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A Word on Dwelling

Every day, we are bombarded with thousands of sensory stimuli that trigger thousands of thoughts. Many of these thoughts last only an instant, but we allow ourselves to dwell on others of these thoughts for longer periods of time.

The stimuli that trigger our thoughts are largely beyond our control. We may see something on television or other sources of electronic media. Another driver may trigger us on our way to work. We may see someone who reminds us of someone else. These thoughts may be pleasant or unpleasant.

The very important principle here is:

While we cannot control the thoughts that come into our minds, we can decide whether we allow ourselves to dwell on or nurse those thoughts.

When we choose to dwell on certain things, neural pathways are strengthened and deepened.

On one hand, we may dwell on things that are ultimately self-defeating:


  • Anxiety–I dwell on what can and might go wrong. The more I think about these things, the more I think about these things.
  • Hurt/Woundedness–I can dwell on how I have been wronged and treated unfairly. The thoughts deepen and widen.
  • Anger/Resentment–“Bitterman, party of one, Bitterman?”
  • Retaliation/Retribution–How can I get back at him/her?
  • Pornography–I can dwell on images and behaviors that are not real. My mind becomes a “fantasy land.”
  • Online Internet Gaming–I begin to live in a virtual world and to withdraw from the real world.
  • Alcohol, Drugs, Gambling–These are further examples of objects and activities upon which I can choose to dwell.

On the other hand, I may decide to dwell on things of a more positive and constructive nature:

  • Kindness and Compassion
  • Forgiveness–A gift we give ourselves
  • Moving Forward–Not allowing myself to dwell on what I have lost but on what I can learn and gain.

The better we understand the principles regarding brain plasticity and managing our thoughts, the impact upon our lives and our relationships is more apparent and more encouraging:

  • Our fears will be reduced.
  • Our connections with others will be enhanced.
  • We will feel a greater sense of emotional safety in our lives.
  • We will live with increased self-confidence.
  • We will treat others with greater respect and courtesy.

This principle is profoundly illustrated in the ancient Cherokee Proverb:

Cherokee Proverb on Dwelling.

Cherokee Proverb on Dwelling.

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