“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer
Have you noticed lately that people seem to be thinking less rationally? As an example of what I mean, I offer this: http://www.newsweek.com/photo/2010/08/24/dumb-things-americans-believe.slide1.html
Feel free to review the article in its entirety later. For now, here are a few of the highlights:
- 41% of American’s believe in ESP.
- 4 in 10 American’s believe there will be “death panels” with health care reform.
- 41% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
- In 1990, 20% of Americans believed the Sun revolves around the earth.
- 50% of American’s do not know that Judaism is older than Christianity.
- American’s can generally name more of the 7 Dwarfs than the Supreme Court Justices.
- 63% of young Americans can’t find Iraq on a map. 9 out of 10 can’t find Afghanistan on a map, even if the map is limited to Asia.
- 3 out of 4 Americans can identify the 3 Stooges as Larry, Moe and Curly, but cannot identify the 3 branches of the US Government as legislative, executive and judicial.
- Obama is not qualified to be President because he was not born in the United States (and this was reported again as recently as 12/8/2010!) http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/12/luke-scott-luke-scott-birther-baltimore-orioles.html
- Rep. John Shimkus telling us all that we don’t need to worry about climate change because God will take care of it! http://www.utne.com/Wild-Green/Climate-Change-Isnt-a-Threat-God-Said-So.aspx
11. Rep. Hank Johnson thinks Guam may tip over and capsize!
It is far too overwhelming a prospect to find all the people out in the world with erroneous beliefs and attempt to enlighten them. However, this appears to be a growing trend, and as a way to combat it, I am going to suggest that we each, individually, do three things: 1) examine our own thinking; 2) confront reality; and 3) mind our own business.
This is not meant to be insulting. Please allow me to explain what I mean.
No doubt you’re thinking “none of the stuff on this list applies to me.” And hopefully, it doesn’t. But ask yourself if any of the thoughts listed below have crossed your mind:
“There’s not enough time.”
“My kids should listen to me.”
“There shouldn’t be war in the world.”
“People are destroying the environment.”
“Women shouldn’t be so emotional.”
“I am right”.
You get the idea. We are all victims of our own irrational thinking from time to time. We develop our beliefs over time and we come by them honestly, usually as we are growing up, in our households, from loving parents who want the best for us. But somewhere along the way, some of the beliefs we’ve adopted stop working for us. They start to cause problems. They start to cause stress, or anxiety, or depression.
The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. It is very difficult to recognize our own irrational thinking patterns. It takes introspection, discipline and a very healthy dose of humility.
But it is so worth it. If you can both confront reality and mind your own business most of the time, you will experience a lot less stress in your life. I know this is true based on my own personal experience.
Let’s take one of the statements above and “analyze” it. “There shouldn’t be war in the world.” Nice thought. But what is the reality? The reality is that there has always been war in the world. However much we want there not to be, or think that there should be peace, the reality is there is war. To argue with reality causes stress. There is nothing wrong with working towards peace – it is a truly noble goal. We should all be working towards peace and getting our thinking straight as a way to eliminate conflict.
In the meantime, we need to acknowledge that there is war. To do otherwise is to ignore reality – something a rational person would not do.
Another thought – “My kids should listen to me.” What parent does not believe this? But what is the reality? Do your children always listen to you? Or, like most kids, do they push the boundaries in their attempts to grow up? This is trying for parents (and kids) but it is normal. How else will they grow? We worry, and we say they “should” do this and that – but they don’t.
Again, this is about facing reality. The reality is that kids do not always do what we ask them to do. If you walk around continually saying “my kids should listen to me” but they still don’t, you are not facing reality – you are fighting it.
Our irrational thinking patterns come with emotional consequences. Thinking precedes feeling. For instance, if you think “My kids should listen to me”, how do you feel when they don’t? No doubt you experience a range of emotions – frustration, anger, sadness, anxiety. These feelings are often accompanied by physical sensations. They are usually stress-related, and this is not good news.
Take a different perspective and try to imagine how you would feel if you did not believe the thought “My kids should listen to me.” Chances are, if you can imagine not believing this thought, you can also imagine not feeling frustrated and angry. You can also probably imagine that you might treat your kids differently.
Of course, this is just an example and I am not suggesting that we all become disengaged parents who don’t care about our children. I am only suggesting that there is a relationship between fighting against reality and our mental health. In order to get balance, we have to get a handle on reality and stop fighting with it.
The other magical thing about confronting and accepting reality is that you quickly see that you have been trying to mind someone else’s business. In my example, you are trying to mind your kids’ business. Our children will not always behave the way we want them to or think they should. We need to accept that. That doesn’t mean we condone or approve of all behavior – but we need to stop fighting reality and think clearly.
There is a wonderful resource available to everyone that I have found very beneficial to getting my thinking straight and more balanced. It is called “The Work” and was developed by a woman named Byron Katie. I recommend it to people who want to find peace of mind and improve their thinking.
Please visit http://www.thework.com. Check out the resources page, particularly the “Little Book”, which is a wonderful explanation of “the work”, instructions for doing it, Emotions and Reactions List, and Universal Beliefs. There are also video clips of Katie actually doing the work. They are instructive and some are fun to watch.
“The Work” is much like the “Body for Life” program. Both are simple, but not easy, and they describe what I believe are foundational principles for good health – mental and physical respectively.
In closing, borrowing from the Emotions and Reactions List from “The Work”, if you feel angry, depressed, confused, helpless, indifferent, afraid, hurt, sad or judgmental, I hope you will take the time to investigate “The Work”. If you do, you will soon be on your way to feeling Open, Loving, Happy, Interested, Alive, Positive, Peaceful, Strong, and Relaxed – regardless of what is going on with the people and in the world around you.
Have a wonderful week!