Monday, November 11, 2013

Declare Your Thoughts

If you've ever traveled abroad you've had this experience: when you arrive at the customs checkpoint you have to declare or reveal what you're bringing into the country. It can be odd to do a mental inventory of your luggage and realize there's an item of concern or  significance. I mean, you're the one who packed the stuff; it's not like someone snuck it in there on you! And yet there's something about having to write it out on a form or say it out loud to a customs agent that heightens your awareness.

The same phenomenon occurs with our thinking. Lots of odd things we pack around in our heads never get evaluated or questioned. So it never quite occurs to us: this thought is explosive... that one is toxic and contraband... there's way too much of this one... and that one is downright dangerous. So unhelpful thoughts can just keep rattling around in there doing untold damage.

Starting today, become the customs agent of your own thinking. You don't have to charge a duty or try to confiscate anything. Just say to your mind, "What thoughts are you carrying around? You need to declare them."

Two or three times today, particularly when you feel a shift in your emotional state, text out the thought you're having to yourself or someone in your support network or write it out on a sticky note or 3x5 card.

Hanging on the wall next to the TSA checkpoint of the Salt Lake Airport there is a big display of contraband items agents have confiscated from the luggage of travelers. There are guns, knives, nunchucks, chinese throwing stars, and even a machete.

In a similar spirit, here is a display of some of the thoughts my clients have caught their minds casually carrying around:

  • "I can't get over this problem despite years of effort. Why bother even trying to stand up to temptation?"
  • "That travel magazine in the waiting room rack has a woman in an infinity pool. I should browse through it and see if there are any other beautiful women I can enjoy checking out."
  • "Shelly wants me to get up with the baby this morning even though she knows I haven't gotten much sleep. She doesn't really care about what I need. I guess if my needs are going to get met I'll have to take care of them myself."
  • "This is a pretty mainstream website. I can look at these images, no problem."
  • "My roommate goes to his night class on Thursdays so I'll have the place to myself. I can get online and do whatever I want."
  • "This still isn't working. The problems with this work project never end. And there's always some new crisis at home. God is cursing me because I'm a sinner."
  • "Can you believe the material they're comfortable putting out? I need to get a better look at just how low they've let their standards drop." 

Simply exposing these kinds of thoughts by expressing them can be very powerful. Once they're stated explicitly, we can see that they don't make much sense. They're not nearly as convincing when they're dragged into the cold light of day. Language is the realm of logic and objectivity, and putting words to our thoughts helps restore our mental clarity.

If you think it might help to declare your thoughts to someone but you're not sure who, feel free to text them to me: 801-564-7566. I'm a collector. You'll be helping me expand my display.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Mark! I think this is an excellent idea!!

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