The gist of this blog post can be summarized in one sentence: ‘Think about what you are thinking.” “That’s a silly question,” you might say. “Of course I think before I speak!” But do we REALLY?

Consider the following workplace scenario. Jim, Don’s boss, strolls up to him toward the end of the day, taps him on the shoulder and says, “Don, I really need you to stay late tonight to finish revising those *TPS Reports.”  Don replies, “Dang it Jim, I can’t. My son, Eric, has a big soccer game tonight and I promised him I’d be there!” Jim and Don are now caught in a no-win scenario. Either Don sucks it up and stays late, appeasing his boss – or Don challenges Jim’s authority by saying he won’t work overtime.

Such situations can often be avoided when we learn how to control our toxic thinking and emotions – our “dirty dozen” as it were. Dirty Dozen? you might think. Wasn’t that an epic 1960s war flick starring Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson?

Of course it was, but in this case the “Dirty Dozen” refers to an important concept Dr. Caroline Leaf explains in her landmark book, “Who Switched Off My Brain?”  See any or all of the following links:

According to Leaf, the Dirty Dozen areas of our lives targeted by toxic thinking are: 1) Toxic thoughts; 2) Toxic emotions; 3) Toxic words; 4) Toxic choices; 5) Toxic dreams; 6) Toxic seeds; 7) Toxic faith; 8) Toxic love; 9) Toxic touch; 10) Toxic seriousness; 11) Toxic health; and 12) Toxic schedules.

Why is learning to control these things so important? “Research shows that as much as 87% to 95% of mental and physical illnesses are a direct result of toxic thinking — proof that our thoughts affect us physically and emotionally,” Leaf states.


…physical, emotional, and mental health are a direct result of our thought lives.

In controlling toxic thinking, a better response might have been: “Jim, I know those * TPS Reports are important, but they’re not due until Friday and it’s still only Wednesday. Plus I promised my son that I would get to his big soccer game tonight. How about if I leave at my normal time today, and stay as late tomorrow as I have to in order to get them done?”  Think Jim might have been more agreeable to a statement like that?

What does this have to do with employee assistance and other behavioral health professionals? Potentially, quite a bit. Consider, as an EA or other professional, how many counseling sessions you’ve been called in to resolve because toxic thinking was rampant? Toxic thoughts that in many cases can be avoided.

We need not be slaves to our words and actions, like lava spewing out of control from a thundering volcano. It takes time, and it takes practice to learn to think and act differently, but isn’t it worth a try? Or, whether at work, home, or both, would you rather get into argument upon argument?  “Dear friends, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James: 1-19).

*TPS Reports was one of the many funny parts of the movie, “Office Space.”