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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

What Everyone Should Know about the Dangers of Their Minds

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 1st 2010

dangerOur beliefs and interpretations in this world have a tremendous effect on how we feel and lead into the next moments that unfold. William Shakespeare said, "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." An event happens and usually we get a gut feeling how it hits us. We may notice reactions of anger, hurt, shame, joy, calm, or peace. However, often times in between the event that occurred and the feeling that arose there is an interpretation. Without awareness of this interpretation, we can be driven into perpetual dangerous waters of increased stress, anxiety, depression, you name it. .

It's this interpretation that we want to get curious about. Here is a story from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook that can serve as an example:

"When we get caught up in busy routines at work, it's all too easy to go on autopilot without even realizing it. Sometimes the focus on productivity and deadlines can cause us to forget that those we work with are human and want to be listened to and respected. Joe, a thirty-two-year-old software engineer, is a case in point. He dreaded going to work because of the tension he felt with his boss, who had gotten into a pattern of nagging him for end-of-day reports. He complied begrudgingly, and every time he was called into her office, he immediately felt tense and irritated. Although he pretended to listen to her, he often whistled a tune in his head as she spoke to him.

Eventually, this stress caused him to sign up for a mindfulness program. As he began to work with mindfulness in his own life, he saw how he could bring this approach into the workplace, and into his interactions and relationship with his boss. Even just this realization helped him become open to more possibilities as to why she might be irritable. As he considered that she probably had her own disappointments, losses, and wounds in life, she became more human to him. He started really listening to her and discovered that much of what she said and how she said it conveyed the stress of her job, and that what he had seen as nagging was less about him and more about fears in regard to her own performance. Then he did something completely different: He told his boss that he admired her for being able to handle such big responsibilities. She thanked him and then shared that she had been feeling overwhelmed in recent months because her mother had been in and out of the hospital for an aggressive cancer. Joe noticed that he felt empathy for her, and even loving-kindness, so he silently wished her health, happiness, and safety. From that day on, when he walked down the hall to her office he noticed that he wasn't tense and that his breathing was steady. He also noticed that he actually smiled at her at times, and that she seemed more pleasant in their interactions."

To be able to pop out of auto-pilot and see our interpretations can make a big difference on our stress and the way we view the world.

Is getting a ticket a reason to curse the cop or a message to slow down? When a person isn't calling does that mean that they're angry with you or just very busy? When your boss isn't paying attention to you, does that mean s/he does not like you or trusts you?

We often just automatically make assumptions and it's important to become aware of this and consider alternatives. If it involves another person, we may then choose to go check it out rather than mind read ourselves into uncomfortable feelings.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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