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We Dig Thinking Ruts

Excerpt from Chapter 8 - Thinking

Three natural thinking patterns predominate. While as individuals we can change these patterns, each of us tends to have a favorite pattern, which becomes very automatic. Each of these patterns has pluses and minuses. Awareness of your favorite pattern can lead to lessening of the minuses associated with it.

Let me call the first, the young-soul thinking pattern. This pattern is characterized by a strong sense of right and wrong. It was usually learned, without any modification, directly from parenting figures, society, or religious teaching. There have been few, if any, changes in this pattern caused by direct experience since the pattern was incorporated, typically in childhood. Whoever exhibits this pattern has a sense of rightness about their actions, their thinking, their responses and their lives. Good self-esteem is frequent - a definite plus! The minuses, however, can be excruciating if a person does not fit the image of rightness that has been incorporated. For example, some of my clients with this pattern have difficulty feeling childhood anger at parents in therapy because they "should honor their parents." They wind up displacing such "wrong" feelings onto others or covering them with addictions. In order to move beyond the minuses of this thinking pattern, there are two possibilities, change the pattern or change what is defined as "right." For those more comfortable with the next two patterns, just the awareness of being in this right-wrong rut is often enough to start moving out of the pattern. For those most comfortable with right-wrong, however, the necessity for incorporating a new "right" is likely to be essential.

A second common thinking pattern results from the belief that you and I are really the same. If I think along certain lines, you too (if only you weren't so defensive) must think that same way. I'll call this mature-soul thinking, using the terminology (young, mature, old) as described in Messages from Michael (Yarbro, 1983). However, I make no judgment about the relative value of these three thinking patterns. Togetherness and joining become important values for mature-soul thinkers. Relationships are often rich and filled with empathy and understanding. Yes, a strong plus! Another plus for such mature-soul thinkers is their willingness to find out what is right and wrong for themselves rather than just assuming someone else's ideas without testing.

The minuses often associated with this thinking pattern are enmeshment in unsatisfactory relationships as well as anger, bewilderment and lack of understanding when you and I are really different, not the same. For example, if a mature-soul thinker with lots of idealism runs into someone steeped in cynicism, understanding will probably be elusive. As there were for stuck young-soul thinkers, there are two possibilities for stuck mature-soul thinkers. The first possibility is that if the mature-soul thinker can come to believe that in some ways we are very different, which is part of the old thinking pattern, then stuck-ness can disappear. The other possibility is to judge others as being underdeveloped because they don't think the way the mature-soul thinker does. Such judgments create the exact opposite of what the mature-soul thinker wants (togetherness, unity and relationship).

The old-soul thinking pattern is, "You do your thing and I'll do mine." There is no need for us to be the same. In fact, differences are celebrated, provided they do not interfere with my following my path. This can be a thinking pattern of inner contentment and is recommended whenever possible. (Its minuses of less togetherness and less certainty about many issues, while difficult, need not necessarily cause distress.)

Those who know how to think need no teachers. Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948

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© 2008 by Thayer White
Finding Your Soul in the Spirituality Maze


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Excerpt from Be Your Own Therapist: "Our childhood trauma knots propel us to act differently, to act for Mom and Dad in ways they want us to act, to win their approval to the maximum extent possible. We bend ourselves all out of shape in this search for approval and usually continue to do so well into adulthood."