The definition of the word authentic is “of undisputed origin.” If you ever watch Antiques Roadshow, then you know how it works. An expert carefully examines the subject, looking for indicators as to its authenticity, and if you are lucky, it is worth a lot of money.
Doesn’t the fact that it is your mind, for which you are the expert, mean your thoughts are already authentic? Not as much as you would think.
I’m Awake – How Can I Be Unconscious?
The article,Why You’re Pretty Much Unconscious All the Time, isn’t referring to narcolepsy. “The information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious thought, nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man, and it doesn’t do as much work as you think.”
Yes, the majority of our thoughts are not consciously created.
Freud said, “The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.” According to cognitive neuroscientists, 95 percent of our cognitive thoughts come from our subconscious mind.
What lurks in the watery depths of our subconscious? Acquired skills, experiences, the news, your favorite book, everything your mother told you, memories, habits, and beliefs. They are used to create concepts that become our thoughts, decision, actions, behaviors, and associated emotions.
Why? It is energy-efficient for the brain to use stored concepts for thoughts, actions, and emotions than to consciously think about it.
For example, most healthy people can walk and talk simultaneously. That is until they are asked a question that requires deep, mental concentration. In that instance, most people stop walking, determine the answer, and then resume movement. The brain required a lot of energy, resulting in the halting of all other activities. Try driving somewhere you have never been before while talking on the phone as an experiment. You will hang up the phone pretty quickly or risk an accident.
We would be less effective if we had to think about everything we do consciously as everything would take longer to accomplish.
We Are Magnets for Negative Thoughts
Our brain is wired to process adverse events more thoroughly and make decisions based on these events. According to research, in our minds bad is stronger than good. We are motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones.
What do you remember from your last review; the praise or the constructive criticism? If you are like most people, you spend the rest of your day ruminating over the criticism.
The downside is of avoiding the bad is we also avoid personal and profession improvement.
Not only do we process the negative more thoroughly, but we also become negative very quickly. A proclivity for negative thoughts is the brain’s way of protecting us. Think of it like a helicopter parent, overprotecting to a fault.
It is clear we can’t help having negative thoughts, so what’s a person to do?
The Three Cs
#1 – Challenge
To challenge is to query as to the truth of something. When you think something negative about yourself or another person, ask yourself, “Is this true?”
A strong clue that negative thoughts are automatically launching is when we use words like “everyone“, “always“, “nobody“, and “never“. Those words make for broadly encompassing statements that are rarely true upon examination. When using words like these, the more accurate question would be, “Is it true 100 percent of the time?”
Additionally, it can make us feel unnecessarily wrong about something that isn’t accurate. For instance, thinking “my manager never listens to my opinion” is much different from not taking your current opinion.
That is when you get curious.
#2 – Curiosity
A curious person is eager to know or learn something. Instead of taking offense, assuming or blaming, your manager for not taking your opinion, as “Why?”
Be the three-year-old who asks why just because they don’t understand. A child-like approach comes from a desire to better understand the things they hear, see, and do — a thirst for knowledge. Taking notice and being curious brings you to the present and engages your conscious mind.
Another way of being curious is to stop, look at the larger picture to see things from another perspective. It is the difference between being the actor in a play and watching it from a seat. Take both places and compare them.
#3 – Creativity
Here are two creative ideas I use in my life and work that you might find helpful. If you have your own, please share them!
Blame the dog
In our house, we blame the dog. In our home, Finnegan sometimes doesn’t pick up after himself or put a new roll of toilet paper on the dispenser. Yes, blaming him saves my husband and me from many negative thoughts.
You can make up your own “Finnegan” in the office or at home, imaginary friends or co-workers. I know people who use aliens, cartoon characters, and other creative characters.
How? It allows us to communicate criticism and not create a negative response by the receiver because it isn’t a direct criticism. It adds humor. Plus how can you get mad at this cute face?
Quite often, we have negative thoughts that have nothing to do with what is going on in the present, refraining authentic thinking. Writing is a creative way to express and release some of the subconscious beliefs and experiences that are hindering us today. In total, well over a hundred experiments have documented the health benefits of disclosing thoughts and feelings about negative events.
According to the article, The Power of the Pen, by putting feelings into words, you can start making sense of a negative event. You come to understand it better, gain insight and perspective, and sometimes even find silver linings. Have a coherent story about the negative event makes it easier to summarize and move on.
If you don’t like writing, record it using your computer or phone, the effect is the same. The important thing is you let it flow, don’t judge or correct what you are writing or recording.
The goal of the three Cs isn’t to avoid negative thoughts, it is the ability to identify them accurately. Fighting how our mind operates is like throwing punches at the wind, which is why positive-focused thinking isn’t the best approach. But we can have an appreciation and collaborate with our minds to have authentic thoughts.