The power of our thoughts cannot be underestimated. If we did not think we would not be human. The famous philosopher, Descartes, decided that the only way he could really know that he was alive was through his thoughts. He worked out that his senses such as sight and hearing could play tricks on him as evidenced through optical illusions or thinking we hear something when nothing is there. The only thing he knew for absolute certainty was that every minute of every day he was thinking. Even in our sleep are brains are active indicating thought processes are in action. When we are alive we are thinking.
The word ‘paradigm’ means a pattern or a model. Our thoughts are arranged in paradigms in our head. What this means is that our thoughts follow a certain model that we have created for ourselves. Very simply put an angry man lives in an angry world. His thoughts follow a model of anger. It almost seems that everything he sees or hears somehow turns into anger. Do you know anyone like this? Likewise a happy person lives in a happy world. The angry and happy people could be standing side by side looking out at the same world but ultimately see things totally differently.
So where have these models of thinking or paradigms been set up? The answer is they were programmed and set up from early childhood. Who ever our primary caregivers were gave us the blue print for the paradigm that would become our thought patterns. As a therapist I see this over and over again. Anxious people ultimately have one or more caregivers (parents etc) who were anxious. Angry people had a background of anger when growing up. There is a close correlation between our upbringing and the way we think as adults.
It can be argued that depression is a learnt way of thinking and being. If we came from an abused background, full of low self esteem reinforced by caregivers who constantly told us how useless and worthless we were, depressive thinking can become the norm. There are many scenarios that can lead to depressive thinking. Perfectionist thinking grilled into us from our parents can lead to depression.
This brings us to a main point in this paper and that is the concept of being ‘comfortable’ with our thinking including depressive thinking. Why would this be? It is simply because we have never had another alternative to the way we have been taught to think. If we did experience any of the above listed ways of thinking when we were children, there was unlikely another way of thinking operating side by side with us that offered a more positive alternative. Our family life as children tends to be our whole world despite any alternative ways of thinking that may be presented around us (such as from friends at school).
Often it is only when ‘dis-ease’ such as depression or relationship breakdown later in life surfaces, that we seek help to find solutions to the problems. “Why am I thinking this way? Why has my relationship died”, we may ask? The answer can often be found in our thinking, which may be that “I am used to be treated less than favorably; I am used to having low self-esteem; I am used to feeling low and not worthy – it would be normal and comfortable for me to keep this going despite how unhappy I feel”. Really, that is it in a nutshell. The real difficulty for me as a helper, a therapist is to shift this thinking, to get sufferers out of their ‘comfort’ zone and start to explore more positive ways of thinking and being. It can be quite awkward to move into this new arena, this new way of thinking and being, especially after years of being and experiencing the other negative way of being. But it is possible and if successful can open incredible ways of being that were once only dreamed of. It is possible to have and truly experience health, wealth and happiness. If you don’t believe so, it could be time to check in for a new dose of how to change your thinking.
Mark Lockyer is a qualified Social Worker and Teacher with extensive experience in the mental health field. He is also the creator of the web site http://www.depression-treatment.com.au/