We’ve heard a lot about viruses over the last few years, but no-one mentions the one that all of us suffer from on a fairly regular basis – it’s thought viruses.
We all have our own particular thought viruses: stories we tell ourselves that put ‘the fear of God into us’, as my mum would say. They’re the thoughts that trigger us into a state of fear or anxiety, usually about something that hasn’t actually happened, but we fear might.
There are also ones that take hold more widely in our cultures, which is how racism, sexism etc become so prevalent.
They all operate a double negative for us:
- Once there, we look for evidence that they’re likely to be true, in our own past, and in what we see and hear around us, so we build their hold on us.
- They affect our physical, mental and emotional well-being and increase our negative feelings and stress levels.
Like other viruses, we need to find a way to recover from them, and help ourselves to develop an immunity.
Firstly, we need to recognise we have them. Those recurring anxieties about our health or certain meetings, or something bad happening, all show us where they are.
Secondly, we need to start to exert some control over them. Look for evidence to the contrary: how many times in the past they weren’t true, how illogical most of them are.
Thirdly, we need to actively challenge them. When one pops its head up, we need to say: ‘Not you again! You’re not a fact, you’re a figment of my imagination. Go away, I don’t want you any more.’
Lastly, we need to laugh at them, because that is a fine way to reduce their power over us.
Thought viruses can spoil our happiness and peace of mind. Let’s choose not to let them.