When we think of our minds, what comes to mind for you? We could say it is our brain. That wouldn't be too far off the mark. However, it seems that this definition alone is lacking. Many land and sea creatures have a brain. But do they all have minds? From what I remember in biology classes, we were taught that many of our fellow earth creatures heavily rely on innate and instinctual behaviors that are genetically programmed and do not require learning. Through associative learning, animals are able to learn through the association of stimuli and responses. So, though they are able to "learn" through the reinforcement of behavioral actions does that in turn mean that this is a mind-like action?
The human mind is a complex system that refers to the collective cognitive and mental processes that occur within the brain, enabling us to think, reason, perceive, remember, learn, and experience emotions. Our minds play a crucial role in shaping our understanding of the world, constructing our reality, and influencing our subjective experiences. It enables us to engage in higher-order cognitive processes such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and self-reflection. Now with that said, researchers from various disciplines, such as psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, continue to study and unravel the complexities of the human mind, seeking to understand its underlying mechanisms and how it shapes our perception of the world and ourselves. That is beyond the scope of the purpose of today's article. (So don't worry I won't geek out on you too badly with a long-drawn-out science lesson.)
Though our minds are remarkable machines, constantly processing information and constructing our reality, sometimes our thoughts can lead us astray, coloring our perceptions and emotions in unhelpful ways. These distortions, known as cognitive distortions, can negatively impact our mental well-being and hinder our ability to navigate life's challenges with clarity. Cognitive distortions involve biases, filters, and distortions in our interpretation of events, leading to skewed perceptions and irrational beliefs. These distortions often arise from automatic, subconscious processes and can influence our emotions, behaviors, and decision-making. There are many different common cognitive distortions; here are 10:
Viewing situations in extreme, black-and-white terms without considering shades of gray or nuances.
Drawing sweeping conclusions based on limited evidence or a single instance.
Focusing solely on negative aspects while filtering out positive aspects of a situation.
Jumping to Conclusions:
Making assumptions or predictions without sufficient evidence, such as mind-reading or fortune-telling.
Believing that our emotions reflect objective reality, assuming that if we feel a certain way, it must be true.
Exaggerating the significance of events or predicting the worst-case scenarios.
Taking excessive responsibility for negative events or believing that they are directed specifically at us.
Imposing rigid expectations on ourselves or others, leading to guilt and self-criticism.
Assigning global, negative labels to ourselves or others based on specific behaviors or situations.
Discounting the Positive:
Minimizing or disregarding positive experiences, achievements, or qualities.
Left unchecked, these cognitive distortions can have profound implications for our mental well-being. They can play a role in fostering anxiety, depression, diminished self-esteem, challenges in relationships, and impede our ability to effectively solve problems and make sound decisions. How do we disrupt this toxic cycle of having our realities distorted and often hijacked and leading down the road of destructive impulses that cause difficulties in our lives? I'm going to share a little something with you, that you may not have heard of before or even considered. Increase your self-energy.
If you come from certain religious backgrounds, the idea of increasing self-energy can cause some unease. I come from a religious background that often frowned upon anything that sounded too much like being conceited, being prideful, or even overly confident. Be humble. Have humility. Put others before yourself. That is the way I was taught to go. Like so many others, I didn't have the developmental or cognitive maturity necessary to fully comprehend what that all meant which led to internal struggles and increased issues with cognitive dissonance. How do I embody humility without downing and being so self-critical? How do I embody confidence without veering over into being conceited? How do I honor myself and my needs while still being mindful to watch out for my fellow humans? Would increasing self-energy be in conflict with what it means to be a good and humble human? To fully answer this question, we'd need to establish an operational definition of what exactly I mean by self-energy.
The self is seen as a fundamental and essential part of every person. Self refers to a core aspect of an individual's personality or identity. It is considered the natural, unburdened state of being or our spiritual center. When we think of self, think of it as embodying qualities such as calmness, compassion, curiosity, clarity, courage, creativity, and confidence. Self is balanced and fair not only towards ourselves, but also leads us to be so towards other people. However, our upbringings or even past pain and trauma can push self-energy into the background thereby increasing shame, fear, and negative beliefs. When this occurs, we don't always act in our own best interest. If we can't fully act in our own best interests, you better believe that we will also find it a struggle to act fully in the best interests of anyone else. In order to shift this narrative, you will need to surrender to self. But how to do this? Here are six ideas to surrender to self and increase your self-energy.
Last article, we talked about developing patience with ourselves and how self-compassion had a big part in this. So it seems a good place to start here when it comes to increasing self-energy. Develop a compassionate and accepting attitude towards yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and non-judgment. This can create a safe space for you as you increase your overall self-energy.
Engage in mindfulness meditation or other mindfulness practices to enhance your self-awareness and presence. By observing your thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment, you can create a deeper connection with your self-energy.
Connect with your core self:
As we discussed earlier self embodies calmness, compassion, curiosity, clarity, courage, creativity, and confidence. Practice connecting with your core self through visualization or meditation exercises. Imagine the qualities of your core self and invite that energy to radiate through your system. Visualize or imagine a safe and nurturing inner space where your thoughts can recharge.
Be curious with your self:
Negative thoughts will arise. We all have them. Become curious and explore these thought distortions. We do this by recognizing when these thoughts arise, exploring evidence that supports and refutes the thoughts, challenge the thoughts by looking for alternative explanations or perspectives, and replace distorted thoughts with more balanced ones. These steps can aid in developing a deeper understanding and connection with self thus increasing self-energy.
Set healthy boundaries:
Establish clear boundaries. Set limits and take care of your needs, which can prevent you from draining your energy or overwhelming your system.
As well established, this blog is all about self-care. Engage in activities that promote self-care and rejuvenation. Whether you engage in hobbies, spend time in nature, practice relaxation techniques, journal, seek support from loved ones, or engage in therapeutic activities that support your healing and growth, do something that refills your proverbial cup.
Merriam-Webster defines the mind as the "element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons." Depending on our life experiences sometimes our mind begins to think or reason in distorted ways. This distorted thinking can impact our emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and financial wellness. When we aim to understand the nature of these distortions, we can strategize ways to challenge them and cultivate more balanced thinking patterns. We can promote emotional resilience in this way by increasing our self-energy. When we are calmer, more compassionate, more curious, more creative, more courageous, more confident, and have more clarity we can be said to be in self-energy. Of course this will require commitment and practice.
As always, I appreciate your readership and would love to hear from you. Do you have any prior familiarity with the concept of self-energy? What are some activities that you can start to help increase your self-energy? Let me know in the comments below. In the meantime, please remember that wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!
"May I be I is the only prayer-not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong." ~E.E. Cummings
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