Jul 13, 2016

What If People Could Read Your Mind?

My husband and I were watching a show the other night. The episode centered around a patient whose sudden illness involved lack of inhibition, meaning he said whatever came to mind. He said things to his wife, his child, his boss, the doctors, etc.  that were unkind and hurtful, things he would never say out loud if he could help it. These were people he loved, respected but his internal dialogue was full of negative thoughts.

I'd seen that episode before but this time it got me thinking. I find it interesting that the idea of how troublesome speaking your mind can be is an often used theme for movies and shows. There is the movie Liar, Liar, which I haven't seen but from previews have seen how much trouble is caused by his inability to lie. There is a Doctor Who episode where the people in a town can only speak the truth, not sure if they had to say what they thought, but if they spoke it was true. There is a scene where a couple walks by and The Doctor asks them if it is difficult always speaking the truth. The woman happily says it is not hard and the man says it is hard.

Am I the man or the woman in that scene? If I came down with an illness that made me speak every thought, would I offend and hurt my loved ones? I am a nice person. I try hard to be kind and considerate and loving. But even when trying, hurtful things can slip out. Maybe a sharp response or a sarcastic remark when I'm tired. Maybe I make an offhand comment about someone who bothers me in front of others. Those are things that happen when I am trying to be charitable, when I am in control. But what if I wasn't in control?

The real question then is what is really in my head, my heart?  What thoughts do I let run through my internal dialogue? Do we tell ourselves it is okay to think angry thoughts about our husbands as long as we don't say them? Are we critiquing Father's homily or what our friend's daughter is wearing? Do we allow a running commentary of negative self-talk, berating ourselves, complaining about our lives, or wishing our days away?

I think we all can relate to at least some of those scenarios. Things we'd never dream of saying aloud. But, really, what can we do? Who thinks happy, loving thoughts all the time? Pollyanna? I mean, even if your life is great, and you are content, you still going to think that the cashier is painfully slow or that you really didn't need to be at that meeting. So what's the answer? What is a fallen person to do?

Fortunately, this train of thought coincided with a talk I went to at a homeschool conference. The topic was how to be happy now, in the present. I'm not sure what I was expecting the answer to be, and the answer certainly wasn't a new concept to me, but it hit me hard. Give thanks in everything. Good, bad, ugly. We know this, right? It's in the Bible. But do we live it? What if I changed the conversation in my head? What if I actually thanked God for everything?

The interesting part of the talk was that the speaker wasn't suggesting we find something good in each situation for which to give thanks. Nope. He said we should thank God for the bad with the good. "Thank you God for this rush hour traffic" sounds a little counter-intuitive. And I know I read the story of Job and I'm still like "really?"  But here is the point, I think. Each bad or annoying situation (or person) is truly my opportunity to grow in virtue, to offer my suffering to gain grace, and to just reframe the way I look at life.

So, to tie it in to the negativity in our minds and the mortifying idea of how we would sound if each thought somehow made it out of our mouths. I think the key to pulling it together is humility. St. Francis deSales wrote of how instead of being surprised when we fall, we should be astonished by the fact that we can stand at all. We need to humility to stop thinking we deserve something perfect, but also the humility to realize that we can't fix our own faults without the Grace of God. Negative self-talk is actually pride speaking. So instead of complaining that I can't get it together, I can thank God for chance to grow in humility. When I am judging someone's intentions, I should thank God for the gift of that person in my life who pushes me to look at my own pride and intentions, and also challenges me to grow in charity.

I certainly think that part of the giving thanks in everything is finding the positive. It has to be, especially for us "glass half empty" people. When the baby soaks your bed, thank God for the baby. 🙂

Bottom line, I think being practiced in the attitude of thankfulness, and the virtue of humility, will change the thoughts that run free through your brain. You really will think the positive things first, and you won't have to worry about someone reading your mind! (Just in case you end up with some rare disease in a House episode or find yourself on an unknown planet with The Doctor! )

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