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Thoughts are Bullies

Our thoughts can be helpful companions which enable us to do the things we want to do. Or they can be unhelpful and hold us back - especially if these are core beliefs about ourselves. A useful way to think about unhelpful thoughts - since it's bullying week - is that they are like bullies.


So why are thoughts like bullies?


  • When you run from a bully or cower, they gain strength and confidence.


  • But when you stand up to them they back off.


Just like thoughts they may be upsetting and annoying. Remember that we have 2 ways of dealing with upsetting thoughts.


  1. Stand up to them and then bring your attention elsewhere

  2. Stand up to them and argue with them - What we do here is examine the evidence for and against the thought. Remember thoughts are opinions, not facts.


In both cases the first thing we do is stand tall instead of cowering. The next step depends on the situation. Different approaches will work for you at different times/


  • Sometimes it will be most helpful to decide “This thought is upsetting but I choose to bring my attention to something else”. This is essentially a mindfulness approach where we are observing the thought, rather than getting stuck in the feeling that the thought must be true.

  • Sometimes it will be most helpful to take the thought and say “OK well let’s look at the evidence for this thought”. For instance I might think “I’m no good at anything - I should just quit”. Then I can say “That’s interesting because just recently I did A, B, and C. and those things were successful - so maybe this thought is because I’m feeling down, stressed, or tired today.


Our thoughts come and go, just like our emotions come and go. Anything that comes and goes cannot be truly us. Some of us are prone to upsetting and judgemental thoughts, or self-talk. Thinking of these thoughts as something external to ourselves - like schoolyard bullies - can be a helpful way to remember how to manage them.


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