I've always been, but even moreso after my serious struggles with mental health issues.
Today I found myself starting a podcast called Invisibilia (Podcast), produced by NPR. I've never been much of fan of podcasts in general, but after diving into (and lovin') NPR's The Hidden Brain by recommendation - my hopes for it were hight.
I was not disappointed in the least. Immediately, I was gripped by the show's premise to explore the hidden forces in our lives - primarily, our thoughts.
In the first episode, we hear about a guy who all of sudden starts having constant/vivid thoughts about harming innocent people - including his wife. Triggered by a movie, the irking scenarios relentlessly began invading his consciousness.
Mid-way through his story - right before he decides to explore theraputic solutions - the wonderful hosts pause to give us insight into the various methods of therapy that are used by practices across the globe:
> Freudian therapy, which is guided by the belief that our thoughts have personal meaning, and by exploring the deeper meaning of our thoughts (especially dark ones) we can be relieved of them.
> CBD (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which states that our thoughts are 'meaningless' for lack of a better word, and by challenging and exploring different viewpoints on a thought, we can rid ourselves of the ones we don't want by seeing how they are meaningless
> 'New Wave' (Mindfullness-Based Treatment), which I interpretted as the Buddha's approach, emphasizing that thoughts are just thoughts, and that by watching the thoughts instead of engaging (or getting lost in them) they will naturally move away from our focused attention (the podcast gives a great metaphor which I highly recommend listening to)
I'll let you listen to the full episode (#1) to hear the rest of the guy's story, but in this post I wanted to write about something that these 3 approaches inspired within me, based on my own experiences.
After hearing them, the first thing that came to mind is that all 3 methods have had validity in my life and have been greatly valuable. I can almost pinpoint in the past years which approaches would have worked when, as well as which approaches wouldn't have worked at those same times.
One of the biggest problems I've noticed in the personal development world is this incredible insistance that there is a 'right' way of training and taming our mind/thoughts. Me wrongly being an advocate for this for many years.
Not only is this ego-laden, but also incredibly dangerous. Perhaps it's the business side of the industry influencing it, but I truly hope if you're reading this you've come to a point where you are able to see value in multiple, contradicting arguments.
That in mind (no pun intended), after some reflection I came to realize that how I approached my thoughts varied depending on my capactity.
At any given moment I was able to do one of 3 things:
1) Cope - In the heart of my battle with anxiety and depression, all I could really do was find ways to cope. Sometimes this would be sitting still in complete silence and either focusing on something like my breathe or some random word or sound that brought me piece. In this mode, the objective was to just survive.
2) Create - When I feel good, and have the time and space to just be with me, I often find myself losing myself in my imagination and vividly experiencing the future I want to create. Or I would create something tangible through inspired thought. In this mode, the objective is generating as many warm fuzzy tingles as possible (Tony Anderson's music def enhances this!) or creatively expressing one's self in any given physical form (eg. I am writing this post from this mode)
3) Critique - Other times when I feel good, but feel a little less inspired and likely more frustrated, I find myself analyzing my thoughts. Asking myself why it's there or how I can reframe negative ones. In this mode, the objective is to challenge current thoughts to expand my horizon of possible/primary thoughts.
Now what was most amazing, and surprising, is that as I reflected on these 3 things and their instances in my life - I couldn't recall a time when I was in the mood for more than 1 mode. In other words, in evenry freakin' moment only ONE MODE was not only most productive, but also the one that brought me the most peace.
So how can you use this for yourself?
Well simply learn to become aware of the mode you're in and then leverage the shit out of it! lol ... If you naturally feel like you're in coping mode, and just surving your thoughts brings you the most inner-peace, be in coping mode... Don't try to force yourself into Creating or Critquing mode. Trust that you will naturally move between modes in a way that serves you towards whatever goal/vision you are aiming for. If it feels like you need to be 'somewhere else' or 'in another mode' because of work, family, or other pressing priorities - feel free to dabble in the other modes but just stay aware of yourself. You will likely see that forcing youself into a mode actually makes things harder, and once you feel that pain will be much more inclined to learn to stay present in your natural mode of the moment, and learn to communicate that mode with others so they can support you.
Give it a shot and let me know what happens!
As always, your thoughts, perspectives, insights on what I've written is always welcome!
To playing with your mind instead of making it up,