There’s no value in thinking the same thought twice unless it gives you pleasure or instruction.

We all have mental tapes that play over and over in our minds. Memories of past events. Monologues that we continually speak to imaginary people. Some of the tapes are positive and give us peace and pleasure. Others replay challenging and troubling thoughts. 

I’m trying to discipline myself to never have the same thought twice unless it gives me pleasure or instruction. 

For instance, I allow myself unlimited playback of these fond memories:

    • Traveling — a picnic with Sarah and Mary near the top of the Swiss Alps. In Santorini, drinking Assyrtiko wine looking into the water-filled caldera. Sleeping on an overnight train from Budapest to Vienna.
    • Time with my grandchildren — burying treasure chests for Benjamin to find; swimming with Ben on the Queen Mary 2; rocking Claire to sleep.
    • Moments of deep worship — musical moments with the Stonebriar choir and orchestra; quiet moments alone in the woods.
    • Moments with Mary — celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square; having our first child; building our first house. 

I try to stop the mental tapes that are troubling or upsetting.

    • Interpersonal conflicts with family members or acquaintances 
    • Painful experiences from the past
    • Anxiety about the future
    • Conversations that were contentious 

Sometimes, when a negative tape is playing, I literally tap my finger on a hard object, as if I’m punching stop on a playback machine. This physical move helps me stop the tape and redirect my mind.  

The Apostle Paul put it this way; “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

16 Replies to “There’s no value in thinking the same thought twice unless it gives you pleasure or instruction.”

  1. I call those moments Pockets of Peace. Favorite memories (including memorized scripture passages) can be used to slow breathing, calm jangled nerves, and remind oneself Who’s really in charge.

    1. Allan, it’s always nice to hear from you. How’s retirement. I like the phrase Pockets of Peace. Take care, Don

  2. I do appreciate this, it so applies to me personally as well as a family member that I have had recent opportunity to counsel. I will definitely be using these gems of wisdom from your notes and this Scripture. I do love to catch Stonebriar messages and music, for a very short time I had the privilege of singing in the choir, actually for the first Sunday in the new Sanctuary. That was a joy! I enjoyed your reference to personal memories, I think I need to plan a trip to Switzerland!
    May God continue to bless your ministry, thank you for all the encouraging and inspiring words.

    1. Sandy, thanks for taking the time to write. You were singing the Sunday we entered the new sanctuary…what a memory. Where do you live now? Speaking of travel, I host an annual travel with friends trip. Perhaps you could join us one year. Take care. Don

  3. Thank you so much, Don, for that very helpful tip! I will incorporate that in my life .
    God bless you and thank you for your weekly encouraging words.

    1. Thanks, Ed, for taking the time to write. I hope you are well. Thanks for our friendship through the years. Don

  4. I can definitely see the wisdom in your article. My only reservation is that we must not be blind to our own history and make the same mistakes again. We may have forgiven a member of our family but if they are likely to react in a way that will damage us in a new situation, as they have done in the past, we may need to consider how much we share with them. Even if we have forgiven them they may not believe they did anything wrong. Dwelling on a negative relationship is harmful, being honest about future interactions might still be wise. Probably best summed up in the phrase “Once bitten, twice shy.”

    1. Thanks, Angela, for sharing your thoughts. I always benefit from them. It’s interesting you mention the Once Bitten phrase. I’m soon to post a blog about that. How’s retirement?

  5. Thank you for this one, Don! The older I get, the more memories I have from the past, both good and bad. I will try to use your discipline in the future!

    1. Thanks, Ron, for taking the time to share your thoughts. You’re right, as we get older we have more tapes. (Perhaps there is a silver lining to dementia :). Thanks for reading my posts.

  6. Don,
    Think you so much for your blog – the insights you share with us seem to fit me most times. This current email regarding, “There’s no value in thinking the same thought twice unless it gives you pleasure of instruction” got my attention because I seem to be rerunning the negative tapes over and over in my mind. I believe that happens because the impact of the negative thoughts usually include live, face to face situations, along with negative the situation stands out so much as negative. They usually point out my short-comings, many life changing events or at least choosing another path (the circumstance is almost always very uncomfortable at the time), and it usually is not a minor but a major circumstance. It typically involves face to face unpleasant conversations. Many times involve all five senses – so it is indelible in my mind. Never-the-less, your sharing of your insights provides a comfort in that you provide a way of dealing with the mental tape. And I am reminded to see the Lord working in my life and the positive outcome. Thanks again, I appreciate your work at Stonebriar and your emails.

    1. Kenneth, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. We all struggle with tapes playing in our mind. It’s become an unhealthy habit that is hard to break, but we can stop the tapes (eventually) through consistent and diligent practice. Thanks for reading my posts.

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