There is no doubt we are thinking machines. We think tens of thousands of thoughts every day. In spite of some theories that we can. We can no more control or direct our thoughts any more that we can control or direct our breathing for more than a few moments at time. An astute psychologist quipped “if you are going to try to manage your thoughts, you would have to quit your job”.
Luckily, you don’t have to pay attention to everything you think. You can let all kinds of thoughts drift by and pay no heed. As humans, we are very good at using our imagination to ‘fill in the blanks’ regarding any situation. Say you submitted a proposal to an organization to do a project or contract work. While you are waiting to hear back your overactive ego mind might generate tantalizing thoughts like “they don’t like my proposal”, “my fees are too high”, “others are better qualified”. Stuff like that. Thoughts that likely feel pretty discouraging and depressing.
My colleague calls this “disaster fantasizing”. Most of us know how to do this rather well. Maybe you learned it from a parent, sibling or relative. The “what if?” scenarios that run through our minds and create all sorts of distressing emotions and uncomfortable feelings. Totally fabricated stuff that rarely, if even happens. Mark Twain is quoted as saying “my life has been one disaster after another, most of which never happened”.
Since our feelings come from our thoughts about a situation, not the situation itself, we do have the prerogative to dismiss thoughts that bring on feeling inadequate, frustrated, angry, embarrassed or annoyed. The thing, person or circumstance is essentially ‘neutral’ – like submitting your proposal. It just is, until you make it mean something about yourself or someone else. You don’t have to fight the thought, create a positive counter-thought or try to manage it in any way. Just let it go by, and it will. Wait for better feeling thoughts that are bound to come along. They always do.