How to curate your thoughts

by Lisa Rothstein on 04/10/2012

Choosing your thoughts
can seem so artificial. We’re told by all the self-help gurus that we can and should direct our minds. But when thoughts of worry, fear, regret and negativity seem more “realistic”, forcing positive thoughts feels about as natural as Barney the Dinosaur wandering into Jurassic Park.

However, I’ve begun to accept that feeling good actually works better than feeling sucky when it comes to getting things done. Rather than resting on your laurels and becoming lazy, you actually have more energy for the tasks at hand when you’re happy with yourself — and for that you need to think more happy thoughts.

Still, it somehow felt like I was “cheating” or being a foolish Pollyanna whenever I tried to consciously select ideas to focus on instead of accepting whatever “naturally” popped up.

But then I came up with this idea, which should appeal to the artsy among us (I know you’re out there).  Why not think of your mind as an art gallery?  One that YOU curate?

When I lived in Paris, I spent a lot of time — though not enough — at the Louvre. There was a big permanent collection, of course, but even with miles and miles of galleries, what was on display at any one time was only the tip of the iceberg.  I believe 95% was out of sight, in storage, and only rotated into view every so often, if ever.

There is only so much room on the walls of a person’s consciousness.  Yet, often we tend to hang a frightful piece we don’t like (or even a whole series), that makes us feel awful every time we look at it.  It gets a prominent position in the permanent collection, right inside the entrance, so that we have to keep walking past it. Worst of all, it takes up so much space, there is no room for anything else.

I’m not saying you should try to deny the existence of your negative thoughts and fears (which never works).  I’m simply suggesting you give them less wall space, and take over the curation of your own mind gallery.

In mine, I am removing and putting into cold storage:

  • Depictions of disasters that may or may not ever happen
  • The Fresco of every mistake I have ever made and fear i will make again (this one will need scraping off the wall)
  • The Tutu Series (Too Old, Too Late, Too Fat, Too Lame)
  • Pieces from the  Coulda Woulda Shoulda period (also known as my Blue Period)

In their place, I have many attractive pieces I can hang:

  • Portraits of All the People Who Are On My Side
  • Pictures of my Accomplishments So Far
  • Sketches of Exciting Future Plans
  • Landscapes and Tableaux of all the Beauty in the World (much of it right outside my window)
  • Scenes from Happy Times in My Life
  • Vignettes of Things I am Grateful For

I find there is plenty here to fill up all the walls with interesting pictures, and think I will enjoy walking through this museum much more. I bet anyone I invite in will feel better about being there, too.

Activity: Think of habitual negative thoughts you experience often. Imagine them each as a picture, with a frame around it and everything. Now do the same with images associated with all the things you’d prefer to focus on. Maybe even draw them all on paper, post-its or index cards. Now pick half a dozen or so to display in the “permanent collection,” with the others saved for rotation. Place the unpleasant ones in “storage”, and envelope, perhaps. If you feel so called, you can burn or toss them.

What’s going up in your gallery? Please share below!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ann April 11, 2012 at 4:21 am

What a refreshing way of reprogramming those negative thoughts!
I think another challenge is that the people around you do all they can to sabotage positive thoughts and being a ‘Pollyanna’ these days has almost become a pejorative. I’ve started to associate less with friends who are demonstrating a lack mentality.
Off now to start hanging some new paintings in my gallery!

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