Thought Hoarding and What You Can Do About It.

Christel Van Gelder General Life Advice 1 Comment

Are you a thought hoarder? Someone that holds on for dear life to every -preferably painful- thought you ever had?
Thinking about all the bad experiences from your past and never letting go.
Have you ever considered that all those thoughts might not be as true as you think they are?
And have you ever taken the time to just sit with a thought you’re having and examine it for truth?
Let me explain why it’s important to start noticing and examine your thoughts and getting rid of the ones that are painful, not useful for your state of joy.
For this we use the so-called Model, which goes as follows:
1. Facts/Circumstances
2. Lead to Thoughts/Beliefs –
3. Make us have Feelings/Emotions
4. Make us Act/React/Behave in a certain way. 

A closer look into this Model shows us:

Reality, situations, what happens in life, these are all circumstances. They are what they are, they are objective.

But as soon as we start to think about a situation, a circumstance, something that happened, objectivity is gone down the drain. All our thoughts and beliefs are subjective.  And tainted by many things such as our upbringing, education, environment, religious beliefs, social pressures. Even by your neighbour standing behind the curtain watching every move on the street.
This means that certain thoughts can be painful to us, because they go against what we believe, against our values.

Which brings us to the next part of the Model: Feelings and Emotions.

The way we interpret certain realities provoke emotions.

Let’s keep it simple and say that the four main human emotions are mad, sad, glad and scared. All other emotions can be considered a sub-emotion of these four.
Your emotions are the basis of your behaviour. So when you are thinking happy thoughts, which result in joy, happiness or glee, your behaviour will be totally different from the reaction you have when you’re feeling sad, angry or fearful.

Let me illustrate with a simple example.

You asked your husband to take out the trash. Three days later the trash is still sitting there.

You’re upset and take the trash out yourself while cursing your husband under your breath. When he comes home, you are not a happy camper. you may ignore him or shout at him. 
Analysing this situation according to our Model, the following has happened:

  1. The facts/circumstances:
    The trash has not been taken out and therefore is still sitting there smelling up the place until someone takes it upon him or herself to do something about it.
    This is the reality. Objective, not hurtful, not joyful. It’s just some smelly trash.

  2. Thoughts/Beliefs:
    As soon as you see the trash still sitting out there, you may have thoughts such as – and I’ll give you a range of what may go through your head:
    – “My husband never listens to me.”
    – “My husband never does something when I ask him to.”
    – “My husband always ignores me.”
    – “My husband is a lazy bugger.”
    – “If he loved me , he would take out the trash, listen to me and help me.”
    – “I have to do everything myself. No one ever helps me.”
    Get my drift? 

  3. Feelings and Emotions:
    Now you have these thought clusters running through your mind and for sure they bring up different emotions.
    Let’s have a look at a few possibilities here.
    – You may feel hurt, not understood.
    – You may feel you are not worthy of his attention.
    – You feel unloved.
    – You may be seething with anger because this is the 10 millionth time this happens.
    – You may be irritated, frustrated.

  4. Action/Reaction/Behaviour:
    These emotions that come up will make you behave in a certain way.
    Some examples:
    – You curse your husband and shout all kind of names to him when he shows his face.
    – You give him the cold shoulder when he comes home and ignore him.
    – You blame him for all sorts of other things that are not going well.
    – Inside you hate him with a vengeance.

By now I’m sure you can see that the problem starts with our thoughts.

When we don’t control these thoughts they go on a spree, causing a myriad of emotions to come up. And resulting in behaviours that can be called less than kind, not only to others but also to ourselves.

If you’re a thought hoarder, these thoughts will keep showing up, over and over, keeping you in that place of hurt and anger or whatever other emotion you associate with it.
The thoughts by now have become a not-so-happy-story, leading a life of its own, with its own set of emotions and reactions.


But the heart of the matter is: Are these thoughts that you’re hoarding useful to you? Are they bringing you joy?

Or would you be better off without them? Have an easier time without them?

In other words, are they real?


The only way to know is to go in search of Truth.

And how can we reach Truth?

If you’re a thought hoarder and don’t like to let go of your interpretation, it’s high time for a reality check. It’s time to get out of the miserly thinking and behaviour that causes you pain.

There are a few things you can do, but let me tell you, to get rid of the beliefs you hold onto and cradle like a baby, you need to make an effort. Plus you’ll need a lot of practice.

The main objective of these steps is to start distancing yourself from these thoughts, hopefully dissolving them if possible, so that you can create a different reaction/behaviour. Ad thus experience less painful emotions.
It’s like gym for the brain, where you re-train your brain so you can feel and behave in a different way.
Here are the steps:

    1. Become the Observer.
      This is the very first step to stop thought hoarding.
      You start to notice that a thought comes back and haunts you. Awareness is the beginning of freedom. In whatever we do or think or feel.
      Whenever a painful memory, thought, belief rears up its ugly head, take a moment, breathe deeply.  Do this a few times, and just notice your thoughts.
      Without reacting, without judging. Let them exist.

    2. Examine your thoughts for their Usefulness:
      Ask yourself: Does this bring me joy, happiness, peace?
      Does this thought relaxes or constricts me?
      Is this thought useful or painful?

    3. Make a Label:
      After observing and becoming aware, you’ll see – and believe me, it really works like that- that your thoughts have a certain theme. That your emotions that come along with a certain belief are always the same, a few nuances left aside.
      Now it’s up to you to name your theme, like the title of a movie, or a song. 

    4. Search for Truth:
      Ask yourself whether your thoughts are absolutely true.
      This can be difficult because we have a tendency to actually believe everything we think.

    5. Come Up with 20 Reasons Why Your Thought is not True:
      If you have difficulty seeing that your thought may not be absolutely true, it’s time for some brain-yoga.
      Stretch your brain, become creative and come up with 20 reasons why your thought may not be true.
      Start with writing down your belief —which btw is another way of distancing yourself from it.
      Now come up with 20 examples of why this is not true.

      —Note: If you have difficulty in coming up with examples, add “if” or “when” to the original thought you’ve written down.—

      Your reasons and examples don’t have to be real, they can be hypothetical.

      The objective of this exercise is to really start creating new ways of thinking, slowly but surely. To get you out of your own brain rut.

      The more creative you become with your examples, the farther you stretch your brain, the more new brain signals you’re creating.

    6. Practice the Hell out of the Former Steps:
      Repeat all the above steps.
      Know that thoughts are obstinate and your brain likes to hold onto what it knows. The only way for certain thoughts and beliefs to have less impact on you is to really practice this process deeply.

      The more you practice, the more your new way of thinking is going to get a hold in your mind. And slowly you’ll create a change.

      Change in thoughts, followed by a change in your emotions, which ultimately leads to a change in the way you act, react or behave in the same given situation.


This process looks simple but isn’t. Our brain likes to fool us into believing everything we think.

Some guidance through this process helps, as it will be much more difficult to deviate from the process. Having someone guide you through this process is challenging but so useful. 

If you have a belief system or ways of thinking that cause you pain, discomfort, anger, and have trouble going through the steps, there’s no need to worry. 
I can help you bust those thoughts or at the very least make them less painful. 
I can teach you how to go through the above process by staying very aware and in observer-mode.
Once you’ve done this a few times, you have the tool that can change your life. Makes you more free, relaxed and joyful.
So let me know if you want some help. 
Just send me a mail:

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Comments 1

  1. Pingback: What To Do About The Thoughts That Erode Your Self-Esteem In A Toxic Relationship - Christel Van Gelder

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