You Are Not Your Thoughts
The mind can be a powerful tool, but if you allow it to be your master, you will likely experience much difficulty. Philosophers, religious leaders, and wise grandparents have been teaching this for thousands of years.
However, what does this mean? What does this have to do with physical therapy? What does this have to do with mindfulness? These are questions that I will attempt to answer in this post.
The statement – You are NOT your thoughts – simply means just what it says. To expand on this; you are actually the OBSERVER of your thoughts. Let’s examine this further. Sit quietly for a minute and observe your thoughts without judgement. Only the true “you” (some would say your soul or spirit) can do that. All of your other aspects are shaped by your ego (image of yourself) and your beliefs and biases (some of which, you are unaware of).
Coming to this realization can be one of the most liberating epiphanies of your life. Why? Because you will no longer be a servant to your thoughts. However, it’s usually not that easy for most people. Researchers say that the average person has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day. With that many thoughts, it’s safe to say that we are “in the habit” of thinking. In fact, we are so good at thinking that we often do it on autopilot. This autopilot mode can be the cause of a lot of our hardship. It’s like having an inner critic living in your head who just won’t let up.
I see this mind induced suffering with some patients in physical therapy. They have an injury or surgery that understandably causes them pain and fear. This is natural and normal. Unfortunately, for some patients, their thoughts about what they are going through, make their situation worse. This can happen when they unknowingly catastrophize about their rehab and outcome. This only contributes to their pain and makes their recovery more difficult.
The idea, however, is not to try and stop the thoughts, because thinking is what our minds do. As my friend and mindfulness expert John Nangle would say, “Trying to stop our minds from thinking would be like trying to get our mouths to stop salivating”. Also, remember, what we resist persists, thus we need to learn to swim with the current not against it.
Mindfulness training can help us develop another habit. The habit of being aware of our thoughts. Awareness of what we are thinking allows us to keep things in proper perspective. As a result, we can begin to view our thoughts for what they are, just thoughts.
For more information on mindfulness, check out John’s website Mindfuljohn.com.