little to no attention.
The trouble is we tend to pay much more attention, and assign more value, to those thoughts that are painful and challenging, even when they’re not objectively true or accurate. It seems to be human nature for this to be the case - we all tend to focus on the negative (and this is probably something do to with these traits providing us with advantages for avoiding danger in our evolutionary past).
One of the first things we frequently do in coaching and therapy, is to start to build our skills in noticing the nature and content of our thoughts. By learning to pay attention to what thoughts we are having, we can automatically start to create distance from them. This can often provide great relief all on its own. We can shift our perception from a thought being an absolute truth or reality to something more transient, flexible, or only a part of our total experience.
An important distinction here is we’re not asking ourselves to ‘block’ or ‘clear our mind’ of negative thoughts. That’s probably impossible and actually likely to be counterproductive. But we’d perhaps like to change the relationship we have with them, and so how ‘sticky’ or intrusive they become in our lives.
From this foundation we can then build further on this awareness with additional skills to provide even more relief, such as letting thoughts come and go, using mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches, and examining the mental traps and inaccuracies that are present in our thoughts.
If you think this might something you could find useful, then we include an introductory exercise in noticing our thoughts in our free, 3-part guide to building your resilience. You can sign up for that here: