Private Enemy Number One?

I gave a talk at my Toastmaster’s Club this week and wanted to share the main theme with you. Before I do, I must tell you that if you have any desire to be a better communicator, you definitely should check out Toastmasters. It is a worldwide organization that helps anyone grow from where they are to where they want to be. We meet every Wednesday at 5:30 pm at the Quality Center for Business at San Juan College. There is no pressure to join, and visitors are always warmly welcomed – never embarrassed in any way.
My talk was titled “Private Enemy Number One.” I began by recounting an incident I had some years ago at Tingley Collesium in Albuquerque. I attended a day-long seminar led by motivational speakers such as Rudy Giuliani, Laura Bush, Terry Bradshaw, and many others. It was a delightful experience. At one point in between speakers, I was contemplating what I had heard and people-watching – one of my favorite things to do in life.
As I was looking around, I noticed a police officer walking down the steps just to my left. He took a few more steps, and this thought popped into my mind “wow, I could have just grabbed his gun and started shooting people.” Please let me assure you that I am not a homicidal maniac and that random thought faded quickly into oblivion. But do you, like me, ever wonder where those thoughts come from? Please don’t try to convince me that you don’t know what I’m talking about. We all have crazy, outrageous, totally absurd thoughts come into our minds fairly frequently. Trust me you are not alone.
Many times I find myself wondering who is in my mind anyway who is generating such thoughts. I have an answer I am comfortable with, but it involves aspects of the Bible and Christian thinking. Since I write this post to a wide audience, some or many of whom are not believers, I will keep those thoughts to myself. If you care to hear them send me an e-mail to and I’ll be happy to share them with you.
Here’s the point I want to make. We all are subject to random thoughts that appear in our minds without warning or provocation. We simply cannot control or prevent them from occurring. We can, and must, however, take control of these thoughts once we become aware of them. We do not have to participate in every conversation that begins in our minds.
So I’ll leave you with two suggestions for how you can exercise better control over your thinking and self-talk. One is to pause and ask yourself “who are you talking to?” I have found this to be very helpful in gaining mastery over wreckless thoughts that are rarely if ever, in my best interest. By asking myself “who are you talking to?” I force myself to move into the analytical, thinking portion of my brain where I can quickly determine that the precipitating thought is not from me and not something I need to spend any more time on. I used to beat myself up for having such thoughts in the first place, but since I now have a clearer understanding of their origins I no longer engage in berating myself
The second suggestion is to learn to speak to yourself in the third person. For example, when I notice I am getting upset or that a harmful thought has just popped into my mind, I will pause and say “Ron, what’s going on right now?”or “Ron, what do you think you should do about this?” or “Ron, maybe you should go for a walk and calm down – what do you think?” This practice may sound simplistic to you, but there is much research available that speaks to its relevance and practicality.
We all have a portion of our brain designed for thought, and another portion for emotions. What happens to us far too often is that we allow our emotional brain to make thinking decisions for us and the result is usually unpleasant or worse. Road rage is a clear example of thinking from the emotional brain. The same can be said for Relationship rage.
So I’ll close with the wonderful advice given by Bob Newhart in the YouTube clip “Just Stop It!” (If you have never seen the clip do yourself a favor and carve out 6½ minutes for pure amusement.) When faced with a challenging situation or thought learn to practice self-control, gain mastery over them and “Just Stop It!” I’m not saying it’s easy or that I have totally mastered the practice. I can assure you I am getting better at it every day for with practice comes expertise. Why not give it a try and find out for yourself if what you have just read could have great benefit for you and your relationships.

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