Who is in charge of your house?

  • Cynthia Johnson

In our programmes, we draw the analogy of the mind as a house. In the model, your perspective is narrow and limited and your thinking is negative. We cannot see far, and we cannot see the bigger picture. On the ground floor our behaviour is accusatory, judgmental, and self-pitying. Our thoughts may include: “management have stuffed this up;” “they don’t care enough; “I’m the one who is doing all the work around here”. We become defensive when we are on the ground floor, protecting ourselves from blame or fault.

We say when you are on the ground floor The Thought is in charge and is governing what you say and do, and how you feel. For instance, the thought that they don’t like you; that they want to get rid of you; that you are in trouble; or that you are on your own governs our emotions and how we behave. Our behaviour is emotional and when we are emotional our negative thinking is very intoxicating and convincing.  It is hard for to see another way of interpreting the events when we are caught up in emotional upset, and we will struggle to hear different points of view.

At the top of the house is a Loft. When you can put yourself in the Loft, - you, - The Thinker is in charge.  In the Loft you are able step above or away from your thinking and bring clarity and a detached perspective to your thinking.  From here you can see your thoughts for what they are: just a thought or interpretation, often not true, and we can watch our thoughts come and go without getting involved in them.  While we may acknowledge the negative emotions that we feel we aren’t captured by them, and we feel empowered to take action, or to choose not to. From the Loft perspective we can acknowledge emotional upset and clearly see what needs to be done and we can act with compassion.

On our courses we often ask participants if they can describe what the difference between being on the ground floor and in the Loft feels like.  Most people can readily identify the difference and the freedom being in the Loft provides.

We have to develop the skill of moving from The Thought being charge to The Thinker being in charge, and fortunately, with practice, this can be learned. The first step in moving from the ground floor to the Loft is to wake up and notice what is happening in the mind, and then to regain control of our attention. Techniques such as noticing and naming emotion and changing the questions in our mind can then help us to move to the Loft, see our thinking for what it is and regain a sense of agency.

The next time you feel agitated or stressed, ask yourself who is mostly in charge of your house: The Thought or The Thinker?


Photo credit: Jared Rice, Unsplash

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