Painful thoughts – none of us are immune. They pop into our head and go round and round like a bunch of chattering monkeys on a merry go round at the fair.

It’s well and good when the thoughts are enjoyable and helpful but what if they’re not?

Everybody who enters my counselling practice is there because the chattering monkeys have been riding the fairground rides of unhelpful thinking for so long that they have become stuck in stress, anxiety, low mood or depression.

We don’t intentionally plan for this to happen. I can’t imagine that anybody would upon waking in the morning, stretch and say, “today I’m only going to think thoughts that will bring me down and depress me!”

So let’s take a look at how it happens.

The brain – brilliant organ that it is, is a meaning making machine. It is like a great big filing cabinet sorting experiences, sights and sounds into the drawers that it thinks fit best. The more data we produce on any one given topic (thinking about it, reading about it and talking about it for example) then the bigger that file will become and the more meaning the brain will attach to it.

The brain is also a pattern finding machine. This means that is continually on the lookout for patterns that it can make sense of and file away into those meaning/cabinet drawers. What creates the patterns? Repetition.

Repetition occurs as we think about, dwell on, mull over, read about or talk about something. There’s a saying: wherever your attention goes, grows. So the more attention we give to those thoughts that we don’t like, then the more of them we will get.

So next time those chattering monkeys are giving you grief, it could be time to take a look at what patterns might have formed and decide what you are going to do about them.

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