Avoiding Junk Thought

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Avoiding Junk Thought

If I were to ask you to concentrate real hard and imagine yourself growing an inoperable brain tumor, would you do it? Most of us would probably hesitate. Why? Perhaps because you believe deep down that your mind, or the way you think, can actually have an affect on your body.

And you would be right. Modern brain research, as well as quantum physics, are discovering that the mind is a form of energy that can affect all the energy around it. Depending on how the physicist “looks” at energy it can appear as a wave or as a particle. No wonder quantum theory has often been referred to as “deep magic”.

The point, however, is this: when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Let’s bring this down to earth.

Wrong thinking or, what I like to refer to as “junk thought”, causes us needless suffering and prevents us from creative exploration and living well. It is estimated that a person has about 40,000 thoughts per day. Junk thought comes in many forms. It appears as self-battering and self-bashing. It comes disguised as ‘objective thinking’ designed to mask our anxieties, doubts and fears. It comes as bravado, stubbornness and rage.

The thoughts that hamper and hinder us can sound so innocent! And the reason they sound so innocent is that we ourselves have made them that way so that we won’t notice what’s really going on.

I don’t…

I can’t…

I’m not…

These are habits of mind. They extend back to our childhoods. They grow and spread through our nervous systems, over our lifetimes, fashioned by relationships, experiences, victories, disappointments.

They are the mainstream of our mind patterns and what we need to do in order to become whole is to cut a tributary off this mainstream.

You can use the following three-step procedure to help re-program junk thought.

First, notice your thoughts and identify those that don’t serve you. This means growing aware of your linguistic tricks and understanding what your self-talk actually signifies. Sometimes personal counseling or coaching helps this step along.

Second, dispute those self-sabotaging thoughts. Our self-statements are often dodges, games, excuses, and defensive maneuvers, and it takes practice and courage to see them for what they are. You say – silently or out loud – “No, I don’t buy that!”

Third, you substitute a new, useful thought. These can take the form of an affirmation. Affirmations can serve as substitutes for our characteristically negative junk-talk.

Let’s play out the steps in three brief scenarios.

Scene 1

  • Junk thought: “I can’t possibly compose before breakfast; my rumbling stomach would distract me.”
  • Dispute: “Wow, what a wonderful excuse!”
  • New thought: “I can compose any time – morning, noon or night.”

Scene 2

  • Junk thought: “I don’t have the chops for a pit orchestra.”
  • Dispute: “I just haven’t been willing to put the practice time in to read better.”
  • New thought: “As hard as it is, putting in just an hour a day practice will help me get closer to this opportunity.”

 Scene 3

  • Junk thought: “I’m not sure I can handle the interview for this position.”
  • Dispute: “You just haven’t rehearsed enough”
  • New thought: “I’ll contact a friend and do some mock interviews to feel more ready.”


It can really be that simple. What you’re doing in these situations is re-programming your thinking with new possibilities. As Joseph Chilton Pearce wrote, “We live in a web of ideas, a fabric of our own making.” Making. See this as a new chance to create.

The energy we put into our inner thoughts affects the outer life we see and achieve. Call it “intention”, “visualization”, “prayer” or “the law of attraction” – it all adds up to actively using your imagination to fight off the junk and compose the kind of life you desire.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.                                                                        -William Shakespeare


About Peter Spellman

Peter Spellman is the Director of The Career Development Center, as well as an associate professor, at  Berklee College of Music

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Avoiding Junk Thought

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