Most of us have been taught horrifying lies all our lives. For example:
“The world is a harsh and painful place.”
“We have to earn whatever acceptance and attention we get.”
“If we make mistakes, we are less worthwhile.”
Because we are taught these lies—with a great many variations—from birth, we BELIEVE them. We believe them so thoroughly that they become the foundation and framework for everything else we believe, feel, and do for the rest of our lives.
These lies are deeply embedded everywhere in our conscious and unconscious minds, and without any effort on our part, one or more of them will intrude into our thoughts—usually many times a day. Immediately we respond to these thoughts with fear, and if we do nothing about them—and why would we, if we’ve come to consider them as normal?—they will grow like a cancer, like a fire set among dry brush and trees.
Two weeks after spending some time with me, Veronica called, and I asked how she was doing. “I’m having a hard time,” she said. “You feel so far away. It’s hard to—”
I interrupted. “Whoa, stop.”
Emotionally, she was already spinning out of control, like a large rock rolling down a steep hill, destroying everything in its path. Once I had her attention, I continued. “Veronica dear, you’ve said less than three sentences so far, and they were all complaining and despairing.”
I interrupted again. “Veronica, you’re already an expert at speaking the lies of your past, which is what you’re doing now. You’re just repeating old beliefs, and they’re false. You don’t need anymore practice with that. So let’s practice speaking the truth.”
She had begun a spiral of thinking that never ends well, and which a great many of us are familiar with. Fear, like fire, will feed itself and consume everything around it. When fear appears, we must act far sooner. It’s much easier to blow out a match than a forest fire. It’s easier to stop fear and lies early, rather than wait until they have consumed us.
We cannot control the thoughts that pop into our heads, anymore than we can choose the dreams we have while we sleep. There are billions of neuronal connections in our brains, and from time to time they activate in ways that result in unpredictable thoughts.
We CAN, however, choose what to do with these thoughts. If we allow them to persist, if we entertain and nourish them, they will grow into a blaze we cannot extinguish. When we experience enough fear, our ability to make choices essentially disappears.
So what can we do when we have fearful or angry thoughts, the thoughts we know from past experience will spin out of control? For most of us it’s unproductive simply to simply try to stop thinking. If I tell you, for example, to stop thinking the word purple, you will immediately think that word.
So what can we do with these crazy thoughts? We can REPLACE them with thoughts we consciously choose. To Veronica, I said, “Instead of talking about how HARD things are for you—a word you chose twice in three sentences—consider what you MIGHT have said. You could have said, ‘Thanks for taking my call. It’s a real comfort knowing that I can call you and just feel your love for me. And many times a day I remember the time you spent with me two weeks ago. I used to feel so hopeless. I thought no one would ever care about me, but I don’t feel hopeless now. In fact, I have what I’ve always wanted.’”
We ALL can change our thoughts. We can remember what is true, that we DO have people who care about us, even if it’s one or two—which is infinitely greater than none. We can choose to be grateful, instead of whining about what we don’t have. We can remember the Five Truths we have discussed on many occasions here.
So let’s make this even more practical. Let’s suppose you have a fearful or negative thought. Do NOT wait and let the fear incubate. Do not wait to put out the fire until it’s consuming the forest. Blow out the match. The INSTANT you have a fearful thought, say to yourself—silently or even out loud, as I have with myself on many occasions—“STOP!! Stop it right now. You KNOW where these thoughts go. They never make you happy. So I CHOOSE to think about what is TRUE. There are people who love me. I know this. God loves me. I am not alone. I have everything I need in order to be happy. I have nothing to fear. I am happy, and everything else fades in comparison.”
This is not about thinking POSITIVELY. Not at all. Our goal is to choose to think about the TRUTH, rather than to entertain the lies that make us miserable.
Most of us are prisoners to the lies we have been taught from infancy. It’s a horrifying way to live. We do NOT have to live like this. We can learn the truth and dwell on that, which will replace the lies and unhappiness. We can begin to do that today, and then we practice for the rest of our lives.
Stop living as a prisoner to lies—Choose Truth
READ OR LISTEN TO: