What’s True?

It’s easy for us to have a mindset of right vs wrong. Our ego wants to protect us and be certain that we’re right!

However, that kind of mindset can be unhelpful. For one thing, it’s inflexible – very black and white. It’s also often an over-simplification of complex situations which require more nuance.

There’s also the problem of moral judgements – if you’re wrong, then that can sometimes imply you’re stupid, or a bad person. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of someone trying to convince us they’re right and we’re wrong. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It gets in the way of mutual understanding.

Instead, when it comes to personal beliefs, I find it’s often more helpful to cultivate a mindset in which we acknowledge a range of different perspectives, each of which may be (more or less) valid.

I try not to get hung up on which perspectives are right and which are wrong. Instead, I try to think about which belief or perspective is the most useful, and then adopt that one.

Here’s a great example: ask yourself, “Are other people doing their best?”

Now, you could conduct an extensive scientific analysis of other people’s behaviour/capabilities and try to determine who’s working at full capacity and who is just coasting along. But that would take a heck of a lot of time! And ultimately, would it really help you very much?

Instead, you could choose to believe:

“I don’t know for sure if other people are doing their best, but I know it makes my life better when I assume they are.”

Dr Brené Brown

This is a beautifully compassionate way of looking at the world. And it makes our life better!

It’s also useful to remind ourselves:

“Not everything I think or feel is true”

In other words, sometimes your brain just spits out random thoughts and feelings. That natural thing for us humans to do is automatically assume those thoughts or feelings must be true. Before we know it, we identify strongly with those thoughts and feelings and become very wrapped up in them.

But actually, a more helpful approach is to be sceptical of our thoughts and feelings, especially those which seem to come out of nowhere.

“Is this thought or feeling true? Is this belief helpful?”

This technique is especially useful for people experiencing depression. One of the symptoms of depression is that you tend to get “locked in” to a very negative way of seeing everything.

So it’s useful to remind ourselves to ask:

“What’s another way of looking at this?”

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