Are Your Thoughts Serving You?

While I was cleaning my house the other morning, I was listening to a podcast by Brooke Castillo called The Contrast of Thoughts.

We aren’t supposed to feel happy all the time

A concept that Brooke and (and Jody) teaches a lot is that we aren’t supposed to feel happy all of the time.  We are supposed to feel negative emotion about half the time in our lives.  This contrast is necessary and good.
For those of us who are familiar with The Book of Mormon, we know that this opposition is a very important part of God’s plan.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. (2 Nephi 2:11)
How many of us can say that we only feel negative emotion 50% (or less) of the time? I’d venture to say that a lot of people (myself included) feel negative emotion more than we are supposed to, more than we are designed to.  And as I mentioned in my last post, it’s our thoughts that create our feelings.  So if we want to feel positive emotion more of the time – at least 50% of the time, then we need to start getting more intentional about the thoughts that we are choosing to believe.  We need to figure out if our thoughts are really serving us – if they are helping us to get to where we really want to go.
I want to talk about two types of thoughts that we have the opportunity and responsibility to choose to believe or not. – Absolute truths and Flexible thoughts.
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Absolute Truths 

In this podcast episode, Brooke talked about how we are all indoctrinated with certain beliefs (differing among each family/culture/religion/etc.) as we grow up, and we need to choose if we really want to believe those thoughts/beliefs or not.  
Some of these beliefs are not truths and these thoughts have been falsely taught to us.  These beliefs are not only not true, but they are not helpful for our progress and growth and we would be wise to choose not to believe them anymore – we would be wise to get clear on the real truths and clear up our misconceptions.  These thoughts are not serving us.  They are not helping us to reach our ultimate goal.
There are other beliefs that have been taught to us that are true – absolute truths.  Believing these thoughts may not always feel pleasant in certain circumstances in our lives, but they will help us to progress and grow.  These thoughts serve us because they help us to reach our ultimate goal.    
I think that we would all agree that there are absolute truths in this world (or at least we are 99% sure and the other 1% is based in faith).  Beliefs like “we live on a planet”;  “the sun is in the sky”; “our bodies are made of flesh and bone and blood”.  etc. 
You could say to yourself all day that your body is made of rubber, wood, and diet coke.  You could believe this thought to your core.  Unfortunately, choosing to believe this doesn’t make it actually true though.  Your body is still actually made of flesh, bone, and blood.
Of course, some might disagree with me, but speaking from my own personal experiences and views, I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an absolute truth. I have experimented on the word, tasted of the fruit, and found it to be true – absolutely true.
If you are interested in why I choose to be a Latter-day Saint, I’ve written about that here.
Of course, I still rely on faith, and I don’t have a perfect knowledge.  This discovery of truth also hasn’t been a one time thing in my past and the data collection isn’t over.  I will continue to experiment on the word, taste the fruit, and strengthen my testimony of the truthfulness.  It’s a life long process.  The roots get deeper each time that I test it out for myself and find it to be true, yet again.

