Stinking Thinking

I have spoken on many occasions with my clients about “stinking thinking” with the question is often asked how they can get their minds to quiet down.  First it is important to understand that you are not your thinking! thinking is what you do not who you are. We spend over 90% of our time regretting things in the past, ruminating on what we should have done or worrying about what is going to happen in the future by constantly rehearsing the same possible conversation or scenarios we may face. We completely overlook what is happening now and take the time to appreciate the good things right in front of us.

One way that can help is Mindfulness meditation.  You can start with 5 minutes of silent meditation in the morning.  Some people think that if they meditate “properly”, they will have a “blank mind”.  I can tell you that I have never experienced a “blank mind” and I still have “stinking thinking” on a regular basis.

There are mindfulness exercises you can do sitting in your car or waiting for a bus its a matter of being present. As long as you are grounded in an awareness of the present moment, you are meditating. As I have said our ego’s dwell on the future or past, a meditation experience—even a short one—is a sort of ‘vacation’ from Stinking thinking, you might feel that you can’t put a stop to the thoughts.” The skill of meditation is not about shutting out thoughts or shutting down the mind. Rather, it’s about divesting ourselves of thoughts that arise when we need to get away from thinking. This is a practice of noticing the thoughts that arise and then letting them pass by turning your attention to an object like your breathing or imagine your thoughts floating past on a stream. It doesn’t really matter what object of concentration you use. It is important to remember the distinction between thoughts arising and thinking about them, you can let go of the ego’s urge to think about things when they pop up. Practice noticing thoughts arising and intervene by letting them go before you react, don’t let ‘stinking thinking’ of regrets and worries ruins your ability to enjoy life.

Another approach is called Diffusion this is the practice of learning how to avoid becoming “fused” with our thoughts.   Fusion is defined as when our thoughts and whatever we are thinking about become fused together in our minds.  I like to think about it as becoming overly attached to my thoughts, which leads to “stinking thinking”.  You could look at thoughts as “stories” so another way to explain diffusion is the story and the event become “fused” or stuck together.  We start believing that what our thoughts are telling us is the absolute truth.

One important principle of diffusion is to refrain from asking ourselves whether a thought is true and instead to focus on whether a thought is helpful.  If we pay attention to a particular thought is it going to help us to create the kind of life that we desire?  If I notice myself drifting off into worry I can stop and gently say “Is this thought helpful?”

When “Stinking Thinking” stats, stop, observe what you’re thinking, and ask yourself, “Is this true?” You can consider the evidence that it is and weigh that against the evidence that it isn’t, keeping in mind that extreme statements such as “I’ll never…” or “It always happens that…” are almost certainly distortions. Using logic and reason, you can analyze a situation and determine whether you were assuming a worst-case scenario, and consider what the best-case scenario and even the most likely scenario are. If you don’t know whether a particular negative thought is likely to be true, you can explore the possibilities instead of being pessimistic and assuming the worst.

Ideally it is best to work with a mindfulness trainer or a therapist to help figure out specific, remedying thoughts. If this isn’t possible, then write out the replacement thoughts. When you first begin using this remedy of a positive thought, feeling, or sensation, you’re likely to feel resistance, as the old neural pathways in the brain protest, “But this isn’t true!” One way to get around this obstacle is to design remedying thoughts that feel true in the moment. In mindfulness training, you actually teach the mind to create positive thoughts, and in so doing, you reprogram your brain, replacing old neural networks with new ones that foster creativity and optimism.

Once you’ve generated a new positive and healing thought, make a point of saying the words silently or aloud every time you witness yourself thinking negatively. Let’s say you’re experiencing the recurring negative thought, “I’m no good with numbers.” First look back to the source of that belief, examining your past. You may simply need to notice that your mind is creating a negative loop of self-talk, comprised of self-defeating thoughts. By adopting the new, positive thought, “I’m fully capable of learning anything I wish to learn,” your mind flow will begin to shift and travel on a more positive course.

So the next time your mind starts engaging in “stinking thinking” try one of these techniques and see if you find it helpful