By Lynn Seiser
Beware the Contagious Thought Virus!
What if thoughts and beliefs were as contagious as a virus? What if by identifying and imitating another person you were able to pick up thoughts and beliefs that were not your own? What if you were acting on those beliefs right now and do not even know it? Well my friends, this is very true. We can pick up a thought virus just as quickly as we can a virus that causes us to be physically sick. These viruses cannot live outside of a host. They are contagious without us knowing we are infecting others or being infected. Viruses tend to be very self centered and very resistant to change, especially since we do not even know we are acting on them.
Let’s look at how one catches a thought virus. Parents are a good place to start (though we must remember that they caught the virus from someone else). Parents unknowingly pass it along, so let’s not get too far into blaming. Our parents are the first people with whom we identify. We model our behavior by imitating theirs. Those behaviors have some implied, not obviously stated, beliefs. Let’s say our parents did not understand their relationship to the earth and their responsibility to the environment. By identifying and imitating them as our role models, we too may miss this invaluable connectedness.
Next, we begin to identify with, and model after, our friends and peers. Developmentally, the necessity to fit in with a peer group is very important. Since we have already learned not to value the earth and the environment, we tend to find a group that also does not value them. We tend to look for agreement and sameness, whether or not we know it. Whether we want to admit it or not, we tend to follow the crowd, not lead it. We may also find some media star or celebrity who is also like-minded.
Do we know we are picking up beliefs as thought viruses? Not anymore than they know they are teaching us. It is all very indirect and unconscious. Usually we accept our identified and imitated role model in an all-or-nothing package. What we see is what we get and a whole lot more we do not even know about.
Awareness is the beginning of healing. Healing is a correction. For a moment step out of your life and view it as if it were someone else’s. As you watch this person go through their day, what would you say they believe? Do they believe they are a good person worthy of love and happiness, or a person only worthy of loneliness and depression? How they live their life will tell you how they believe.
Ask them and they will tell you what they want to believe, not what they actually do. What do they believe about their relationship to the earth and the environment? Do they believe there is any relationship, connectedness, or reciprocal appreciation? We notice that what they want to believe, and what their behavior implies in the thought virus belief beneath it, are opposites, incongruent, and incompatible. They are in opposition to themselves. This can lead to not only self-destruction, but destruction of others as well.
If you had a choice (and you do whether you know it or not), what thoughts and beliefs would you like to pass along? Would you want those who identified and imitated you to feel worthy of happiness, love, abundance, prosperity, and wealth? Would you want them to feel connected to others, to the earth, and to the environment? Of course, you would.
What beliefs and behaviors would you need to demonstrate this? I know that for many of us, these new more positive and more productive beliefs go against the thought viruses we already have. I know it may not be who we believe we are yet. We have a lot of history that has gotten us into the habit of acting and believing one way. Just remember that it really was not our way. It was from the thought viruses we picked up by identifying and imitating others. It was their way. Now we have a choice. Let’s choose wisely so those who learn from us learn the lessons we really want to teach.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for modeling positive thought viruses as we share this journey.
Lynn Seiser, Ph.D., is an internationally respected psychotherapist in Seal Beach, CA with more than twenty years of direct clinical experience in recovery counseling for offenders and victims of violence, trauma and abuse. He is known for his work in “holistic” recovery from addictions with an emphasis on “healthy relationships”. Lynn is a consultant, speaker and writer and may be contacted at (562) 799-1371. You may check out his website at www.members.aol.com/SeiserL/index.html .
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