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Don’t believe everything you think

Counter to what they try and tell us, our brains are not video recorders.

Sometimes when we find ourselves in a negative spiral or a tricky situation, it can be easy to get caught up in replaying the story over and over again. Our brains tell us that if we can examine things from every angle we can not only validate why we are right but find more evidence of why the other person is wrong. With these constant replays, our brains tricks us into thinking we are researching ways to ensure this never happens again, so it is worth going over the details with a fine tooth comb.

The problem with this is that the very act of remembering something changes it. Our brains are not neutral fact recallers, maybe it will add a word or an intonation or a glance in. Maybe it will add a whole new meaning into a situation you had not previously seen, because our brains are hard-wired for confirmation bias and love to find evidence for things we already believe.

Which helps us feel safe, but is not always an honest reflection of what it going on. Our brains are not neutral observers, They are on our side and trying to make us the right ones and seek out any dangers. And this does not always lead them to be the most reliable of witnesses.

A good disruptor for this pattern can be to ask yourself the question, “Yes, that may be true, but what else could be true?” By examining the thought critically, we can often see that it is not as solid as it initially seemed, and this can help us loosen the grip a little.

Taking a step back and looking at the situation with curiosity can help you to identify other possible perspectives. Maybe the situation isn't as fatal as it seems right now. Maybe things could work out differently than you expect. Maybe there are other ways of looking at the situation that you haven't thought of yet. Maybe that person was not being malicious. Maybe. Maybe is your golden key here.

By taking the time to explore alternative perspectives, you can open yourself up to the possibility of new solutions and opportunities. You can also gain a better understanding of what's really going on in the situation and find ways to move forward with an outlook which is more based on reality than your need to be right. And much as being right can feel wonderful sometimes, it can also trap us.

When we sink ourselves neck deep into the worst possible outcome, it can be easy to feel like everything is deadest against us. We have the power to allow our thoughts to drag us down, and feel like we have no agency. Which is why it is important to remember that we can decide and learn new thoughts to foster emotions we want, rather than just reeling into believing the worst case scenario.

For example, if you are thinking "I will never be successful," it may be true that your current vision of success is not arriving at the speed you want it to. However, it's also possible that you are overlooking a load of ways you are successful and not celebrating them. And if you are training your brain to equate success with what you have not achieved and you telling yourself off, it is unlikely to want to funnel energy in to creating more creative solutions for you. Instead it will label this as a danger zone to be avoided.

When we decide to thinking about potential alternative explanations it can help us to reframe our thoughts and to see them in a light of our choosing. And even the idea that there may be other possibilities can provide us with a sense of hope and agency, as we realize we have the power to change our circumstances.

It is natural to have negative thoughts - that is how our brain keeps us alive- by looking for the dangers. The key is to recognize we have a choice, to challenge them, and to consider alternative explanations. This stops us adding layer upon layer of false evidence that the world is stacked against us.

Ultimately, it gives us our sense of agency back.


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