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The Mind is a Reason Giver

The human mind is an amazing thing. It has evolved to enable us to read, learn, plan, assess, measure, judge, decide and remember. It allows us to invent solutions to problems, and identify, consider and accept or reject the reasons those solutions will or won’t work.

These processes have been fantastic at enabling humanity to progress as a species. They are the reasons humans are at the top of the earth-based totem pole. But they can also lead us, as individuals, along paths of uncertainty, because some of the thoughts created by our minds aren’t so amazing, or helpful.

In ACT, we talk about the mind being a ‘thought factory’. And just like any factory, our minds can produce duds. No factory is 100% efficient and productive. Likewise, our minds can generate thoughts that are not useful, productive or positive.

Our ‘thought factory’ can produce several reasons for one act or event. Think about a detective show or novel; even the most successful detective usually comes up with a number of possibilities before solving a crime. Another example: a dog and a child are together, and the child begins to cry. How many reasons can you think of for the child crying?

So it is with our minds. The mind comes up with a range of possibilities to explain what is before it. Often, the range of possibilities will include some duds – but a person may not be in a position to easily pick and reject the duds. 

Brian’s youngest daughter is 19. She is a university student, has a boyfriend and a car, and likes to join her friends at pubs in the city. But Brian is having a hard time accepting that his daughter is old enough to safely negotiate her new life, and every time she’s a little later home than she predicted becomes very worried about her. His ‘thought factory’ suggests that she’s been kidnapped, or had an accident, or is lying alone and drunk in an alley or in hospital. 

These dud thoughts may be based on our own judgements or those of others, or our comparisons of our own status with what appears to be the status of others. It may be that a friend or work colleague appears to ‘have it all together’ or be in control of everything in his or her life. Yet perhaps the colleague that Susie (the client with the ‘Fat Fanny’ album) thinks is so lean, mean and terrific has an illness that affects her weight, or perhaps the friend in the small-sized dress hasn’t enjoyed a decent meal for months. 

If we ask Susie to come up with a list of reasons for her unhappiness with her weight, and work with her on that list, we’ll come up with a list of potential factors that is likely to include her perceived lack of discipline, but many others, too. The factors may include her diet, time management, ill-fitting clothes, and even the comfort of her gym shoes, and can form the basis of a solution. 

Considering the mind as a ‘thought factory’ that produces a stream of thoughts, or as a ‘reason giver’ that generates both helpful and unhelpful reasons for thoughts, attitudes and behaviours, enables us to recognise that we’re dealing with products (that is, thoughts) that can be kept, nurtured and used, or simply allowed to pass by. 


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