A Few Thoughts About Thoughts

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The History Of Thoughts

BY BRITTANY MCGILL

Thoughts are what make us human, but they can also be problematic if they become overwhelmingly negative, intrusive, and/or repetitive.

How you think affects how you feel

How you think affects how you feel

How you think affects how you feel, so how you manage your thoughts is important. There’s a few different schools of thought on thoughts, each is different but not necessarily right or wrong.

Trend #1: What We Learnt From Freud

This way of thinking says that the events that go on in our conscious mind (thoughts, worries, images) have meaning, although this meaning may not be immediately apparent. Thoughts pop into our head for a reason, and are rooted in something deeper (in the unconscious) that may be worth exploring. This is a pretty old-school way of looking at thoughts, but still has relevance today.

Trend #2: The CBT Revolution

The idea is that thoughts are not fact and can be challenged. That is, you can get relief from emotional disorders like depression and anxiety by identifying and labelling unhelpful patterns of thinking, and replacing these thought patterns with realistic (although not necessarily positive) thoughts. These are the underlying principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) which is a very effective treatment for anxiety, depression and many other disorders.

Trend #3: It’s All In The Mind(fullness)

Mindfulness theory tells us that thoughts are a pretty meaningless product of our ‘thought machine’ (our mind). We give them meaning and power by paying attention to them. The antidote is not to challenge/change your thoughts, but to change the way you relate to your thoughts. That is, we can train our brain to observe our thoughts in a non-judgemental, curious way, rather than ‘buy into’ everything they are saying. This is the basic principle of mindfulness, which underlies many more recent treatments for psychological disorders.

If your thoughts are negative, one of the three approaches above might help. If you seek the advice of a clinical psychologist, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ way to treat psychological disorders, but good therapists will draw on an approach that should best suit you and your difficulties.

Brittany McGill is a clinical psychologist who completed her postgraduate clinical training at the University of New South Wales. She is interested in anxiety and mood disorders across the lifespan and uses cognitive-behavioural and other evidence-based strategies to help people achieve positive change in their lives.


 

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