Look After Your Mind No. 14
How to Change Bad Habits of Thinking.
It’s easy to get into habits of thinking that lock us into one unchanging perspective. Here are some ideas for looking at things in a different way.
Sombunall. The writer/philosopher Robert Anton Wilson coined this term. It means “some but not all”. It is a powerful counter to any tendency to generalise, or automatically buy into a worst-case scenario. So “The world today is a more dangerous place than it was fifty years ago” (some but not all parts of the world are more dangerous, some but not all of the time, than they were fifty years ago’). “Teenagers today are less respectful than young people in the past” (some but not all teenagers today are less respectful than young people in the past).
Maybe thinking. “Maybe” is as useful as “sombunall” for opening up one’s perspective, highlighting further options and countering unwanted negative feelings. “A couple of people laughed as I walked by earlier. They’re making fun of me. I feel terrible.” Maybe one of them had just told a joke. Maybe they were laughing at somebody else, or at each other. Maybe they were talking about a comedy movie they’d watched. Maybe they hadn’t even noticed you going by…
What would my hero do? Pick a character you admire from a book or film. Put that character into a situation you want to change. What would that character do? Obviously if your hero has superpowers and uses them, you can’t do the same thing. But what qualities does the character reveal - patience, determination, relying on others to help…?
Worry dolls. Years ago a friend of mine gave me a bag of worry dolls. These tiny figures were made in Guatemala. According to legend, Guatemalan children tell each doll about one of their worries, then put the dolls under the pillow before going to sleep, telling themselves that by the morning the dolls will have taken the worries away. It works for me too!
Worry envelope. Write your worries on a piece of paper and put it in the envelope. Date the envelope several weeks or months in the future. When that date arrives, open the envelope. You may be surprised to realise that the problems you wrote down never happened, or that you dealt with them, or that you forgot about them entirely. The writer Mark Twain said, “I’ve had many worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
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