As I was thinking about the topic for my blog for April, I kept coming back to the notion of spring cleaning, and how we can “spring clean” not just our houses, cars or desks, but our minds. It is time to take out the trash, so to speak, inside our own heads. What are the thoughts lurking in your mind that need to be swept out? Any voices shouting at you every time you look in the mirror, or try to approach that cute guy or girl or when you’re trying to complete a work project? Anything whispering to you that you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, tall enough, short enough…well, you get the picture. What are the nasty thoughts that need to go?
Obvious head trash that needs to go are the repetitive negative thoughts you have about yourself and the world around you. Helping people feel better and think more positively and less negatively is one of the hallmark benefits of therapy. There are myriad books, programs and information about how to increase the positive and decrease the negative. Please spring clean that stuff.
What is talked about less, however, is the less obvious head trash, typically characterized by the word “should.” These are the thoughts that you really know something, or have the corner on the market of a solution to a social situation, that you are RIGHT or if not RIGHT, then you SHOULD know what is right. What is the problem with being right? Why do I consider this head trash?
The problem with the surety of feeling right is that it shuts down flexibility. It is another one of our brain’s tricks that keeps us safe and stuck, repeating the familiar instead of exploring possibilities, keeping us shut down in our opinions, actions and relationships. Being “right” is distancing in our relationships, it keeps us circling in our own heads instead of heading into the world with a sense of curiosity and wonder.
Have you ever been sure you knew why someone hadn’t returned your call and then started feeling very angry because this person was being totally selfish and rude, ignoring you, and you were ready to attack by the time you did finally connect with them? Ever had all this rightness, only to find out that they hadn’t called you back because they had the flu, or their Mom died, or they were out of town or their cell phone got flushed down the toilet by their 3 year old? Suddenly all that rightness comes crashing down (and typically you end up feeling like a jerk for thinking such horrible thoughts).
Avoid the tyranny of rightness. When you are spring cleaning this year, be sure to throw out the desire to be right all the time. Instead let yourself be curious, flexible, and open to multiple options. Challenge yourself to think through a variety of different perspectives. Ask someone who thinks differently than you why they think the way they do. Explore. Engage. Enjoy the freedom of not knowing.