Don’t believe everything you think

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One of my biggest interests within the area of self-development, is how to control your emotions. By this, I don’t mean: how to not feel anything, how to be a stoic, or how be more rational than emotional. I love having many emotions, and I think they are one of the most relevant and meaningful parts of life.

But they can also feel like a big burden, which gets in the way of manifesting your dream life. So, we might want to learn how to find a sweet spot here. A spot in which our thoughts really are the deal-breakers.

To me, the emotional sweet spot looks like this: I feel and experience as many emotions as I can, without trying to numb them down. But when I notice one (or some) really heavy, negative emotion(s) ruling a large part of my life, and causing negative effects in my behaviour (like acting on fear, insecurity or depression instead of love, abundance and inspiration), I try to change them into something more positive, or I try to make them less dominant. These are the insights that can help with this:

You are not your thoughts

The first step in having more control over your emotions, is realising that emotions are caused by thoughts. Some of these thoughts are very present, others have become so familiar that you’re not even aware of thinking them anymore.

Whichever thoughts cause your emotions, one way of gaining more power over them is realising that you are not your thoughts. For that matter: you are not your emotions either. You are not ‘what is thought’ or ‘what is felt’ – you are the thinker. You are the feeler. And the logical consequence of this, is that you can (and are allowed to!) step away from your thoughts, take a break from them, make some space between you and them.

Try to observe your thoughts and emotions from a distance, look at them as if you are looking at a distant movie screen, and decide to analyse and understand them or look away from them if you want to – because they are not your essence, and you are so much more.

We reason our way into ‘truths’

Another step in gaining more power over your emotions, is to understand that your reasoning or the thoughts that cause them can be faulty. We often overestimate how (and that!) we judge certain situations. We try to think for someone else, creatively fill in the gaps that someone or some event has left us, and reason our way into some explanation or deeper meaning as to why this certain thing – which caused certain thoughts and therefore certain emotions – happened to us.

However, we often forget that this whole chain of experiencing, interpreting/judging and feeling is in between the factual situation and how we suddenly feel. We experience negative emotions as a direct result of something that happened in our lives, while actually, they are the result of our reasoning about the thing that happened.

This makes you an actor, not a victim. And this is a good thing: once you see that you are actually the designer of your truths and emotions, not the actual thing that happened, everything changes.

Thoughts can stem from (ill-placed emotions)

Thoughts cause emotions, but certain emotions can also cause thoughts. Think about that time you broke up with your ex, and as a logical consequence, you missed them the weeks or months after. This feeling might have made you think that your ex was someone you should be with, someone really valuable to you, someone you needed in your life – why else would you miss them so much?

This is a fault we often make out of convenience, comfort and habit. Your feelings about a person (or situation, for that matter) are in no way connected to whether or not it is a good idea to have them in your life, you probably see that now in the case of your ex. What was ‘thinking’ here, was your fear of being alone, the emptiness inside you, the discomfort you felt from simply having to give up something that was safe and familiar to you.

But these thoughts don’t get to decide what is true: they are an ancient mechanism showing you the easy way, not the right way. And once you start listening to them, they cause new negative emotions, which in turn cause new negative thoughts. The same mechanism can happen when we experience fear, insecurity and depression, and start to listen to the thoughts they give rise to.

So what now?

Not everything we think is true. We know that now. But how do we deal with that? If our emotions are based on our thoughts, and we can’t be sure of our thoughts, how do we know what to feel? The point here is this. In many cases, we are actually very capable of judging whether or not a thought is true, and whether it is justified to tie certain emotions to them. Being more mindful and critical on your own thoughts already helps a lot in dealing with negative emotions.

But in the small percentage of cases in which we really have no idea what to think, we have to learn to be comfortable in the unknown. It is ok to not know everything, or to not know how you feel about something. It is ok to say: I don’t know enough of this person/situation/subject to judge it, and I will keep myself from feeling anything else than (calm) uncertainty about it.

At the end of the day, our thoughts and emotions are here to help us survive and thrive, to cater to our fulfilment and happiness – not the other way around. If you stop acting like a slave of your thoughts and emotions, and realise you are the actor and creator of your life, no matter what you think or how you feel, you will see that negative emotions will disappear slowly but surely. After all, we are thinkers and feelers – now let’s start enjoying that beautiful design.

xx Coco

So I finally read Psycho-Cybernetics

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For 2021, one of my goals is to read more (I mean, whose isn’t, right?). I aim for one book a month, which for a non-reader like me, is quite a commitment. One book I heard a lot about in podcasts was Psycho-Cybernetics, which apparently is a self-help classic from the ‘80s. Somewhere in January, my fiancé suddenly ordered it online, and so the universe had spoken: PC would be my February-read.

