Thoughts About Thoughts

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Thoughts About Thoughts

March 13, 2023



Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) suggest that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected, and that what we think and do impacts the way we feel.  It follows that monitoring and changing thoughts where needed can change one’s life.


It’s reported that the average person has more than 6,000 thoughts per day. Becoming aware of these thoughts and thought patterns is imperative to changing behaviors and emotions. We will only feel as good as our thoughts allow us to feel.


Think of your mind as a thought machine that’s at work during all your waking hours and sometimes even when you’re in a deep sleep.


Where do thoughts originate?

 ·       Experiences

·       Programming

·       Beliefs

·       Environment

·       External Events

·       The Ether?


What are the types of thoughts? Thoughts can fall into 4 categories:

 1.     Internally Focused – Positive

2.     Internally Focused – Negative

3.     Externally Focused – Positive

4.     Externally Focused – Negative

Internally focused thoughts can be kind and soul nourishing or mean spirited, tearing down the ego and destroying self-esteem.  These thoughts come to us through an inner voice, what Patrick Fanning and Michael McKay call the pathological critic.  Left unchecked this critic can create anxiety and depression.  Kristin Neff writes about self-compassion as an antidote to the inner critic.

Externally focused thoughts determine how we see the world around us. This can be thought of as a frightening place full of danger or as a place where we feel safe and secure.

Unfortunately, we can’t just shoot thoughts out of the sky before they stick in our mind but there are methods that can be learned that allow us to become aware of and better manage our thoughts.

Our thoughts can be changed using 4 techniques:

Thought Stopping – Negative thoughts never end well. They breed other negative thoughts.  Some methods of thought stopping include scattered counting, auditory distraction, and meditation.

Thought Challenging – Refute the negative thought with contradictory personal experiences and evidence of a more realistic outcome.

Thought Reframing – Change the catastrophic thought to the rational thought.  For example, I will never work again, versus I will likely find a job in a matter of time if I keep looking diligently.

Thought Refocusing – Change what you’re thinking about to distract attention away from anxiety provoking thoughts.


There are also many cognitive distortions that have been identified as sources of misinformation. Becoming aware of common distortions in thought patterns can help alleviate thoughts that prevent our well-being. These include black or white thinking, discounting the positive, jumping to conclusions, catastrophizing, mind reading, and fortune telling.


With practice you can control your thoughts and turn your mind from a muddled, chaotic mess to a rational and positive source of well-being. 


Often our patterns are so ingrained that it’s helpful to engage the help of a therapist. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, consider finding a therapist that can help you change your thinking and break your unproductive thought patterns.


William Evans LPC