Once you begin acting on the thoughts as though they are reality, you strengthen the beliefs. Over time, you become convinced that what you believe is fact, so much so that you do not describe them as beliefs anymore. You talk about them as if they were ironclad facts. In effect, you convert your reality into the truth. In my experience, that is almost never the case.
The truth are the indisputable facts about any situation that almost everyone would agree on. Anything else is interpretation. Thus, your reality is what you believe to be true. It is what you feel, and from that perspective it is very real. It’s just not necessarily true. When you can create that bit of loosening around your beliefs where you can see that whatever thoughts you are identifying with are just thoughts, you are on the road to freedom. You are no longer controlled by what you think, and that is crucial because you have no control over what thoughts show up in your mind.
It is important to see that your interpretations will vary widely from moment to moment depending upon your mood, your mindset, the thoughts currently swirling in your head, past experiences, how you are feeling physically, and sometimes even the weather. A neutral event can be devastating news, great news, or just plain news depending upon how you are seeing in the moment.
Let’s look at an example.
Event: At what I perceived to be the worst possible time (Is there every really a good time?), my Macbook Pro’s hard drive crashed last week.
If you’re in a bad mood, you’ve dealt with three other crises this week, you are sleep-deprived, or you just had a fight with you spouse, you may interpret the hard drive crash as a disaster. You may lose your temper. You may feel anger at the computer company for not making more reliable drives. You may feel anger with yourself for not backing up more frequently. You may feel resentment that you always have to deal with problems. You may feel worried that you will not be able to recover your files. You may feel overwhelmed because you have a million things going on this week.
For me, when I thought that I might lose important files that I had not backed up, I felt scared, worried, and anxious. Then, when I thought about how lazy and stupid I had been for not being more diligent about backing up, I felt anger and disappointment in myself. As I thought about all the work that would be involved in recreating those files, I felt overwhelmed. What REALLY HELPED me is that during all of these, I recognized what was happening. I was reacting to thoughts that although they appeared very real to me, were ONLY REAL because I interpreted them that way.
Possible Reality #2: Welcome news
If you’re in a good mood, you’ve just returned from a wonderful vacation, you and your spouse just shared a romantic evening together, you just got a promotion, or you are just optimistic by nature, you may actually be pleased with the news. You might be grateful that you have backed up your most important files. You might be elated that you purchased the extended warranty, and the total cost of repairs will be covered. You might be delighted because you’ve been looking for an excuse to get a newer model. You might be excited because you haven’t had anything interesting to do lately, and this is a challenging project to take on. You might be because now you have the impetus to set up a solid backup plan.
For me, once I was able to slow down the negative thought spin that came up at first, I was able to gain some perspective. First, I realized thankfully that the really important work was indeed backed up. Second, I recognized the opportunity to create a sound backup system going forward to avoid a serious disaster. Third, I felt grateful for purchasing the Apple Care Protection Plan and having the computer still under warranty. And finally, and most importantly, I relaxed once I slowed down enough to have the thought that everything would really BE ALRIGHT no matter what happened.
Truth: Neutral Event - Just news
You recognize that whatever thoughts you have about the event are skewed by your mood, mindset, and many other variables so you do not invest in either the wildly negative or cheerfully positive thoughts that arise. You recognize that your computer hard drive crashed, and now you get to choose how to respond. Without the emotion, you decide to make a call to the local computer store and take it in for diagnosis. You make a commitment to create and implement a backup plan, and you set aside 5 hours on Friday to organize your files and research online backup strategies.
For me, the recognition that a thought is not real or meaningful just because I think it, saved me a lot of distress. Once I slowed things down, I could see that whatever I was thinking - devastation, welcome news, or just news - was irrelevant. What I needed to do was to call an Apple repair specialist and have the problem diagnosed. Then, I needed to come up with a backup plan and get it into place to avoid this problem in the future.
The next time you notice yourself suffering, stop, slow down, and ask yourself, “What is the reality I’ve created? What is the actual truth here?” The insights you get can transform your experience of life.
Turns out my hard drive is perfectly fine. It was a logic board failure covered under my Apple Care plan. All the emotion I felt had no impact on the hard drive; it only served to stress me out. I have now organized and backed up all my files, and I’m in the process of setting up an automated, offsite backup procedure. Did I need the stress and anxiety from the apparent hard disk failure to motivate me to create the backup system? It would be tempting to conclude that I did but that would be a mistake. All that I ever needed was the decision to create the backup system, with or without the motivation.