My brain: OMG, guess what?? YOU ARE THE WORST, NO ONE LIKES YOU. LET ME LOOK IN THIS ARCHIVE I HAVE OF ALL YOUR FAILINGS AND PRESENT YOU WITH MYRIAD EVIDENCE OF THIS FACT.
Me: Hey! Wow. OK, that's a lot of evidence. Great job! How nice of you to find all those things. Anyway, Brain...so, I was thinking: what if there was another archive of things that show I am not the worst and am occasionally liked?
Brain: But...you NEVER ask to look in there! I stopped even collecting a lot of that stuff.
Me: Wait you already HAVE evidence?
Brain: Um YES, I mean, there's...this giant, overstuffed closet?
Me: WOAH. It is huge! What is in there?
Brain: Basically, like...every compliment you've ever gotten, every time you looked in the mirror with approval, all the times you've felt loved, every skill you've learned and been proud of, all the things you did because you wanted what was on the other side even though it was really hard…you know, stuff like that.
Me: Can we, you know, bring some of that stuff out more regularly? And, like, keep collecting it?
Brain: [a bit huffy] As you KNOW it is my job to COLLECT AND COLLATE THE EVIDENCE. I can ONLY do that based on what you tell me to look for. You kept TELLING me to look for the evidence of how terrible you are. How as I to know the other stuff was important too? I can't read your mind, you know, I’m just your brain.
Me: [soothing voice] I know. You were just doing your job! You were super good at collecting all the evidence of my terribleness too. I really appreciate it. Well done.
Brain: [mollified] Well, thank you for saying that. Now that that's cleared up, would you like to review this memory of how great you felt when you finished that article?
Me: I would! Let's do it! Thanks, Brain.
Your brain will literally collect evidence of whatever you tell it to look for, and it will flat out ignore what you don’t.
Take a negative thought in your life that feels 100% true. Like your job sucks or your boyfriend doesn’t really care about you or you don’t have enough friends, whatever. Your brain, probably unnoticed by you, has been diligently finding all the evidence for this thought, and flat out ignoring everything else.
Sound impossible? Try this. Challenge yourself to find three bits of evidence per day that prove the opposite, and do it for one month. You’ll be astonished how much evidence of the exact opposite thought your brain can find.
This realisation has changed my entire perspective on the world. Like: if we don’t have to believe those negative thoughts—if they aren’t more real than their opposite—then what do we want to believe? Bizarrely, frighteningly and exhileratingly (apparently that IS a word), it is actually UP TO US whether we want to keep finding evidence of something that makes us feel like shit, or if we want to do the opposite.