As soon as we find a thought that creates our suffering, the first question we must always ask ourselves is the very simple question, “Is it true?” If we stop for a few moments and allow ourselves to really look, this question is often enough to help us discover that we don’t know for sure whether our thought is true. On the other hand, if the answer is an immediate “yes my thought is true!”—as it often is—it’s worth asking yourself, “Am I absolutely sure my thought is true?”
Many times, when we experience intense emotions, it is because we are believing thoughts with extreme words such as “everyone”, “no one”, “always”, “never”, “everything”, or “nothing”. These extreme words intensify our emotions because they leave no room for positivity at all. For example, we may think, “Everyone hates me”, “No one likes me”, “He is always mean to me”, “I am never going to find a wife”, “Everything hurts on my body”, or “Nothing ever goes my way”. But if we just ask ourselves, “Am I sure this thought is true?”, then it is usually possible to recognize that we can’t be certain such extreme statements are true.
Similarly, we also tend to unknowingly have thoughts that exaggerate the “bad” effect of unwanted events. For example, we might think, “My father will kill me if I get fired from my job”, “My life is over if my boyfriend leaves me”, “I need this job”, or “I have to get everything done”. When we believe these thoughts, we can experience a lot of fear. But if we allow ourselves to question the truth of these thoughts, it is often clear that these thoughts aren’t really true.
When we recognize that our extreme statement or exaggerated “bad” effect either isn’t true or isn’t known to be true, we lose our reason to feel whatever intense unwanted emotion we had been experiencing.
The Questions: Is it true? Am I absolutely certain that my thought is true? Can I be absolutely sure that such an extreme statement is accurate? Am I certain that I am not exaggerating the effects of a “bad” outcome?