Phrases are interesting for the connotations they carry. Why do we speak of “entertaining” thoughts?
When people entertain, they make special plans. They make special food and clean the house. They invite the people they want to entertain and go to some trouble to make the experience pleasant, steering people together for interesting conversations and new acquaintance. They move from one guest to another to make sure everyone is having a good time.
But most of us don’t make these kinds of effort about the thoughts that we allow to wander randomly around our brains. We get riled up about something on Facebook or irritated by a discussion on TV or in the office. Those kinds of thoughts, while they may give us something to chat about, don’t improve our minds or our perspective on life.
The thing about a thought is that each one makes a neuron pathway through our brains. The more times we think that thought, the more attention we give it, the deeper it is hardwired into our psyche. From my own experience, on a given day there are thoughts that linger in my mind like a house guest who does not know when it is time to go home. Yet I am still “entertaining” that thought by letting it travel the same rut every day. I need a thought bouncer. I need to invite in a better class of thoughts.
The only way to make a new pathway for thoughts to travel is to entertain new thoughts in place of the old ones. This is why people write and speak affirmations, to replace (and toss out) older thoughts that they no longer want to think. The trick is to be aware of the old thoughts and consciously invite in new, more productive thoughts.
Thoughts become things. Which thoughts did I invite today? Which ones need to be bounced out?