For starters, I have to admit my expectations were a little bit high. Once you’ve been in this selfrealization jazz for a while, it’s hard to find a book that blows your mind. So as I should’ve expected, this book didn’t. It didn’t leave me with many new insights or bright ideas. What it did do, however, was back up my already existing insights with some good psychological theory, and some good ol’ common – although very christian – sense. Here’s what the book taught me.

Our subconscious is a torpedo

The first thing PC thought me was that the subconscious (brain + nervous system) works pretty similar to a torpedo. Human beings overall learn stuff by aiming for a goal, striving like a rocket towards it, and correcting our errors and deviations as we go. Think of a young (still quite not self-aware) child learning how to walk: they stand up and fall down, stand up again and fall down again – learning from the errors what not to do, and learning from the successes what to repeat.

PC teaches how we can apply this principle consciously to our goals as well, and in that way, use our subconscious to our (planned or pointed) benefit. For example, imagine our goal is to lose a few pounds. If we admit and set this goal for ourselves, according to PC, our subconscious will unknowingly work towards this goal without you putting in a lot of effort.

Of course, the conscious mind has a say as well, so some work has to be done. In the case of losing weight, we shouldn’t eat donuts all the time and maybe exercise a little. But if we can believe PC, the subconscious will help you with this and make it a lot easier to make certain (wise) decisions.

Our nature wants us to thrive

To be completely clear: we don’t have to make our subconscious work to our benefit, because it already does. Always. It’s how we learn or accomplish anything at all. But in the goals that we have that are not completely natural and instinctive (like learning how to walk), we do have to set our goals.

The design of human beings is so beautiful, our brain and nervous system (or subconscious) is supposed to make us thrive in life. It supports our goals and dreams, and by means of survival, always gravitates (or rockets) naturally towards them. Thus saying – and this is my own conclusion – life doesn’t have to be a struggle. It is actually in our nature to get what we want.

This is also backed up by other theories and movements (though in other words), for example by the Law of attraction theory or Deepak Chopra’s Energy of Attraction. PC, however, tends to explain this phenomenon by the use of cybernetics. And even though this book was written in the ’80s, that’s quite refreshing.

Self-image is everything

However, whether you learn from your fails or judge yourself by them, is essentially and up to you. Because you decide what thoughts and ideas your subconscious ‘rockets’ on. Your subconscious doesn’t have a direct link to reality, so you and your thoughts are what feeds the system and tells it what to aim for. So while setting our goals and aiming towards them, something inside us has to believe that we will reach our goals and that we are worthy of them.

If you only ever remember your fails and forget your past successes, you will think low of yourself, unknowingly set low goals, and that is what your subconscious will work towards. You’re brain tells the subconscious ‘I will never get it’, and thus that is what happens. If you think highly of yourself because you focus on your past successes, you will believe that the goal is something you can reach and deserve, and your subconscious will start to work accordingly.

So if you’re someone who thinks low of themselves, hear this: you’re not inherently born with a low self-esteem, you’re just using your memory wrongly. Train yourself to focus on your past successes, or fake the feeling of being successful if you have to, and your subconscious will start to work differently and to your benefit.

What I love about this book is that it reminded me of some strong beliefs I already had. It supports the idea that our brain has a big effect on our biology, and can even explain how, for example, we can make ourselves ill or look younger, simply have having certain thoughts. It explains why we have a higher chance of winning a game when we truly believe we will, and why ‘practising in your head’ makes an actual difference when doing the real job.

I’m a big fan of ‘woo woo’ theories like the Law of attraction, but it is nice to have these theories backed up from another angle of science. I personally relate many human issues to a low or inadequate self-image, so it was nice to read a theory that relates self-image to reaching our dreams. The book also comes with very practical exercises to train your self-image, and to make your subconscious work for whatever you set your mind to.

The only downside is that since the book is already quite old, some of the other (psychological) theories PC refers to, are a little outdated. I also didn’t appreciate the writer using religious arguments to back up his theory, or to tie his lose ends. But all-in-all, this is a very good book to remind ourselves of our beautiful design as human beings.

Did you read Psycho-Cybernetics? Let me know what you think!

xx Coco