“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~ Aristotle
I’m not so sure I agree with you Aristotle. There are plenty of educated people who have trouble entertaining thoughts without accepting them. In any intense emotional state we become strict believers of the thoughts we think. If you’re depressed, educated or not, you often accept the thought that things are hopeless. When you’re anxious, educated or not, you believe that catastrophe is around the corner. It may be more accurate to say, “It is the mark of a wise mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
But what helps us shape a wiser brain?
Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., author of My Stroke of Insight, says that the biological time-span of an emotion is 90 seconds.
That is the time it takes for your body to sense some event, for the brain to process it, and for the noradrenalin to flush out of your system.
But do your emotions, especially negative emotions like anger, fear, and shame last only 90 seconds? Of course not.
Because your brain continues to kick up negative thoughts over and over again, continuing to fuel the emotional response. Training a wiser brain means beginning to get enough distance from a thought to be able to investigate it.
The Now Effect is based on a very simple quote by Viktor Frankl’s:
“Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and freedom.”
In taking a moment to just acknowledge a certain thought, there’s a space between awareness and the thought itself. This space has now become a “choice point.”
In this space of choice we can get a bit more distance and perspective from them with these four great questions from Byron Katie. As an example let’s use the thoughts, “I’ll never be happy again.”
- Is it true? – Maybe your first reaction is yes.
- Is it absolutely true? – This makes us step back a bit more and really entertain it. In taking a bit more space we might acknowledge that we can’t say with 100% accuracy that this is true. An opening has been made.
- How does this thought make me feel? – This gives us some more perspective into the power of this thought. “I’ll never be happy again,” makes me feel sad, tired and unmotivated.
- What would be different without this thought? – This allows us to potentially experience not only the power this thought has on us, but also the potential of what life could be like if we stopped accepting this thought as true.
We can take this a step further and say, “Who would I be without this thought?” Sometimes we become so identified with certain painful beliefs that we only see a limited, small self. This question opens this up to see the light and potential within.
As we continue to get space from our thoughts, entertain them, but become more skillful about which wants we accept and which we don’t, we begin to train a more flexible and wiser mind.
Any of us can do this.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.