THE LIFE COACH SCHOOL PODCAST – Brooke Castillo

Episode 136 – THOUGHT LOOPS

A quick follow-up from yesterday’s post:

This morning I slept in. It’s Saturday. Usually I am up maybe an hour before the children. But this morning, when I finally dragged myself out of bed, through the hallway, and into the front room, I found three of the children sitting on the couch together, talking.

Now, what was my emotion? I felt happy. What was the thought that lead to that emotion? I figured my children were planning what breakfast they’d make for the family this morning. They like to be in charge of breakfast together on Saturdays.

What would have happened if my thought had been, “These crazy kids are planning some big activity today that they are going to expect ME to drive them to, and ME to pay for.” What would my emotion have been if that had been my thought? I would have felt very cranky and definitely overwhelmed, seeing them sitting there, conspiring on the couch this morning.

The children on the couch was a neutral situation. I made it positive in my mind with my thoughts. I could have done the opposite. Remember from yesterday:

“All our emotions are created in our minds.”

Anyway. We had a lovely morning together, thinking helpful thoughts and feeling positive emotions. Waffles. Ha. Good morning.

Okay. Today’s podcast episode:

What is a “Thought Loop”? A thought loop is when your brain “creates a minor obsession to focus…your brain won’t let you stop thinking about it.”

Examples Brooke shared included:

  • Obsessively looking at someone’s Facebook page – usually someone that is no longer in your life, like an ex-friend.
  • Looking at stats, like stock market portfolios, or Facebook likes, etc. Your brain is compulsively focused on your stats.
  • Worrying about your kids constantly, or about your own safety – if the door is locked, etc.
  • People pleasing thoughts like, “How can I make this person like me? What can I do for this person?”

These thoughts do not serve us well! Usually these thoughts happen when we are “obsessed with controlling the uncontrollable, or arguing with reality”. Call it out. Recognize the thought for what it is: “Whoa. That is a thought loop. That is a thought error. It will not serve me well to keep this thought.”

While studying this topic together, my husband pointed out a thought loop I experienced some years ago. A neighbor woman in NYC didn’t like me as much, or in the way that I thought she should. To this day, I am not sure why it mattered so much to me. But it did.

Thought loop: Why does she do this to me? Why does she do that? What does she think of me? How can I get her to like me? How can I get her to feel guilty for not respecting me? She’s so wrong. I hope she sees all that I am doing. I wish she would . . .

I could not do enough for this woman to satisfy me.

A couple questions to ask myself:

  1. “What has gone wrong here, Rach?” Again, thought error loops usually happen when we are “obsessed with controlling the uncontrollable”. A good rule of thumb offered is this: Anytime you try to control what someone else is thinking about you, or doing, that is a thought error.
  2. “What am I REALLY wanting?” What was it I was really looking for from this woman? This question might take some thought-work, on any given thought loop. That’s okay. It serves us to well to determine what it is we really want? And then, once determined, we can provide that want for ourselves, “and stop trying to create it artificially with compulsive action. Compulsive action will never give you the ultimate results that you want.” Got that?! Never.

Let’s look at the brain. We have the prefrontal cortex and the primitive brain – my human brain and my animal brain. The primitive brain works well! And we need it! But the prefrontal cortex needs to observe that primitive brain, and manage it – like a parent manages a child.

Then once we have recognized that our primitive brain is on a thought error loop, we can separated the prefrontal cortex from the primitive brain – “the monkey” in the brain, is what I’ve heard Jody Moore called it. That is what my kids now call it. Observe that monkey, manage that monkey. Act and not react.

But there is a lot of energy that comes from that monkey – that primitive brain and it’s thought error loop! There is! That energy keeps us up at nights! We’ve all felt that negative energy.

It will serve us well to NOT resist that energy. Rather take that energy and redirect it on a project.

“This energy is now available to you!”

I loved that. Do you see how we took control back – how the prefrontal cortex took back control of our thoughts, eliminating that thought error loop, and then redirected that energy to serve us?!

We have that power! This is exciting! This is liberating! This is worthy of recognizing and practicing.