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How to Evaluate Thoughts


Because humans do a good deal of thinking, we’re wise to spend substantial time considering our thoughts. Are they worthwhile? Are they helpful? What’s their purpose? How do we decide which ones are keepers and which ones to dump into the trash? 

You might even wonder what thoughts are for in the first place. Many dysregulated eaters view thoughts as truth, believing they’re one and the same which they’re not. They are random impressions from the external world as well as reactions to our inner world and emotions. Thoughts come and go and circle around again. 

Jon Connelly, PhD, LCSW, creator of Rapid Resolution Therapy (, a treatment approach not only for trauma but for whatever ails you, reinforces the idea that we must be careful how we assess our thoughts. To our detriment, he insists that we overfocus on whether things are true or not to the exclusion of evaluating thoughts through a more relevant lens. We’re obsessed with “knowing” the truth about how people perceive us, whether we’re doing things right or wrong, whether we’re successes or failures, and if we’ll be happy years from now. The last quest, foretelling our fate, is especially laughable. How can we ever know the truth about something that hasn’t happened yet? 

So if we don’t use truth as a way to evaluate our thoughts, what measure shall we use? Dr. Connelly suggests that thoughts must be considered in light of their value to us. We benefit from asking ourselves not if a thought is true but if it is useful or relevant. If I’m in the drive-through lane picking up a prescription at the pharmacy in my dirty sweats with unwashed hair, should I fret about whether or not that the clerk will think I’m a slob? Wouldn’t it make more sense to consider if what she thinks of my appearance is relevant to my life? Will her response impact my life? Unlikely. She’s going to give me my prescription no matter how put together or sloppy I look.

Many of our thoughts morph into worries because we are searching for something that is not discoverable. And not finding answers keeps us sleuthing for that kernel of truth. Try this: Start asking yourself if each thought you have is useful rather than true. Is the nudging thought to eat a pint of ice cream when you’re already full useful? No. Is it useful to think that starving yourself all day will help you lose weight? No. Is it useful to hate your body? No. None of these thoughts is going to do one positive thing for you. Be discerning and discriminating, instead, and focus on the utility of your thoughts rather than their alleged truth. Remember that only useful thoughts are keepers.