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How many of you sometimes believe your thoughts are truth? Thoughts, truth—it’s easy to understand how you came to conclude that they are one and the same, but the fact is they most certainly are not. Truth is objective and evidence-based, whereas thoughts are fleeting neurobiochemiocal impulses which travel through the brain and work hard to make us believe they’re the gospel. Differentiating between truth and thoughts can make all the difference in recovering from an eating disorder.
Let’s look at what would happen if you were convinced that thoughts and truth were identical. Every time got the idea that you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat something, you’d take for granted that you had to. Because “I must have that leftover piece of birthday cake sitting on the shelf in refrigerator” would lead to a forgone conclusion, your inescapable destiny would be to eat the cake. Because “I have to be a certain weight to be lovable” would be something you don’t doubt is true, you’d believe you weren’t lovable at a higher weight and might act in unself-loving ways.
We come to believe that thoughts are truth because our parents tell us certain things which get stuck in our heads, only to be reinforced too often by culture. However, no matter who is saying them, they remain beliefs and nothing more. Since thoughts are mental constructs, we can change them by calling them on what they are: learned assumptions, not stone cold fact. For example, rather than insist you must have the leftover cake or be a specific weight to be lovable, you can observe these ideas and label them as thoughts. Using the higher functioning part of your brain, you can identify assumptions, but not act on them, which is an effective mindfulness practice.
Consider how you might approach eating and weight (and relationships and life in general) by observing rather than acting on your thoughts and treating them as truth. You’d think, “Oh, there’s that thought again, ho hum, I’ll just wait until it passes” or “That is only a thought and I have other thoughts, even opposing ones, that tell me something different.” Remember, thoughts have only the power you give them. Without your swallowing them hook, line and sinker, they eventually fade away.
If you have the perspective that much of the muck running through your head is nothing but thoughts, you can then evaluate which ones have a ring of truth and should be acted upon and which ones should simply be observed. Try being from Kansas and don’t believe everything you hear, especially if it’s coming from inside your own head.
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