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The KEY Questions: How can I control my thoughts?

23 December 17

“Don’t worry!” they say. “Think about something else”.

Who on earth wants to worry? Who wants to be agitated or afraid? No one, obviously. But it sometimes seems inevitable. ‘Don’t worry’ is, like ‘Keep calm’, or ‘Don’t think of a pink elephant”, an instruction that sounds plausible on the surface but is actually impossible to carry out. It is always said with the best intentions, usually by friends or loved ones who may themselves be worried, i.e. worried that you or I may be worried, (perhaps they should take their own advice!)

The simple fact is that a worry is nothing more than a thought, one that we are giving excess energy to with our critical faculties.

The original thought – the worrying thought – came to us from the great ocean of Mind, and we could no more prevent it from entering our heads than we could turn back the tide. I vividly remember an occasion, quite recently, when I was attending a Three Principles retreat with my wife Anna. For some reason, out of the blue, a negative thought popped into my mind. I don’t remember the content of the thought. It could have been about money, it could have been health or work-related. It really doesn’t matter. Whatever it was it cast a dark shadow over me, at a time when I was supposed to be relaxing and enjoying myself. Anna is normally a very chilled person but on this occasion she became irritated.

“Why, all of a sudden, are you thinking about that !!?”

I reacted a little defensively, correctly pointing out that I hadn’t intended to think about it. I hadn’t deliberately conjured up the thought just to torment myself, or spoil the congenial atmosphere of the retreat.

The thought passed – as they always do – but that moment stuck in my mind. There was a lesson in it, and it’s about control, or more accurately self-control.

We humans have a sense of ourselves being masters of our own destiny. We live in the mistaken belief that we can, and should, control our thoughts, as if we could literally head them off at the pass, intercept them at a subconscious level like neurological bouncers at the entrance to our conscious minds; petty thoughts, jealous, mean thoughts, unworthy thoughts.

We can’t.

Our brains are not wired that way. Besides the attempt to stop oneself having a thought would also involve a thought. How’s that for a paradox? By the time you’ve registered a negative thought it is already too late to decide not to think it. Short of having a very quick lobotomy, it cannot be reversed. Consequently we all sometimes feel we’re helplessly adrift in a sea of random thoughts, good and bad, the bad ones being put down to a mixture of our tragic personal history and our present dire circumstances.

So what’s the answer?

Sydney Banks described Universal Thought as a rudder, giving each of us the ability to steer the ‘ship’ of our conscious mind away from rough seas and into the calmer waters of a happy and fulfilled life. Syd was not implying that we would never have bad thoughts. We can’t control them but we can control how much time and energy we invest in them. We have the power to switch our attention to those thoughts that guide us towards a happier life.

That is the true meaning of control in this context.

Thinking back to that day at the retreat – and in fact over many, many similar instances – I remember that I let go of that thought pretty quickly. With the bad thought went the bad feeling and my face and body relaxed back into their normal, pretty neutral state. I didn’t have to work at it. I didn’t have to ‘pull myself together’, (another of those impossible instructions). It happened by itself, thanks to this new understanding I’ve reached, which seems to act like an invisible user manual for the brain.

You will have bad thoughts from time to time, but judging yourself as a result solves nothing. It only creates more negative thinking. Remember that it only seems as if the thoughts have been generated by your past history or present circumstances. In fact they are coming from you, but that’s normal. They will fall from the ‘tree’ of Mind like leaves in autumn. Ignore them.

All the times when I have ever suffered emotional turmoil were all, every one of them, down to one thing: I chased bad thoughts with more bad thoughts until they formed an impenetrable ‘crust’ or barrier to my unconscious mind. Those negative thoughts overshadowed my true self, the one who wanted to be happy, who needed to be calm, who didn’t want to worry. What’s more when that crust was formed it tended to stop the good thoughts from getting through, those good thoughts that were always there.

Are you trying to control your thoughts?




