Don't Let Your Thoughts Fool You!

I was reading an article on the internet called the Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time and it was very entertaining. My favorite was about BBC TV conducting a prank interview with a London University professor who claimed to have created the technology to transmit odors through television. His invention was aptly named “Smellovision.” He performed a demonstration using coffee beans and onions and asked viewers to report if they detected the aromas. According to the article, numerous people reported being able to smell the coffee and onions and some even said the onion made their eyes water!

We laugh at their gullibility, but we should also pay attention to the fact that our brains can play tricks on us. Sometimes we need to evaluate the thoughts we think and make sure they are based in truth and reality, because our thoughts direct our perceptions and feelings, which results in our actions. So, our thoughts play a primary role when it comes to our relationships being healthy and satisfying or contentious. They also influence our potential for success on the job, our health and our overall well-being. It’s worth a look into our thoughts!

Faulty beliefs about yourself, other people and the world around you that often stem from traumatic and/or unhealthy interactions and past experiences can produce what is referred to as automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). It is these ANTs that often have a profound, negative effect on your life. They create assumptions that block out perspective. It’s not uncommon for me to hear from people that a particular life experience has created a mental filter that all of their thoughts must pass through. Someone who suffered in an abusive relationship, for example, may “think” that no one can be trusted. They believe that this is an accurate thought based on their first-hand experience and project their mistrust onto other people in their lives. This may prevent them from entering into a healthy relationship because of the depth of their defensiveness and suspicion of others. But the truth is that most people are not abusive and have no intention of deliberately hurting another person; yet the irrational thoughts may undermine open, enjoyable relationships.

In my counseling practice, I utilize a therapeutic method called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Simply put, it’s a therapeutic approach that helps the patient understand what they believe and why they think and feel the way they do as well as gaining insight as to how their thoughts and feelings drive their behavior. We then examine how their behavior may cause problems that result in even more troubling thoughts and feelings. So when we begin at the source (thoughts) we are able to break the destructive, self-sabotaging cycle. During CBT treatment, we learn how to identify, repair and manage thoughts and feelings and ultimately bring about improved mood, success and relationships.

Patients who have been treated with CBT are often very surprised when they realize how their own thoughts have fooled them – sometimes for many years! It’s exciting to see someone break free from irrational thoughts that trigger feelings of anger, worthlessness, failure, shame or guilt. You have heard that the truth will set you free, and it does!

Can you think of a time in your own life when you believed a lie you had been telling yourself? Leave a comment below describing how you came to understand the truth. Or if you want to share a great April Fool’s prank you pulled, tell our readers about that, too!

This April Fool’s Day, take a good look at how your thoughts may be helping or hindering you as you go to work, interact with others, and care for yourself. If you think your feelings are playing tricks on you, talk with a trusted friend, pastor, family member or professional counselor. Don’t be fooled any longer!

Live, Work & Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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