Absolute truths are not up to one’s discretion

My view of it, is that even if I were to decide tomorrow to believe something different, to decide that the church wasn’t true, that wouldn’t change the fact that it really is true.  Just like deciding that the sun is actually in the ocean and not in the sky wouldn’t change the fact that no matter how much I believe that the sun is in the ocean – it’s just not.
And with religion, particularly, if we are experiencing doubt and exploring the idea of choosing not to believe anymore, we should be asking ourselves some serious and important questions.  Are we choosing not believe anymore because of fear?  Are we choosing not to believe anymore because of pain?  Have we done the hard work of truly experimenting on the word and seeing the results for ourselves?  Or are we basing our decision off of misunderstandings and/or being taught inaccurately?
My advice would be, don’t give up something until you examine it and figure out if you are abandoning your beliefs because of the actual beliefs or because of the perceived, indoctrinated beliefs (which may have come from a misinformed source).  Go to the source – and that source is God.  Find out the real facts.  Do some real personal experiments to find out for yourself if it is true or not.
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Scientists wouldn’t just decide that they wanted to stop believing in gravity because they didn’t like it anymore or because “if gravity exists then it’s possible to fall and that’s scary and painful”.  They would put in some serious work and experimenting and gathering data.  They would talk to reputable sources – not just google.  I would advise us all to do the same.  We should all be spiritual scientists.
We can also take a hard look at what we are blaming on our religion when really it’s not the religion – it’s our interpretation that’s misinformed, or it’s just our personal choices that are immature and poorly made. 
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash 
You could blame gravity for your broken leg, or you could realize that it wasn’t gravity’s fault.  It was a result of a poor choice when you jumped off a brick wall.  Or maybe someone else pushed you off the brick wall or misinformed you about the rules of gravity or maybe you are just immature, like a little child, who doesn’t understand gravity and the rules/consequences.  That still doesn’t mean gravity is the one to blame.  Gravity is just a law.  We are the ones that make the choices and the law just does it’s job.
I have seen too many people choose to leave the church.  Of course, I’m not going to pretend like I know their reasoning, and I’m sure they could rattle off a bunch of things that have happened in their lives to lead them up to their decision to leave the church.  It’s their choice to leave.  I just hope that before anyone chooses to give up their beliefs, they take a good hard look at what is really going on, and not just at their perceptions and personal pain.  That pain shouldn’t be discounted, but it should be examined.  Is the pain really from the religion?  Or is it because of misinformed /misinturupted (often complete opposite of the truth) thoughts about the religion?  
Ok…I’ll climb down from my soapbox.  I just feel strongly about this.


It’s still important to willingly choose to believe  

Even though there are some absolute truths in the world, it is still extremely important and beneficial to willingly choose to believe these truths/facts or not – especially when it comes to religion.
I don’t think that we should just go off of blind faith – just because “we were raised that way”.  That might be our starting point – and that’s ok for a while.  It’s ok to lean on someone else’s faith. But that shouldn’t be the goal and it shouldn’t be our ending point. We should first start with the desire to believe.  And then we should be experimenting on the word, nourishing the seeds, seeing the results ourselves with our very own eyes (often spiritual eyes) and then choosing to believe.  This kind of belief – where we do so willingly is much more powerful than blind faith. Blind faith can be shaken really easily when life gets challenging.  
Now that I’ve talked about choosing to believe or not to believe absolute truths, I want to talk about flexible thoughts.

Flexible Thoughts  

When it comes to negative thoughts and feelings, I view them in two different categories, like I mentioned in this post.
  • double negative
  • damaging / unproductive
  • damning / stop progress
  • source: Satan

The image that comes to mind is a dam.  It stops the flow and progress of the river.

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2. “Negative”
  • negative / positive
  • cleansing / productive
  • inspire progress / growth / improvement
  • source: Heavenly Father

The image that comes to mind is a child crying in the bath because they don’t like taking baths.  “Negative” emotion doesn’t necessarily feel good.  We don’t like it.  But it’s good for us.  It’s cleansing.

I think that the 50% rule with opposition, when it comes to thoughts and emotions, it is referring to the “negative” category, not the double NEGATIVE category.  Of course, we are going to experience the double NEGATIVE category and that is part of life, but I think we should do everything that we can to minimize these kinds of thoughts and feelings.  The “negative” category is helpful and necessary to our progress.

I am going to give a few examples of both categories of negative thoughts and the emotions they create.

    • Thought: “I’m not good at making friends”
    • Feeling created: shame, discouragement, hopeless
    • Thought: “I’m a horrible mom”
    • Feeling created: shame, discouragement, hopeless, disgust
  3. “Negative”
    • Thought: “My reaction was too harsh when my son was disobeying”
    • Feeling created: guilt, remorse, sadness
  4. “Negative”
    • Thought: “I’m going to miss my Grandma.”
    • Feeling created: sadness, longing, grief

I hope you are able to see how believing the thought “I’m not good at making friends” or “I’m a horrible mom” are unproductive, and damning.  When we feel shame, discouragement, hopeless, and disgust, do we want to go out there and improve, grow, and progress?  No.  We want to go hide in our rooms and eat junk food and just give up because it’s useless anyway.