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  • Having attended David's course and then had some one to one sessions with him my approach to my life has changed dramatically and improved. David has a very gentle and empathic way about him, yet managed to challenge my habitual way of being and thinking. As a result of our time together I now practice his "way of being" and I truly find that I am getting far better results in all of the relationships that I encounter. My inner chatter is under control, most of the time, and I am learning to pause and push away harmful thinking . It's surprising how habitual thinking can do so much damage and how, once you really focus on what comes into your mind you start to realise that you can be bigger than your random thoughts. So David thank you for putting me on a better pathway. Looking forward to sharing another journey with the Auspicium family!
    Rowena Wild

  • The course I attended with David Key was marvellous, every moment being filled with joy and laughter. David has a unique talent to teach, unlocking the full potential of every person he encounters. His course opened up an infinite number of ways for me to get the life I want, right now, today, and in the future. It made me realise that thought is fluid and that I can mould it the way I want to suit my day. I would highly recommend this course to anyone in search of a new professional career or for those who simply want a happier life. Thank You!
    Lucia Pohrebnyak

  • It took me about 5 years of 'dithering' before committing, and in that time I attended several introductory days from various training providers. David's accessible style and the unforced flow of the day is what persuaded me to choose his company. David provides a training model that helps you become your best self - as a student, as a practitioner, as a person. By 'best', I mean more open, less fearful, more confident, less judgemental - whether you attend the course to make a change personally or professionally, to build on existing success, or with no idea where it might go, simply because you are interested (that was me!) you will be impressed at what you are able to achieve with David's expert guidance showing you how to use your curiosity as a pathway to growth. In the first week following the course, I dealt with several potentially difficult situations both at work and home, coming from a changed perspective - resulting in no conflict, calmer colleagues, less stressed family. And this without actively using any techniques; the biggest change has been inside my own headspace. I can't wait to do the next course. Now that I know, unequivocally, the benefits to be had, I wish I had come down off the fence years ago! Added bonus, a bunch of fabulous new friends. And a final thought about cost; some of you reading this will be struggling to justify spending a chunk of hard earned money "just" for yourself. Well, I will be using these tools every day for the rest of my life - pennies a day investment! I am SO worth it. And so are you!
    Sue Bee

  • I first met David at an evening business club a couple of years ago. During his presentation something “clicked” with me and I felt compelled to further my understanding of NLP. I attended the Auspicium free trial day. My earlier feelings were confirmed. This guy knows what he’s talking about and has a passion for helping people. I duly signed up for the NLP and Hypnotherapy practitioner course. What a week. All in the class left in such high spirits with a very different outlook on life. Following on I have attended the NLP and Hypnotherapy Master Practitioner course. Again excellent. There was something about the Hypnotherapy element of the course that I loved so on to the Hypnotherapy Trainers Training (another absolutely brilliant week). All the courses that I have attended have been very well organised, have a great team of trainers and support volunteers. The documentation is well put together and the exercises are all structured to push yourself to show you have a grasp of the given subject. I now have a fantastic group of new friends who I have a deep link with. We still meet up when we can to catch up on what we are all doing. As of March this year I have been participating in the Auspicium Freedom Project. This is a yearlong “conversation” about the 3 Principles – Mind, Thought and Consciousness. It took me a while to “get” it but now just by “doing nothing” I find myself doing more with better results and no stress. There are no models or techniques to learn. We all have the Principles inside us. We just need to be woken up to how to use them. It’s a great journey that will take the rest of my life. David is a superb trainer and fully deserves all the praise he receives.
    Phillip Warris

  • Before going on David’s Practitioner course, I thought I knew what I wanted, where I was headed and how I was going to get it. All I wanted an additional skill to add to my portfolio. I thought my life was in reasonably good order, nothing that needed fixing. I can sum up my experience of working with David in two words: life-changing. Instead of just learning a new skill, David encouraged us to apply his teaching, our learning, to ourselves. In a very safe environment, I gradually dropped the barriers I had painstakingly built up over a long time. This change happened very quickly and I continued growing as a person, studying 2 more courses with David and joining him on the Freedom project. Why David? He is disarmingly honest, genuine and engaging. He has a very broad knowledge of human behaviour and passes his knowledge on with grace. As a result of working with David, I have changed, and my life has changed. In myself I am very happy and contented person. My marriage is better and stronger. My business plans have taken a different route - one that is exciting and feels very right for me.