“I’m an idiot,” says my client Vivi when she enters my office. My questioning supervision makes her immediately justify her claim. She tells how she recently behaved when she visited the toilet in the waiting room, how she did not dare to lock the door, but instead held the door handle convulsively to prevent anyone from entering. She had thought that it would be possible to knock on the door if it was locked, but she was still afraid that in that case no one would hear her distress call and she would be sitting there alone and helpless, who knows how long.

This is not Vivi’s only problem but it may illustrate how too many of us often reason and react. Her reply and behavior give rise to two important questions:
1/ Why does Vivi say she is an idiot?
2/ How can she get help to get rid of her phobia?

In this article, we address the first question in order to show in a later one how she can get rid of her phobic problems with the help of hypnosis.

We sometimes come across the statement “We are what we think”. It is said that the Buddha uttered those words. The question is whether the Buddha wanted us to interpret his statement literally or symbolically, i.e. in the latter case that he wanted to make us aware that it is we ourselves who through what we think build our identity, our personality, our self, who we believe and think we are. It is important to distinguish between map and terrain. The map here represents who we think or imagine ourselves to be, but it can never be a complete description or representation of who we really are.

We do not cease to exist when we are free from thinking. When we neither think nor feel but just are, we can still experience that we exist. In fact, we can do it more then than otherwise.

When we learn to observe our thoughts, we experience that they exist outside of ourselves. Since we can observe that we think when we think and also what we think, we cannot possibly be our thoughts. We can advantageously see them as our implements, instruments or tools with the help of which we can operate in the mental and physical world.

If we identify with our thoughts, i.e. we believe that we are our thoughts, the consequence is that we also identify with our problems. Many of our problems are rooted in this. We believe what the thoughts say and are affected by it. Then maybe we, like Vivi, say “I’m an idiot”, which shows that we don’t have distance to our thoughts. If, on the other hand, we say e.g. “Sometimes I can think I’m an idiot” or “Thoughts can appear that claim I’m an idiot” we mark that we understand that we are not the thoughts. Just because her mind says so, Vivi doesn’t have to be an idiot. The thoughts may actually be wrong. They may seem so sure of their cause but they are not people with brains and will, although it may seem so, but an echo of ourselves, something we ourselves have created. If we blow on them, they fall like a house of cards.

As small as an author is the book she wrote and as small as an artist are the pictures she paints, just as small are we ourselves the thoughts we create, have created or will create. Some expressions give a good description of reality, others do not. We say we have thoughts – a good expression. We do not say that we are our thoughts. We own them one hundred percent so we can do with them what we want.

If we see our thoughts in this way, we understand that we can also get rid of those we want to get rid of and we can create new ones that make us feel and function better. If we can’t keep this distance from our thoughts, we can experience them taking over and starting to control us instead of the other way around. We become victims of our thoughts. Vivi’s thoughts say “The door could be back-locked. Maybe no one will hear when I knock”. Assertions about the future that thoughts can reasonably know nothing about.

Thoughts that we think enough times become automated and pop up by themselves and assert things. They paint everything terrible that will happen, they maybe force us to check things repeatedly. In short, they can paint fn on the wall and make us feel uncomfortable.

By understanding that we are not our thoughts and that we are the ones who created them, we realize that we actually have power over them. Our thoughts only control us if we let them do so. The problem is therefore never that our thoughts control us, but that we often do not understand and therefore do not know who is always in charge.

The important thing is how we relate to our thoughts, All the time it is we ourselves who stand behind them and act through them. If they are negative, they lead us astray, if they are constructive, they help us further. If we think something negative – e.g. I can’t do anything, I can’t handle anything, I’m a hopeless person – can we create negative feelings that in turn result in bodily symptoms such as tension or a lump in the stomach, and beliefs/internal images corresponding to these thoughts. The thoughts control to a great extent the emotions, the ideas and the body. The opposite is also true, but thoughts evoke feelings to a greater degree than the other way around.

As Vivi recounts her tormenting thoughts, she remembers a game she played as a child. One would walk a distance from one point to another without thinking of a mauled elephant. In this way, many of us try to get rid of unpleasant and negative thoughts without success. The so-called positive psychology that seems to be in time urges us to replace our negative thoughts with positive ones. It is of course better to think positively than negatively. But if you only focus on thinking positively, the risk is that you put the positive thoughts on top of the old negative ones. Then it will be like trying to plant flowers before you have cleared the weeds. As soon as you stop thinking positively, the negative thoughts shine through because you never really removed them. Admittedly, in all honesty, positive thoughts can act as weed killers to some extent, but there are more effective methods. What we try to avoid or push away continues to live within us and influence our life. But by learning to take command of the thoughts we create, the negative and unnecessary ones will disappear for good.

My methodology is that I am not asking Vivi – or anyone else for that matter – to stop thinking negative thoughts, nor to try to replace them with positive ones. I suggest instead that she learns to observe all the thoughts that come up. To observe means to stand outside the thoughts, to view them from a distance and thus to disidentify with them. When we learn to observe our thoughts, we realize that observing and identifying with an object are opposites. Identification is becoming one with something. Observation is separating oneself from something so that one can observe it from a distance. You thus create a certain distance between yourself and what you focus on. When you are an observer, you are the subject who observes the object.

In the book The power of focusing, Weiser Cornell advises us to say “hello” (Hello!) to all thoughts and feelings that arise. It doesn’t matter how we formulate ourselves, as long as we have the right basic attitude to our thoughts. We meet them, accept that they exist and what they are, observe them as something we ourselves have created. We know we are above thoughts. It is true that there is talk of the power of thought and it is said that thoughts can move mountains. But these expressions are misleading or actually downright wrong. It is we ourselves who have the power, not the thoughts.

The observer in us is the first important skill we need to develop in order to get rid of the unnecessary thoughts that can be the basis of at least some of our problems. The observation training is therefore the first step in the mental training I teach. How we can get into hypnotic states by observing and progressively deeper within ourselves, we will cover in a following article.

Jonas Sandberg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *