Sometimes we don’t like the thoughts that pop into our mind. Here’s an example:
“I can’t believe what went through my mind last week,” a client said to me. “I was at a shopping mall and noticed someone who was bouncing along talking and laughing with a couple of friends like she didn’t have a care in the world. The picture of health and happiness! And I thought to myself, ‘Enjoy it while you can because guess what? Nothing lasts forever!’”
My client went on to tell me how ashamed she felt. “I don’t walk around wishing bad on other people just because I’m living with this condition and they aren’t. But wow, that thought made me wonder if I’m not a mean person at heart. I hope not.”
When is the last time you had a mean thought that just seemed to come out of nowhere?
Our minds can come with all kinds of thoughts, some of them kind, some of them not so kind — sometimes with accompanying images – that are downright surprising. But there they are.
So what do you do when one an unwanted thought pays you a visit? Here what:
Accept your own humanity. Mean thoughts don’t mean that you are a mean person. That’s just how the human mind works. So don’t beat yourself up for having one. Say to yourself: “Okay, I’m human. I just got another reminder.”
Use some humor. Humor is a great way to respond to a mean thought. It produces those feel-good hormones that can drown out the angry thoughts and feelings. Note to self: “Yikes, that was a mean thought. Mean! Mean! Mean! Now go away.” And then chase it away with a smile, and maybe even a laugh.
Give yourself some words of compassion. How about this idea? Use a mean thought to remind yourself of who you really are: I’m glad I’m not the kind of person that would dwell or act on a thought like that.” And if mean thoughts are coming to you on a rough day, also remind yourself that you are dealing with a lot, and doing the best you can.
Wish well. Sending mental words of kindness toward the person you had the mean thought about can be a great antidote for a toxic thought. We are all facing our own challenges in life, whether they are clear to us in that moment or not, so silently wish them the best with whatever they are dealing with in life. You can even use your mean thought as a reason to be kind by smiling and saying a few friendly words.
Look for the message behind those mean thoughts. It’s been my experience that mean thoughts can be our mind’s way of telling us that we have something going on in our lives that we need to address. Maybe you’re working too hard and not taking time to rest, or slipping up on your self-care. Maybe you’ve been pushing away some other feelings, like sadness or worry, that you don’t want to face up to. Or maybe there’s something you need to do that you’ve been avoiding. Chances are, if you take a step back and look at what’s going on in your life, you’ll get a hint as to what may be causing all those mean thoughts. And then you can address it.
Be kind to yourself. Compassion is an inside job. If you’re having mean thoughts about other people, you may also be having mean thoughts about yourself. So take a look at your own self-talk. Give yourself words of encouragement. Do things that make you feel good. If you think kindly of yourself, you’ll be that much more likely to think kindly of others as well. We’re all in this together.
You don’t have to like your thoughts. But you also don’t have to be your thoughts. Each mean thought is an opportunity to think and act out of kindness. That’s the person you are!