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The Power of Thoughts

Years ago, I lived in St. Louis, Missouri. One day as I was walking down the street, someone passed me and they had an angry look on their face. My immediate thought was, this person is mad at me. Even though he was a stranger and I would never see him again, it stressed me out to think his anger was directed at me. This caused me to feel scared.

Later in the day, as I thought and processed this encounter, I realized he may not have been mad at me, but maybe he was having a bad day. The second realization I had was that I interpreted his response as negative because of my experiences as a child. My past trauma colored this encounter, as well as many of the experiences I had as an adult. Until that day, this was not something I was consciously aware of, but it subconsciously shaped how I viewed the world.

In the first ten years of my life, I lived in an unsafe environment. Because of this, my brain

developed to see the world as a scary place and people as unsafe. So this stranger, with an angry-looking face, caused me to believe he was an unsafe person. This response was directly linked to my childhood experiences.

If my childhood had been safe and nurturing, I may have interpreted this man on the street differently. Perhaps I would have thought he was having a bad day or was angry for some other reason that had nothing to do with me. With this interpretation of the stranger, I would have likely felt empathy for him rather than fear for myself.

Thoughts are powerful because they shape how we see the world and how we see ourselves. They come from what we have experienced in the past, mainly in our childhood. In a previous blog, I talked about core beliefs: These are things we believe about ourselves, whether or not they are true. These core beliefs shape our thoughts. It is so common to believe a situation is causing us to feel a certain way. But it is usually our beliefs that shape our thoughts about whether an event is good or bad and how we respond to it.

This process happens automatically. But we can change this response by recognizing what is happening and mentally putting some space between the situation and the thoughts we have about it. Then we are better equipped to choose our emotional response. Or, we can examine the emotion and decide it if is appropriate for the situation and where it’s coming from.

Coaching can help with this process. In coaching, you can figure out where these thoughts are coming from and how to work with the negative emotions they create. For more information about coaching, go to:

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