Thinking About Thinking

Posted on January 1, 2013

Meditation on Thinking
~ by Philip Tate, Ph.D.

Thinking About ThinkingOur society teaches us little about the importance of our mental activity. Regarding our physical health, we learn about medical care, diet, and exercise. Yet on a day-to-day basis, our view of life is equally important in how well we live it.

Most people don’t acknowledge that their way of thinking about frustrating events often affects them more than the events themselves do. People with “road rage,” for example, sometimes stay angry for a long time. Some find it necessary to pull off the road for a while to cool down. Yet they are not aware that it is their beliefs that create their rage (not other drivers).

What if that person had a medical problem or vitamin deficiency that contributed to such behavior? Wouldn’t you recommend he or she do something about it?

Indeed, most people can do better. REBT teaches you to focus on your thinking in order to reduce emotional disturbances. By doing ABC exercises you learn to discover your irrational (or unhelpful) beliefs. By disputing these beliefs, you weaken them and in doing so, lessen your level of upset so that you can better work on practical solutions to your frustrating situations.

Meditation on Thinking

Here’s something not taught in traditional Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT): I call it “meditation on thinking.” First, sit quietly. Then close your eyes and clear your mind by allowing your thoughts to stop completely. Observe what happens next. Your mind will not stay quiet for long! Every time you mind wonders, repeat to yourself what you just thought of, and bring your attention back to nothing. Do this, and discover what you learn of your mental activities.

Possible discoveries are:

(1) You do not have complete control of your mental activities;
(2) You easily get distracted and think of things you didn’t plan to think of;
(3) You stay with those distractions unless you deliberately bring your mind back; and
(4) Some of your thoughts contain emotions that are clearly different from the feelings you have when you are not thinking.

We can educate ourselves. REBT illuminates and diminishes those beliefs which we hold that help us to maintain debilitating reactions and enduring bad habits (such as addiction). Meditation on thinking facilitates awareness of our mental activity as it happens. When we combine the practice of these procedures, we increase our awareness and our freedom to act as we desire.


PhilipTate. Ph.D., is author of the book titled Alcohol: How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did, which is included in SMART Recovery®’s Suggested Reading List. This article originally appeared in a previous issue of SMART Recovery® News & Views

“Discover the Power of Choice!” Learn more about disputing unhelpful beliefs and other tools for self-empowered addiction recovery at SMART Recovery. .