By Heidi S. Lepper, Ph.D. © 2012 All Rights Reserved.
So I struck a wonderful chord it seems with my last blog about the metaphor of our mind as a megaphone. I spoke with a girlfriend the day she read my Megaphones piece and she just laughed and said “All you’d hear broadcasted from me is sarcasm!” And so I wonder, have any of you really taken the time to write down the words of your thoughts? Without editing, with full honesty? My friend did not want to herself because she knew she’d not like what she had to say! Well if this is where we are starting, then I’ve got my work cut out for me then, now don’t I?!
Writing down the words of your thoughts is different from journaling. Journaling is a form of self-expression that many of us have done at least once in our lives and it does hold its power. Psychologically, journaling is a form of self-disclosure that allows one to get out a slew of thoughts on some matter and does benefit those of us who have kept a world of hurt to ourselves (the work of James Pennebaker) and in adolescence as a way to come to know oneself. But I am referring to something different than journaling. Coming to understand your mind as a megaphone means you are developing a level of mindfulness about the in-the-moment words that comprise your thoughts – and how these thoughts circumvent all those things are you attempting to accomplish. You cannot become a truly positive thinker without understanding first what those thoughts are and the ones you are instead actually saying! So again, this is not an act of self-expression or a rehashing of the past or a planning of the future set in prose as you would do in journaling. This is a tool whereby at any moment you pull out a Post-It note and quickly jot down your momentary thoughts without editing so that you can then see them in broad color.
What do you think? What are those words? You can develop awareness of them and then learn to see what may underlie them and then find positive alternatives:
- When you are at the stove browning meat for tacos toward the end of the day while your kids fight in the background: What are your thoughts?!
- When you are getting ready in the morning after a less than great night’s sleep and you look into the mirror: What are your thoughts?!
- When you are wrangling your three year old in the mudroom so you can get out the door on time: What are your thoughts?!
- When you sit in the car while your husband drives and is seemingly lost and will not stop to ask for directions: What are your thoughts?!
Write them down! Pull them up and out of your mind as though a megaphone has broadcast them and I can type them for you. What do they say? Are the words themselves positive or negative?
The wonderful part of this process is it is truly universal! You see I no longer live in the United States despite my being very much American, I now live in Moscow, Russia and in a matter of weeks after three years here I will move with my husband and boys to live in another country. I am around people then from all different nations, with all different languages and I see the same thing over and over again. The language of one’s native tongue becomes embedded in our thinking and all languages have positive and negative words. And within our own language we collectively agree on which words are positive and which are negative. When our thoughts are filled with negative words, our feeling and actions cannot possibly be good for us or for those around us! Negative thoughts compel negative feeling and negative action! You cannot possibly have a negative thought and then do good or feel good! So then too, you cannot have a positive thought and then feel bad or do bad! (Narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, “I am so utterly and completely right in this” thoughts are not positive mind you!)
Get in the habit from this day forward when communicating with your family to start first with your thoughts, share what you are thinking! From the outside our own and others’ behavior can be baffling or so very frustrating…but if we understand the thoughts that underlie the behavior then we easily understand it and then can respond in a way for which we are proud. Some of us may be used to using “I feel…” statements (as these abound in pop culture) but we are not so accustomed to “I am thinking this…” statements. In part because awareness of the actual words of our thoughts may be harder to focus on than the feeling we have in our tummy or the ire we feel in our cheeks.
So what are your thoughts broadcasting today? You cannot move toward positive thinking without first coming to know what has been negative all these years.
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