The imposter syndrome it is a very common phenomenon whereby otherwise perfectly capable people feel that they are not up to the challenges that are put before them, usually in the professional field, despite the fact that their results and those close to them indicate that they are.

In a way, it is a typical manifestation of intrusive thoughts, which are those annoying or unpleasant that appear in our mind without our having control over them. What is possible, however, is learning to deal with them in a way that causes us the least possible suffering and does not influence our way of acting or our decisions.

“Treat your thoughts like spam”

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This is what physician and ACT therapist Russ Harris focuses on when in his book The happiness trap explains that it is not necessary to pay attention to these thoughts. “Treat your thoughts as if they were spam in your inbox; when you see that they are garbage, you no longer have to open them and read them.”

Harris illustrates this with his own case, stating that “in many areas of my life […] any mistake I made triggered the same thought: ‘I am incompetent’. […] Not always with those words, of course. It was often ‘Idiot!’, ‘You’re useless!’ or ‘Can’t you do anything right?'”

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However, the therapist found a way to not be overly affected by them: “Those thoughts are not a problem if I see them for what they are: a piece of old ‘programming’ that lights up in my head.

“Basically, the more in tune you are with the direct experience of your life (rather than the constant commentary of your mind), the easier it will be for you to do things that bring you closer to the life you want,” Harris concludes.


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RussHarris. The happiness trap. Planet (2007). ISBN: 9781922539199.