The Secret of Thought Control
“You can change your life by altering your thoughts.” This is a statement I have made thousands of times. And quite often someone will write [to me]: “Well, that sounds wonderful, but how can you control your thoughts?” To some persons, it is about like trying to control the sun or the moon.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” And I say, “A person is as positive in thought as he decides to be.” We are negative, fearful, anxious, bitter not by reason of things around us, but by reason of our habitual way of thinking about these things.
There is a tendency in metaphysics to put so much emphasis on “the mind” that we come to act as if we are, simply, minds that think. But if you are a mind, then how can you control the thoughts of your mind? The secret of thought control is the realization that you are not a mind, you have a mind. And the “you” that has your mind can control the thoughts that pass through your mind.
It is often written, “You are what you think.” This is not really accurate, because you are thinking what you think. But the “you” that thinks is more than the thought. The need is to consciously dis-identify yourself from your mind, so that you can become established at the Center of your Being, as the master of your life. You see, you are not your mind, you have a mind, and you can control your mind and think the kind of thoughts that you want to see manifest in your life.
The starting point of thought control is the realization that the thoughts are in your mind, and you have the power to control your mind. The problem is “thought reactions,” simply because most of us have lived most of our lives thinking reactively instead of creatively. Your thought reactions are your reactions, and it is your mind. You can think as you want to think and react as you train yourself to react. Thought is a creative process, or it should be, and you can become a creative thinker, instead of a reactive thinker. But, you must believe that it is your mind, and that you can think what you want to think.
One of the problems of “mass media” is that it appears to be designed to control and influence thought—usually presuming that no one has a thought unless it is given to him or her. And the sad, and almost frightening, aspect of all of this is that since many persons do not use their minds creatively (remember Will Rogers: “All I know is what I read in the papers”), they become puppets on a string, manipulated by ad men and motivational researchers, and by every person and situation that “turns them on.” You have the potential for a creative and fulfilling life, but you must stop letting your grandfather do your thinking for you, stop letting the church do your thinking for you, stop letting the media do your thinking for you, and begin to use your mind creatively and control the kind of thoughts you think.
Now, what do we mean by “thinking creatively”? Simply, thinking about things as you want to think about them, instead of letting situations and persons influence your thought. A Quaker man was asked why he was so pleasant to a newsboy who was rude to him, and he said, “Why should I let him decide how I am going to think and act?” And that is the key to creative thinking. Why let other persons decide? All that you read in the papers, all you hear on the news, all that may come to you in the demands of your employers or the temperament of your co-workers, all will become, to you, what you accept it as being…and you have the choice!
One person may say, “Of course, I am bitter and upset! Look at what I have had to face!” But that is a “cop-out.” It is your mind! Never forget that! When you are established in your identity as having a mind, you will determine to think for yourself. Then you can read the news and talk to people, but you will not worship at the altar of “They say….” How often people deal with the subject of age and unemployment and the economy and the viruses that are going around entirely on the basis of “They say….” But what you do say? Cultivate your own insights, your own opinions, not to become opinionated, but to have strong convictions of your own. Do not settle comfortably into the “custom-made convictions” of a church or a philosophy or a political party.
A vital part of controlling thought is the evaluation that you put on what you see. Things are never what they appear to be. As far as you are concerned, they are what you see them as being. So whatever the appearance—a problem in your work, bad weather for the day, or a conflict with another person—how do you see it? Look for the good! See it in the Light of Truth. Don’t try to set it right, just be sure that you see it rightly. And when you see it in the right perspective, you establish your mastery, for you allow it entrance into your consciousness on your terms, and you will think what you want to think about it, and it will manifest in your life in the way that you have determined.
Note that there is a great distinction between thinking the thoughts you want to think about things and following the superficial practice of “positive thinking,” because, as it is usually employed, positive thinking is also a kind of “custom-made thinking.” In other words, some writer or teacher gives you the “positives” to parrot, and so you go through the day repeating “metaphysical clichés.” People may not always know it, but Divine Law does! Paraphrasing Emerson’s thought: “Your consciousness thunders so loudly that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”
When you are established in the Center of Being, as the master of your mind, then you can wisely use what I call, “The ‘Yes!’ or ‘No!” of Mind.” If something woos you into the “sloth of despondency,” you can say, “No!” The controlled mind is not one that never has a negative thought. It may shock you when I say even Jesus had negative thoughts. Just note his wilderness experience. The “Satan” that tried to lure him to use his powers for selfish ends was the Satanic influence of his own human consciousness. But he dis-identified from the negative force, and he said, “Get thee hence.” [Matt. 4:10] In other words, you may not keep negative thoughts out of your mind, but you can determine that you are in control, and you can tell them, one by one, to “Go!”
Many persons unwittingly get into negative states because of their sympathetic approach to life. It is as if they feel they have a duty to “tribulate” when they see people with tribulations. Some persons read the paper with a heavy heart: “So much trouble in the world, so much pain and injustice!” As Emerson says, “They hang dismal pictures on the wall and daub with sables and glooms.” And they are forever responding to these outward signs and difficulties with “tch, tch, tch, tch, tch.” If there is something you can do, then do it…but only when in control of your own forces. You may feel, “Well, after all, one should keep informed.” All right, keep informed. You can be informed without “tribulating.” Accept the information that you think you need to function as a responsible citizen, but see it in the Light of Truth. And then, if there is nothing that you can do about it, let it go and say “No!” to it—not unrealistically denying that it is there, but denying that it shall bring confusion into your consciousness. Now, the hardened pessimist (or, as he might refer to himself, the “practical realist,”) will insist that “things are as they are, and it is just being blind to simply refuse to see the terrible things that are going on. I’m, certainly, not going to say I don’t have problems when the world is beating on me.”
Well, there is inspiration in the fact that those who have taken the hardest blows have been the greatest people. Their handicaps have only spurred them on. For instance, William Ernest Henley* was only twelve when he was attacked by a tubercular condition. At nineteen, one of his feet was amputated. Doctors wanted to amputate the other one. So, all alone, he made the painful journey to Edinburgh to see a doctor that he believed could help him. The foot was saved, but he was in the hospital for twenty months in great pain. And he wrote those immortal lines: “It matters not how straight the gait, / How charged with punishments the scroll, / I am the master of my fate, / I am the captain of my soul!” Now, of course, the pessimists have felt justified in feelings of discouragement and a terrible sense of injustice, but Henley dis-identified himself from the experience of the body and from the negative tendencies of the mind by saying, “I am the master!” And you can do the same!
In Truth, we know that there is good reason to keep the thoughts positive, because thought has molding power. When you think positively, when you assert your spiritual strength, when you think the kind of thoughts you want to see manifest in your life there is an easy and affluent outpouring of good. But when the attitude is negative, listless, doubting, bitter, we lose our chief Source of Power. We frustrate our Potential. We inhibit the Flow of Life and Substance, and we burn ourselves up with our own self-induced poisons.
Begin every day at the beginning. Get yourself centered at the Center of your Being, where you know that you are not just a mind that thinks about the passing parade of life’s experiences. You are a Spiritual Being with a marvelous mind that you can use for discovery and expression. It is an organ of knowledge and an instrument of Creative Activity. But you are not your mind; you have your mind; and you have the power to control its function.
So, centered at the “Spiritual Center of Gravity,” you are in control of your mind, and you have complete charge of your life! Yes, you can control your thoughts, and, thus, you can keep yourself “in perfect peace.”
© Eric Butterworth
* William Ernest Henley [1849–1903] English poet, critic, and editor.