Can we talk? Let’s talk about the mind. The human mind is a wondrous thing, certainly our defining feature as a species. The mind can help us solve problems, understand complex concepts, but is it always our best friend? NO, especially in regards to our emotional mind, the part of the mind that most often engages in relationships with others and determines how we experience life.
Once I had a bumper sticker that stated, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think!” Why would that be a good motto? The mind is capable of thoughts that do not serve the Greater Good of the person. The mind is out to serve its own interests. It has stored years and years of our experiences, and our interpretations of these experiences. The thoughts we have as we react to our daily experiences are often hurt feelings, betrayals, and wounds we experienced in growing up.
These old thoughts and feelings recycle themselves through our consciousness, even though our current experience may barely resemble some old event that damaged the child. Being lied to as a child by trusted adults may resurface in our having “an attitude” toward clients that are not truthful about home grooming efforts or missed appointments. We may be constantly on the lookout for a lie, or we may punish our clients for things that happened to us as children. That’s how the mind works – it doesn’t warn us that a thought or feeling is based on recycled old pain, it simply presents our thoughts as rational. Don’t believe everything you think!
Most minds are undisciplined. They are accustomed to having their way, much like a beloved puppy. We allow the puppy to take us where it wants, jumping from one thought to the next, chasing a random squirrel, digging to China, It can be wild and crazy, impulsive, creative, inventive, or it can be obsessed, paranoid, depressed, self pitying, or abusive. Some thoughts need to be leashed, much like unruly puppies. The disciplined mind is a terrific ally in life, the unleashed, undisciplined mind can be our own worst enemy.
How would one go about “training” their mind? Most of us are familiar with the dog training command, “Leave it!” For purposes of training the mind, this translates into “Don’t Go There!” Some thoughts are best dismissed, or they may gnawed on for days, like a funky old bone. Yuck! Toxic thoughts should be recognized, acknowledged and refused space.
Other thoughts may simply deserve a short leash. We don’t want to dismiss every alarming thought as undesirable. Our mind is also there to protect us from dangers. It might very well be true that a customer is trying to take advantage of you. It’s okay to entertain the thought. Then you can choose whether to act on it or not. The unleashed mind operates like a knee jerk reaction, automatically assuming you are being taken advantage of. The disciplined mind considers the possibility.
I have some terribly toxic thoughts that pop up when I mess up, such as making mistakes in my appointment book or with my online shopping cart. “Dumb!”, “Worthless!”, “Unprofessional!” My all-time favorite: “You can’t do anything right!” These toxic, self-abusive thoughts come from things my abusive, alcoholic father used to say to me when I was growing up. These thoughts have precipitated many a personal meltdown, and are so potentially damaging that I have had to learn how to chase them off immediately. They are like naughty puppies caught at the garbage can. “Outta here!” And I have had to learn to practice immediate self-forgiveness. This process has taken years of effort, but I now I am rarely victimized by this old garbage.
Self assessment and getting to know your self-defeating thoughts is an important aspect of gaining more control of your mind. You need to recognize the enemy. Look for negative thoughts in the areas where you are most often insulted, hurt, or made angry. Some common toxic thoughts are, “People don’t care”, “I can’t win”, I’m alone against the world”, “Customers are liars”, Everything works against me”, “I hate people”, “I’m flawed”. Indulging this kind of thinking can lead to a miserable life. They can be at the bottom of over eating problems, drug and alcohol abuse, gambling addiction and becoming a Victim of Life.
Once you recognize what kind of negative thoughts tend to crop up in your mind and color your existence, the next step is to create replacement thoughts. Banish the bad puppy and play with the new good thought, such as, “I deserve to succeed”, “I can do it”, “People care for me and respect me”, “I have great customers (who sometimes lie)”, “The Universe supports me.” Recognize the appearance of toxic thinking and replace it with a new thought. Putting your mind on a leash takes practice. I have given myself flowers when I screwed up badly, to have a visible reminder of my self-forgiveness. Learning to not beat myself up and practicing self-forgiveness is one of my lifetime challenges.
Don’t expect banished thoughts to disappear forever. That’s not how the mind works. The mind will always be digging up old bones to chew on. Your job is to recognize old garbage, own those thoughts, and not let them run you. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim of your own thoughts. “Just say NO to negativity!” This is having your mind on a leash.
Copyright Birdzeye Press 2010. Contact [email protected] for permission to reprint any part of this article. Thank you.
*The author obtained a
Masters of Social Work degree from Arizona State University in 1966 and
practiced in the field of mental health for 12 years before redirecting to the
profession of pet grooming.
*The author obtained a Masters of Social Work degree from Arizona State University in 1966 and practiced in the field of mental health for 12 years before redirecting to the profession of pet grooming.