On Thoughts & Thinking

One of the most profound things I read this summer was a little comment about thinking: “You are not your thoughts.”

Understanding that idea freed me from years of needless suffering. Because I always assumed that yes, of course I was my thoughts, and therefore my thoughts reflected who I was and my reality. And why is that bad? Because I think some horrible thoughts sometimes. Especially at three a.m.

Or when I’m in the middle of a first draft.

Some random negative thoughts I’ve had lately about my WIP:

This is crap.

You aren’t a real writer.

You’ll never make it.

You don’t have what it takes.

You’re fucking this up.

Boy are you going to have a lot of revising to do.

This is the shittiest shitty first draft ever.

You will never be able to write to the standards of Harlequin so just quit trying.

And so on.

Before I understood that I am not my thoughts, I would have believed all that stuff. I would have soldiered on, because I have to write no matter what, no matter if I am the worst writer on the planet. But I would have been shaken. I would have doubted myself and this path I have chosen.

But now? I know they’re just thoughts, and I am not my thoughts. Thoughts can be helpful or harmful, and since I am not my thoughts, I can just let the bad ones go. I don’t have to own them any more than I have to keep the dirt of the day on me. I can take a shower. I can change my thoughts.   

In order to believe in the profound logic of “you are not your thoughts” there has to first be a belief that we are more than our physical bodies. I’m not necessarily talking God here, not as the world defines Her anyway. But I believe I have a spirit, a soul, a core light shining inside that is connected to everything else that exists. I believe it it greater and smarter and wiser and kinder and more loving than plain old “me.” I believe it guides me, or tries to when I’m not being stubborn and doing my human thing of making mistakes and suffering and going after fleeting pleasures.

So, there is a sort of faith involved in accepting that I am not my thoughts. That I am especially not my negative thoughts. But that’s okay, because I have faith. And even that’s not something I always had. But after years of meditating and yoga and fine-tuning my intuition, I believe. I have faith.

And faith keeps me writing those 1000 words a day no matter what thoughts pop up to stop me.


  1. It poses an interesting question: what (then) are we?

    But yes I’ve come to think of thoughts as things that I have. It’s just that the little voice in my head sounds uncannily (and perhaps unsurprisingly) like my own audible voice. Similarly it has an unsurprisingly intimate knowledge of me – it always knows which jugular to go for – and because of this I assume it knows other things, things that are probably well informed and accurate.

    It’s after midnight here and I feel I could ramble on forever, so I might leave it here. Good thoughtful post though.


  2. Thanks John and Aisha. And here I was thinking that I said too much with the spirit/soul paragraph. Because really I’m not sure what that thing is…or where it comes from. It might be atavistic or the collective unconscious or something.


  3. Another way to think of it is this: just about everyone during the day encounters someone else that you think, “I could strangle him.” or “I’d like to bop them over the head with something.”

    But we don’t ‘own’ those thoughts. We don’t follow through. 99% of the time we’re just frustrated and don’t even mean them. The same goes with the thoughts on our writing skills and chances. We don’t ‘own’ them. It’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not written in stone or even ink unless we make it so.

    I recently read that same line, for other reasons. And it sure packs a walop, doesn’t it?


  4. I’ve heard Anne Lamott talk about her thoughts this way, too. I think you’re in good company, Cindy. I just read this quote by Byron Katie, “I love my thoughts. I’m just not tempted to believe them.” I’m working on that, too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.