Cellphones (which according to my tween are just called “phones” ) have all these cool features, now. Some of them can be both helpful and annoying. One of those features you’re probably familiar with is predictive text. If you don’t know what that is, predictive text suggests words and phrases that you can use to reply or complete a sentence.
Today, I was at the sink and an unsettling thought came to me. It was so disturbing that I said out loud, “Why would I think that?” Instantly, I knew that I wouldn’t think that on my own. I wouldn’t voluntarily create a thought that makes me feel sad or scared.
That’s when I realized for myself that thoughts are suggestions. I have read and heard from various authors and teachers that “we are not our thoughts.” It’s another thing to have a personal experience that shows how true that really is.
As I thought more about it, I realized that thoughts are more like predictive text. We don’t originate them. They are little floating suggestions. My hunch is that our thoughts are potential matches for what we are already thinking or feeling, similar to when we start a sentence in Gmail and a few words appear that can complete the sentence. We don’t have to go with the suggestions, because we know they didn’t come from us. We get to choose.
From now on, I want to look at my thoughts this way. It’s very freeing to know that I get to choose what I think about. And it’s even more freeing to know that thoughts that feel bad, scary, etc. are just suggestions that I can choose to discard. I don’t have to ruminate on them. I don’t have to worry about them. I can just say, “No thanks,” and choose a better thought. Now, that’s empowering.
If you have a tendency to freak out over unpleasant thoughts, this may be empowering for you, too. You can begin to look at your thoughts as merely predictive text that you have the power to choose or discard.