“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
I’m convinced irrational thoughts are simply a part of living. Whether I realize it or not, I confront irrational thoughts every single day. Some are seemingly innocuous in that in the specific moment I think them, they don’t negatively affect me. Over time though, they build up to create irrational actions that actually seem rational in the moment since you never caught that the thoughts you were having were irrational! It’s terrifying when you think of it. How do you combat irrational thoughts?
I am starting to see some telltale signs that I’m having an irrational thought. It’s quite simple really – I use extreme language, project into the future (which is unknowable), and root my thoughts in my feelings at that moment.
“This will never stop”
I know this sounds really negative but irrational thoughts can also be overly optimistic. “This will never stop” could refer to pain or this could be some sort of motivational saying about how something will never stop you. In either case, I’d argue it’s irrational. The pain will stop. Whatever “this” is will most likely end up stopping you in your tracks – that doesn’t mean you can’t keep going though.
I use a fixed mindset to view my reality when I’m irrational. Even better, I place in the heads of other people fixed mindset thoughts – “that person doesn’t want me in their life”. It’s so final and it feels so logical… except of course when I just wrote it down ha.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my move to San Francisco was based on irrational thoughts. It’s the perfect example of irrational thoughts leading to a really big irrational action. I didn’t know it at the time though because I never stopped to question my thoughts or to examine reality. I also didn’t really consult with friends or family partially because I think most people view me as being fairly logical/put together – stop that, friends and family. I’m trying to change these patterns of thinking so I don’t find myself in a similar situation in the future. It will likely happen again of course BUT I have to try.
The best defense against irrational thoughts? I’m finding that sharing my thoughts with friends works wonders. I’m talking about my close friends who know me and, more importantly, know the rational me. I have to work on not doing that thing where I only tell them just enough information so that they agree with my irrational thoughts though. Ultimately, I’m not saying you need to crowdsource your life decisions or send a daily stream of thoughts to friends. I’m arguing that by sharing these thoughts, you have to pause and see them for what they are. That’s what I’ve found at least. Plus, having someone straight up say to you “Anne, that’s irrational” can center you really quickly. A big thank you to all of those people in my life who have been my sounding board – you all are saints.
Writing my thoughts down – getting them out of my head and onto a piece of paper first solve the problem of helping me to stop thinking in general. I have a long list of random notes in the iPhone Notes app that I virtually scribble almost daily. Haphazardly, in calmer moments, I’ll review these and try to wrestle through whether they are logical or just simply emotional. It’s amazing the patterns you can find just by reviewing your own thoughts from time to time.
On the flip side, I also have a very long note that’s full of thoughts I’ve had on what I feel to be the most rational of days. I used to not do this but I’m realizing the rational days are just as important to document as the irrational.
The step I’m still having trouble with is even figuring out which thoughts are irrational to write down or to share with friends. It’s getting better though – I think 🙂 With all of this said, I don’t think every decision, thought, action, etc should be rational. I don’t think the goal is rationality. Even that is too simplistic of a mindset. While my move to SF may have been based on irrationalities, it was the best decision I could have made at that time and I don’t regret it one bit. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have afterall.