Is It Time to Clean Your Mental Filters?

Joyce Shafer

Joyce L. Shafer

Next time you feel stressed ask yourself if it’s actually an event or situation, or your thoughts about it causing your stress. More often than not, it’s time to check your mental filters.

Every thought you have about everything that happens in your life is processed through your filters: your learned beliefs, assumptions, presumptions, and past experiences. Unless you’ve shifted this—cleaned or regularly clean your “filters,” you likely experience every moment through a slightly—or maybe more—grungy filtering system.

When you assume, you act as though something is 100 percent true or will happen (or not)—when that may not be the case. Your thoughts, words, and actions stem from this assumption. Assumptions are a good way to set your self up for disappointment, frustration, and anger. Facts and clear communications work far better. You may still feel one of the emotions listed, but let it be for the right reason.

When you presume, you take something for granted—whether or not you should. You may not question your right to presume—about others, events, or even yourself (negative self-talk). You may take for granted that your limiting beliefs, especially self-beliefs are facts, even if they aren’t—and you may act as though they are. Just because you repeat them in self-talk or action doesn’t make them absolutely true.

You may believe you have every reason to filter your thoughts and feelings in this way because you can list past experiences to support this mental processing method. However, many of your past (and current) experiences show up because of your learned beliefs . . . which attracted more experiences like your past ones, which are what you believe life (or you) are like; and you stay stuck in a quagmire of unsupportive beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. Nothing seems to improve and you can’t figure out why.

You might feel like the dog chasing its tail and never catching it!

This circular activity and experience will never move you forward. Events will happen. People arrive with their personalities. Fortunately, you usually have the opportunity to select who you spend time with or not; but in some cases, like with family, that’s not as easy a choice as with associates.

Once an event happens, it’s happened; and, people never change unless they choose to. But you can change how you manage yourself through events and with others—because the common thread in every aspect of your life is YOU.

Let’s take a complicated relationship with someone significant to you, or not. You may feel it’s justified to say that person “always” behaves a certain way—and maybe they often do. However, you possibly or probably repeat how you engage and interact with them. The situation can never shift until one of you shifts. If you wait for others to voluntarily change, you may wait a lifetime. People spend a great deal of precious time and energy trying to remold others or life situations rather than remolding themselves around and through what challenges them.

Let’s take another example of having several tasks to do, some of which you don’t want to do but have to, or perhaps make you skittish because you doubt yourself. You might spend hours thinking negative thoughts, engaging in negative self-talk—and nothing gets done. Or you may start to take action on a task and engage in negative self-talk through most of it.

You are chasing your tail when you do this. You waste energy and time, and cause yourself to feel really, really bad about yourself or whatever the situation is. Let go of thinking about what you need to do and just do it. Feel good about accomplishing and completing whatever it is, or at least moving it forward.

I’m pretty sure you’ve watched others you’re close to use these behaviors: it’s painful! You want to tell them what they’re doing to themselves, their life, and those they share life with. It’s just as painful for others who watch you do this to yourself.

Stuff happens that doesn’t feel good; but after something happens, it’s our thoughts that keep those feelings going—and even growing.

It may not be easy or immediate to shift your thinking, but the solution is a simple one: choose better thoughts so you experience better feelings, which lead to better experiences. USE what you know to do. It will make a difference.

Be mindful rather than rely on faulty mental filters.

You are what you practice.

© Joyce Shafer

You’re welcome to reprint this article as long as you use my complete bio.

Joyce Shafer ( is the You Are More! Empowerment Coach and author of I Don’t Want to be Your Guru, but I Have Something to Say, as well as more books/ebooks, most easily found online at Check out the terrific articles and Empowerment Extras, and learn about private coaching sessions, in her free weekly online newsletter at


  1. Joyce,

    Something that helps me get over being hurt or slighted is this: “Get over it. 99% of the people who offend or hurt you have no idea that they did so. They are (or were) completely oblivious to how their action affected you. They were just “doing their thing.”

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