Existential Psychology

Thoughts Are Just Thoughts

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Some people have thoughts so disturbing and disorienting that they wonder if they are evil. They feel isolated, that they’re flawed and different from everyone else. They’re terrified of what these thoughts might mean or what they might lead to. If you have these concerns, they make you, as Nietzsche would say, human all too human.

A reframe that might instantly make you feel better is that your concern about your disturbing thoughts is proof of your moral compass and a good sign that you’re probably not evil. Having them without any emotional reaction at all would be much more of a red flag from a diagnostic point of view.

Thoughts are just thoughts. They come and go, like clouds floating across the sky. Some of them are pleasant, some of them not so much. How are you going to let a few thoughts define you, backing you into a corner where you start to make totalizing descriptions about yourself? Thoughts are something you have, not something you are.

Thoughts can’t make you evil, only your actions can do that, and ultimately you are the one who wills your actions. Our actions run counter to our thoughts all the time yet we don’t think twice about it. Who hasn’t wanted to stay in bed yet gotten up for work anyway, or wanted to make some rude comment yet said something constructive instead, or thought about giving up on some project yet kept powering forward?

Cut yourself a break when you have those discomfiting thoughts that make you wonder if something is really wrong with you. Be glad you are concerned about them, accept that they are there without trying to run from them, definitely don’t act on them, know they will pass on their own soon, and consciously make your behavior sync up with the kind of person you want to be, and you’ll be just fine.