There’s nothing like a little bit of self-exploration on a Monday afternoon. Join me.
You know what is my number one cause of pain? When I am in denial of reality. And you know what only serves to perpetuate my denial of how things are? Irrational thoughts.
What I am learning now is how easy it is to get swept up by a tide of irrational thoughts. And irrational thoughts are all sticky and gooey, and as soon as you have one, you can be sure that another will shortly follow.
And before you know it you are totally disconnected with reality, and basing all future life decisions on the conception of just one little thought – which by the way is totally unreasonable, illogical and just plain silyness..
It’s like one of those moments that we think “Hey, today I am have a particularly and spectacularly lousy day and feeling all kinds of sorry for myself – why don’t I contemplate some major life decisions?”
NO. DON’T DO IT. Do a jigsaw puzzle instead. Or watch MTV.
Here are some of my top three completely irrational thoughts. Let’s break it down.
1. “To be happy, I must be liked by all people by all times.”
If there is one way to set yourself up for failure, this is the one. This one has got to go. My sense of self-worth is something I have worked too hard on to let it be under the control of other people. I once read the quote “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Well, I can really empathize with why this is often easier said than done; because we are all people pleasers to some extent. It doesn’t feel good when someone doesn’t like you, or something you do – no matter who this person is. It could be your mom or it could be someone who randomly approaches you on the street an says “Hey, you suck!”
But should I let that “not feeling good”-ness infect my life, and make me change my decisions, or the way I want to live it? No. I don’t want to be a push-over. I think my life deserves to be lived with a little more purpose than that.
Let’s face it, life is hard enough as it is – with a overabundant supply of of difficult decisions, responsibilities, roles, options and challenges that we have to face – without the help of this irrational thought.
If we could say what we were really thinking, the conversation may go something like this.
Me: Hi. Today I am sad.
You: Why are you sad?
Me: Because I must be liked by all people by all times, and right now, this is not the case. So I am sad and confused.
I am coming to learn that as soon as you stand up for something you believe in, or commit to living your life in any certain way that is true for you, there will always be someone who disagrees, who wants to fight it or who is envious. I think this is just reality. There will always be people who love you and accept you and your decisions, and there will be people who don’t -and their reason for this may be stemming from their own irrational thoughts about life and themselves. Ultimately, what matters more is my opinion on my life – rather than someone else’s.
How to pwn this irrational thought: Do what makes you happy. Think for yourself. Hold your own counsel. Make your own decisions. Listen to your own opinion and conscience about yourself. Take a deep breath, and go for it!
2. “When somebody disagrees with me, I need to take it personally, because it is about ME.”
I had mentioned before that something I have learned this last year is to become very suspicious of myself when I find myself taking a very strong opinion on any matter. The more that I educate myself about the world, the more that I see how big the world really is. When you educate yourself on a certain subject of interest – you will learn enough to realize that you just can’t have an opinion on anything.
Not a strong one anyway.
A strong opinion means a strong ego, and as soon as my ego gets involved, I know it’s just a matter of time before it gets hurt.
When people get too involved in a discussion or debate, it is clear that they are fighting for themselves, not for the truth. I am fighting to make myself feel heard, understood and accepted.
When someone disagrees, they disagree with an idea, not with you. Big deal, right? If I say to somebody “Hey, did you know that light travels faster than sound?” and they said “No. You are wrong. Sound travels faster than light.” I’m not going to cry about it. I don’t need to take it personally. I didn’t invent the speed of sound of the speed of light. They aren’t my children. I can show them a text book that illustrates “my truth”, and then let it be. In the end, everyone will make their own conclusions, and it really has nothing to do with me.
And if someone attacks you and your soul, well, they don’t seem like the kind of person I want to spend my time with.
I know how hard it is to separate our ideas with ourselves, but I think it is an important skill for me to learn.
How to pwn this irrational thought: Reconsider your “strong opinions”. Stop fighting for “the truth”. Instead just “be” the truth. Don’t take it personally when someone disagrees with you – acknowledge their point of view and move on.
3. “Because things are hard now, they will be this hard forever”
You know you’re riding the great wave of irrationality when you start using words like “FOREVER” and “ALWAYS” and “NEVER”.
The first attribute of life is that it changes. Everything changes. Once upon a time there were single celled organisms and now there are people walking around with iPads and stuff. Emotionally, we mature. How you think today is probably not how you were thinking when you were 16 (I hope not!). Life circumstances change too. One day you were living at home with your parents, and now you’re out on your own, creating a life for yourself.
We have ups and downs; deep struggles and sweet rewards. Nothing very good or very bad lasts very long. Everything is very fleeting. Bad days are not bottomless, and neither are the good days. Our challenge is to find the balance between these two fluxes.
It’s easy to have a bad day and affirm that this is how it is going to be forever.
When we fall in love, we enter what people call “the honey moon period” which in it’s name itself suggests that it is fleeting and temporary. We may even be given polite warnings that this period probably won’t last forever – and that’s fine. it’s reality. We accept this advice with the love it’s given.
But who is there to tell us when the bad days roll in that, this too is temporary? That things change. And that things will be easier if you focus on that. That a bad day does not determine a bad life. That the struggles you are encountering now are going to be very different to the ones you will be encountering a year from now.
How to pwn this irrational thought: Observe yourself when you use statements with the words “never”, “always”, “forever”. Take everything one day at a time. The only kind of courage you need in times of struggle is the kind of courage that gets you from this moment to the next moment. Live through bad moments with grace.
So there you have it. My three most totally, inexcusably irrational thoughts. I’m working hard to kick their asses, because we have to ask ourselves – do we really have time for these thoughts and belief systems in our busy lives? And each of these thoughts do only one thing – make things harder on us.
I hope you guys enjoy yourself a nice self-exploration Monday! What are your most irrational thoughts?