Contrast that with the “negative” thought of “my reaction was too harsh when my son was disobeying.”  This thought still doesn’t feel great, but there is a silver lining.  The guilt and remorse and sadness that we feel motivates us to change and improve and try harder to be better.

There are also “negative” thoughts that we want to believe such as “I’m going to miss my Grandma” and “Child abuse is bad.”  Even though we would all agree with “Child abuse is bad,” that doesn’t make it a circumstance.  It’s still just a thought.  It’s true because we believe it, because we choose it.  We want to believe these kinds of thoughts because they show our humanity.

From Brooke’s podcast:
“But what about the smaller things we believe, our observations and truths, that are actually choices? We sometimes misunderstand and think that we should always choose to feel happy when we can, but this is not what any of us want. So we might as well be more conscious about the negative things we are choosing to think.
Which ones are conscious and deliberate, and which ones do we maybe want to change? What are the beliefs that we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that so many of us believe collectively, that maybe aren’t serving us, that maybe aren’t conscious choices? If we were to go back and look at all the beliefs that we’ve been programmed to believe and question each one of them, maybe there are things we would choose not to believe.
And I want to suggest that you start with any negative observations that you have about yourself that feel true but aren’t serving you and are completely optional. So many of you have unconscious beliefs that sound like, “I’m not good enough”, “I should be happier”, “I should be better”.
I want you to think about thoughts there, I want you to think about what else do you believe. “People shouldn’t do that”, “I should have had a different childhood”, “I should be prettier”, “I should be skinnier”, “I should be” – what is it that you’re believing that is negative that maybe you don’t have to believe, maybe you choose not to believe anymore?
You have to decide, “Yes, I want to think those things are negative, and I’m willing to feel sad and grief and pain over them.” But is there a middle ground? Are there other thoughts that I don’t want to choose to believe anymore, that I want to change?
I want to understand the reason why I’m thinking negative thoughts. One of the reasons is because of my primitive brain that’s afraid, trying to keep me safe. The other one is because I choose to, because of my humanity. But the other reason is because I’ve just been indoctrinated to believe something since I was a child, and maybe I can revisit those beliefs and choose to believe something different.
So I want you to ask yourself, what is a thought that you’re thinking at any point that is painful? And ask yourself this, why are you choosing to believe it? Is it a conscious choice? Are you doing it on purpose? Does it serve you and your humanity? Is it worth it to feel this way in order to believe this thought?
Child abuse is bad, yes, I think all of us can agree that it’s worth it to feel horrible in order to keep that belief and that thought. But there are many thoughts – “I shouldn’t be doing this”, “That person shouldn’t be doing this”, “I should be richer”, whatever it is, what are those thoughts that you think aren’t optional that you could change?”
The contrast of thoughts need to be by choice. The balance of thoughts can be within your control when you decide what you want to believe and why. Do not be confused. Every thought you have is a choice. Many of the thoughts you choose to think will serve you even though they cause you pain, but many of them won’t.
Look at each one consciously and make sure you decide again that it’s a belief that you want to keep. And if it isn’t, I want you to think about changing it. Own it so you can have some authority over it, so you can change it maybe into something that serves you more.”
Going along with what I wrote on my last post, I think that there are times when we have a NEGATIVE thought (that is damning) and if we ask God, He can elevate that thought and change it into a “negative” (negative/positive) thought that will motivate us to improve and grow and progress.
So to wrap this all up – we are designed to experience negative emotions about 50% of the time.  It’s an important and necessary contrast but it’s important that we are intentional about which types of negative thoughts we entertain.  Choose your negative thoughts – don’t get sucked in by the double NEGATIVE, damning thoughts.  Don’t let them come home to stay.  Examine your thought processes and ask yourselves if you have thoughts that you can let go, that you can choose to stop believing.
Allow only the thoughts in that serve you.  And I mean that in the highest way.  Some of these thoughts are very positive and happy and exciting.  Other times, these thoughts are “negative” and they don’t always feel great – they may cause some “negative” emotions like guilt, sadness, disappointment, etc.  But these are thoughts that move you forward on your journey back to Heavenly Father.  These are the thoughts that are truly serving you.    

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