MIND-THE-GAP - THE WAY OUT OF THE MIND'S MANY RABBIT HOLES
Updated: May 18
Are you stuck in a self-defeating cycle of thinking? The truth is, most of us are...
'Paranoia and self-loathing is like an imaginary dog poo. Its smell is constantly reminding us of its existence, making us believe we are smeared with it.' - R.B.
When we are endlessly criticised by those we look up to our childhood becomes very traumatic. As a result of this trauma we feel destabilised, un-anchored, insecure, restless. Because we have internalised the voices of our loved ones (our family and close friends) in the course of our conditioning, we have developed a harsh Inner Critic. Our Critic is contantly commenting on what we have done wrong, how we are inadequate for others to love us and how have to change for them not be abandoned. We live the minutes of our every day busy conversing with this voice, allowing it to drain us. We feel down and anxious, depressed, desperately wanting to escape our sad existence. Searching the web for answers, attending courses, ordering new books, we are looking for ways to escape.
But what or who are we escaping from?
'I am sad, bad, useless, damaged, insecure...' Imagine how would your friend feel if the way you speak to yourself you'd addressed him or her? How would s/he feel I wonder...?
When we finally recognise that we feel stuck in life primarily because we are stuck in a repetitive, destructive cycle of our habitual thinking we often feel even worse. Finding it hard to hack our 'system' we so desperately want to change it! But how? They tell us we cannot change our life if we cannot change our thinking. We try to think 'positive' but end up being dragged back into what we know...
For those of us who find comfort in thinking all the time, the secret lies in learning how to p a u s e. But how can we pause something we don't notice we are doing?
Pausing our harmful thinking habits cannot take place without becoming aware of our attention. Attention is simply thinking in a certain direction. It is like stopping and looking at crossroads, becoming aware of our choices, deciding where to go. It happens simply by asking ourselves 'What am I thinking of right now and how does it make me feel?' which helps us to snap out of our own drama...
Imagine observing an object. Please test this with yourself by picking a random thing around you. Best pick an item you don't look at too often for this exercise. When you start, notice that you engage your perception first (an input of the mind which takes all the information about the object in). Our perception is an information capture to which our mind later generates its commentary (an output of the mind). Perceiving of complex objects takes longer, like viewing a piece of art, a building, or a scenery in nature. Whilst staring, the mind is in a state of no thought, or a gap in our thinking. In case of our past experience with such item (or a person, including ourselves!) our mind acts on an impulse. Based on our previous experience, it generates bias commentary almost immediately. We cease to perceive reality as it is and instead engage in the mind's chatter. The resulting dialogue invites certain emotions in. During an unpleasant dialogue, we are overwhelmed with unpleasant emotions. Because our emotions are real to us (them being our inner truth) they further re-inforce our initial thought - our version of reality - even if this is completely false.
When our way of maintaining a sense control in life becomes overthinking everything, our brain generates an insane number of thoughts per minute. The mind on full throttle, we like to charge fast forward to get to our imagined destination. Paradoxically, we get stuck, running circles with a handbreak on...
It seems like a good idea for us to work things out in our heads on the spot. Our mind assumes that the more we think, the more we are able to solve things and gain a sense of stability. We hold onto its opinions for dear life, taking what it says seriously, because we have trained it to attend to every commentary it makes. As a result of that we have became unable to disengage from it (disindentify from our mind) - let go.
A primitive, monkey mind utilises its lower thinking. Its sole purpose is to survive by looking for problems. But built to react to situations in the moment it can rarely solve them constructively long term.
Thinking is what we find an imaginary solace in only because it is what we know. Doing a lot of thinking, we have thought ourselves unconscious. Without an engagement of our higher, human brain continuous thinking is extremely exhausting and counterproductive, only further destabilising us mentally and emotionally. Our mind draggs us down many, deep rabbit holes because we failed to slow down, unable to choose for us more favourable direction.
OCD is a just a label for a fear based, hyper-thinking. A thinking on a loop out of worry (essentially that we won't make it in life) as an attempt to control our environment and ourselves. An unconscious mind assumes a lot. It wants certainty and thinks to achieve it by seeking perfection. But perfection is an ever moving bar of self-imposed conditions, presenting itself in our environment (tidying or hygiene for example) or in ourselves via constant self-improvement (education and personal development). The break on our happiness of 'when I become so and so... I will feel better about myself' then sets the base for our conditional love for ourselves. We say to ourselves 'I cannot love you today because you have not yet changed/achieved.' Which is what makes us, deep down, feel bad and sad.
To break the cycle of OCD is to recognise that it is a habit. Which, like any habit, can be changed. Firstly, by learning to notice our mind's commentary. Because only when we do, we can interrupt it, disengaging from its otherwise endless loops. Secondly, by letting go of the need to talk back and correct our mind's statements, allowing things to be without needing to do something about them. 'But I cannot let things be as they are because it is not true!' says the mind. In time and with practice we learn that if we don't interfere, the truth will eventually emerge. That all thoughts will eventually dissipate, pass, being soon replaced by new ones. What remains is us as we are. We also discover that situations resolve without us interfering or that people walk past us with stinky shoes but we no longer care...
It is one of the greatest paradoxes that by letting go of control we feel more stable, not being dragged about by stuff, be it our own or someone else's. Thinking is essentially latching onto ideas. (Most of which are not even ours!)
To become human (not a monkey or a machine), we must train ourselves to rest in between thoughts for as long as possible. Gaining distance from our unconscious patterns we gain the necessary space and insight into what serves us, and what does not. Peace is simply a product of our ability to inhabit a thoughtless state, or to detach ourselves from the incessant chatter of our mind. Calm flows through us at times prior to our mind thinking up a thought. To remain in this 'peaceful gap' it requires us to stop arguing and turn our attention to our bodies and senses. By consciously choosing to turn off the intrusive programmes, we become more grounded in our cosy temples, present to life as it is...
Thank you for reading. If my article contributed to understanding yourself, please be generous and share it with others.
Copyright © 2020 Michaela Patel