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

What are Thoughts and Who Are You?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 8th 2013

questionI’m not exactly sure who came up with the term “Don’t believe everything you think,” but perhaps that person should win some award for coming up with a statement that has had a widespread impact on mental health. The sentiment behind it is thousands of years old and still today it rings as true as ever. When it comes to the struggles of stress, anxiety, depression, trauma and addiction, the thoughts in our heads can be big troublemakers. 

For a moment consider what these thoughts are. They are some kind of event that arises in your life, some of them we’re attached to (“I’m a successful person”), some we’re repelled by yet also strangely attached to (“I am a major defect”) and some are more neutral (“Oh, they changed the label on this brand of macaroni”). 

But where do these thoughts come from? 

When we’re born we don’t have language, but we likely are having some form of thought. Certainly mental events even occur in utero at some point as we begin exploring what it’s like to be alive. But as the years go on some become reinforced, while others just slide by the wayside. 

Depending on our temperament and how we grow up some thoughts will be stickier than others. If we grow up in a chaotic household with parents, caregivers or other role models telling us what we can’t accomplish all the time negative thoughts about ourselves will likely be stickier. If we grow up in an environment that encourages learning and that obstacles are inevitable, we may grow up reinforcing a glass half full. 

Nevertheless, these are just thoughts that appear and disappear depending on our mood. 

The common question arises, are all these mental events equal? 

The answer is that some are healthy and some are unhealthy.

Understanding that they are mood dependent mental events allows you to choose to ride the ones that are healthier for you, creating a sense of balance and let go of the ones that are unhealthy often causing anxiety and depression. 

But beyond that, if you are not your thoughts that who the heck are you? 

Step into the pause and listen for the answer. 

As always, please share your thoughts, questions and stories below. Your interaction creates 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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