Dear Why Team member,
Continuing the theme of how our thoughts shape us, I hope this week’s message finds you well and attending to your thoughts.
A study performed by the National Science Foundation found that an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Sadly, of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts
Do you observe your thoughts objectively? Or do you more often believe that you are actually your thoughts subjectively?
Object being separate from you, subject being you.
As I observe the public discourse, I often leverage “Why Questions” to hopefully reveal insight and deeper understanding. Have you noticed how passionate people have become about their thoughts? So much so that if you introduce a thought that isn’t in agreement with their thought it can cause them great discomfort.
Why is this?
What is going on that so many have been unable to hear differing thoughts, differing viewpoints?
I think I might have discovered a deeper understanding as to why.
Humans have egos, and our egos find their identity in differences.
These perceived differences can become our identity (who we believe ourselves to be). Earl Nightingale is known to teach that: “We become what we think about”; we literally say I am this or I am that. But over identification to “this or that” can be very problematic. Why? Because it can significantly impede learning, growth and community.
If we become so certain that we literally are what we think, then we will be very protective of what we think.
When we make ideas idols we fear their destruction and that’s implicitly destruction of self.
Many today cannot even have a conversation if it appears that the words spoken by the other person may threaten one’s own thoughts.
It’s not uncommon to hear “you just don’t understand”, but when the so-called ignorant seeks to understand, they are often shut down.
What is going on?
Why is this happening?
Because so many of us have become what we think. We have so identified with our thoughts, and identified others by what we understand of their thoughts, that we have lost sight of the person, including ourself, behind the thoughts.
So let’s break this down to the language we use. Have you ever heard someone say “I am angry” or “I am sad”? Of course you have, you have likely said these words yourself; but these statements are not true and they have never been true.
Because you cannot be what is temporary. To say “I am Angry” is to make a statement regarding your identity, so when you cease to be angry, do you cease to exist? The accurate statement is that I am “experiencing” anger, but anger is not who I am.
No one wants to BE ANGRY, but if you believe you actually are your current thoughts, a disagreement of your thoughts can be felt as an attempt to kill your identity. Notice how we have conflated some language to be violent. Thoughts may lead to violence, and a thought itself is only a thought; it might conflict with another thought, but it’s not inflicting violence on another thought. You cannot physically hit a thought - but if a person has become their thoughts, a hit to a thought feels like a hit to them.
Therefore who’s responsibility is it?
If we are to improve our ability to respond, it helps significantly to know that we are not our thoughts; we are not our self created ego identities.
We are not our thoughts, thoughts come and go, but if we have become so identified with our thoughts, we will naturally protect them at all cost. We will even join groups that think the same thoughts to grow our sense of self and feelings of self-righteousness;
“I am right, I am right,
I am self-righteous.
And everyone who thinks differently is wrong. I am good, they are bad.”
So says always the self-righteous.
When thoughts become identity, new thoughts are forbidden. This strangles opportunity for personal growth and greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Have you not changed your own mind over time? Did you have to die before you could learn? Not speaking physically of course, but to learn something new, it can often mean that what you thought before was incorrect; the old thought had to die for the new thought to be born.
We are not what we think.
My first book is titled
“Don’t Believe Everything You Think”
Yes, but who wants to be wrong?
If the thought is wrong, it does not mean YOU are wrong, you are more than your thoughts and so is everyone around you - SEE the human being behind their identity - first by seeing yourself behind your identity.
Today we have warring thoughts that we think are people.
This kind of closed mindedness naturally leads to protecting one’s own identity at the cost of another and puts a stop to growth and community.
Some out there take it to extreme and when disagreeing with others’ thoughts will naturally move to invalidate and cancel others before a conversation has even begun.
What again is at the foundation of this behavior? I believe, it’s over identification with our thoughts, believing we actually are what we think. And our sense of self - ego so wants to be validated. Frankly, the ego is always starving to be validated, but it never quite gets enough, because the ego isn’t real and it isn’t made real by validation. Our egos are our personas for interacting in the world, but behind those identities are real people, our fellow man, our neighbors who we are called to love like we love ourselves.
Sure, disagree with thoughts, but notice if you are feeling so threatened that you end the conversation. This is a clear indication that you no longer see the person behind the thought, and are more powerfully threatened by thoughts that are different from yours. If we cannot love our fellow man while disagreeing with their thoughts, where will this lead us?
There are two types of people in the world, those who are humble and those who are about to be.
Be the change you want to see - have the courage to put your thoughts up for debate and scrutiny. Only two things can happen, you’ll either find the thought to be strong or weak; and if weak it does not mean you are weak. In fact it’s evidence of your strength to have enough humility to be open to new thoughts.
Being open to discussion, disagreement, new thoughts, means you get to learn, grow and become more of what the world needs now. Thoughts are clouds, they all come to pass. Imagine that you and all your fellow humans are the sky, not the clouds. When we identify with a cloud we live in fear it will pass. Be the sky, the light and do not identify others for their thoughts, but rather attend all the more to your own thoughts.
Talk, converse, disagree, and love the other all the while. Hate breeds more hate - love breeds more love.
Consider spending more time in reflection and less time in objection and you’ll make it a great week!