Problematic thinking

It’s not always easy to be mindful when I find myself getting caught  or pulled into a spiral of negative thinking.   I had a book on request from the library for a while and picked it up this afternoon and in it the author was talking about the vortex of thinking that can capture us and take us down into a negative place.  We all know the territory, it may be triggered by someone saying something critical to us, or withholding time or attention or affection.   For some of us that kind of thing may not be as problematic but for those of us with attachment or abandonment wounds it may trigger a reaction.  If we never got to experience a secure place of safety and comfort inside when this kind of wound is triggered it doesn’t take much to spin us down into a negative or reactive spiral.

Associating who we believe ourselves to be with our thoughts or stories is problematic for a start when those thoughts or stories are run by past scripts that don’t tell the truth or keep us in a grounded place.

Thought is symbolic.   A thought isn’t a thing.  It has no reality; it is only an abstraction.  A thought is, at best a description of something we take in with our senses.  And yet, from a very young age, we’re taught that we are what we think about ourselves.  But there is another layer to this, and that is we tend to believe that we are what others think about us.  We derive our view of ourselves from our parents, our friends, our community, our teachers, our sisters, our brothers, from everybody who gives us feedback….the problem with it is that the images we have of ourselves are often in conflict – because the perceptions and thoughts that others have about us don’t always ‘agree’ with one another.  At one moment we have an image of ourself as worthy, loving, and happy.. but within minutes or an hour, our image of ourself can change quite drastically.  All of a sudden, we may decide we are a terrible person, because someone was critical of us or said something unkind about us, or told us they really didn’t like us any more… and so (we feel insecure) and suffer because someone’s opinion of us can so easily trigger anger, sadness, or even depression.  Our sense of self is very ephemeral; it’s not as solid as we imagine it to be, and the confusion around it is one of the greatest causes of human suffering that there is….

Exploring the ever shifting sense of ourselves is important for us when we suffer in this way.  If we can develop an ‘awareness of mind’ we are less likely to get captured by what Adyashanti calls ‘trances of mind or awareness’.  This trance is something authors such as Eckhardt Tolle have called ‘egoic consciousness’.  By all means we need a healthy functioning ego but there are times when egoic consciousness or trance mind gets us in difficulties especially when it tries to convince us we are separate to ,  less than or better than others.

In this the state of sleep we are free of the power of this trance and we don’t struggle with our thoughts and awareness of thoughts, which is probably why in sleep states dreams can alert us in a deeper way to what was going on in our egoic consciousness on any day, or after a good sleep we find the solution to a problem we were struggling with the day before.

Trance of ego captures us when it keeps us stuck in mechanical, conditioned movements of mind…great frustration and dissatisfaction with life and ourselves and with one another can be experienced in this state and little creativity or originality of thought since egoic mind runs old scripts from the past that keep us limited in the present.  And in addition in this state of mind our ego holds tightly onto emotions and feelings,

the content of our thinking produces many of the emotions and feelings we experience.  In one sense our physical and emotional bodies are duplicating machines for our thoughts… our bodies turn thoughts into emotions and feelings… everybody has their own unique emotional environment – somewhat like an emotional North Pole.  Not only are we taught to identify with the content of our thinking, but we’re also taught to identify with the how we feel.  We are also taught to recognise people in terms of their most common emotional states.  We say it every day in our common language:  “I am angry.”  “I am sad.” or “He is an angry person.” or “She often seems sad.”  By believing this about ourselves and others, we literally go into a trance with every feeling and every emotion we have.

According to Adyashanti we also go into a vortex of suffering when we learn to identify so strongly with what we feel or think on any day.

This vortex has its own gravitational force that always exists as a potential..  The power of that force is not always manifest – we’re not always stuck in sorrow, pain or anger – but the potential for the vortex to arise and for us to get caught in it is very strong.   The most common way the vortex sucks us in is through emotionally based reactions like anger greed, pride, hate , defensiveness and the desire for control.

The truth is that we can and do experience these emotions but they are often fleeting when we do not feed them as much or allow ourselves to get trapped in that vortex.   We can acknowledge a feeling of sadness or anger or hunger or greed or pride while at the same time not being totally identified with it.  We are then free to explore what it might be saying to us allowing it to pass through.  We can also learn not to be as reactive when these emotions are triggered inside of us, we can use the information for self awareness and self protection but we don’t need to get trapped in the reaction.   We can recognise the kind of thoughts and story lines that are being triggered too and not allow them to carry us further into an intense emotional roller coaster.

A lot of anxiety is often generated by our tendency to over think.  It is something Bev Aisbett addresses in her book 30 Days 30 Ways to Overcome Anxiety.   Bev is the author of several books which I recommend as they are very simple, loaded with illustrations and come not from an academic understanding of the nature of anxiety and panic attacks but rather out of over 20 years of her own experience in dealing with them.  One way she recommends to get out of our anxiety generating over thinking is to actually bring ourselves back into the present moment focusing on a task or on a pleasant thing in our environment.  Engaging with something that gets our mind of worries or the trance vortex helps. Walking the dog, time spent in nature, reading a book (she suggests not reading a lot of books on anxiety though), knitting, ironing, cooking.   Watching too when fearful thoughts or storylines accompany triggers and most especially bodily sensations which are highly reactive for PTSD sufferers especially those of us who have undergone body trauma.

Adyashanti also reminds us of the power of being with what or at least stopping our argument with it being as it is when that will only cause us further stress, spiralling or pain.

Sometimes when things get bad enough, when the suffering gets deep enough or intense enough the whole egoic wheel stops spinning.   It becomes too painful to identify with the conditioned thoughts in your head and with the chronic painful reactions that are associated with them.  And when the vortex stops, and you are right in the middle of the greatest grief, right in the middle of the greatest torment and suffering, something else may dawn on you.  A sense of peace and freedom may be felt at that moment, and it shows you that nothing really needs to change.  You don’t need to struggle against yourself, just the opposite.  All you need is the willingness to question your minds conclusions, the willingness to relax.  Instead of trying to change now, just let now be as it is, even if your mind might have plenty of reasons why you should resist it.  Try it anyway.

In his book Falling into Grace, Adyashanti shares how he did this practice while burying his beloved dog and companion of many years and sharing a eulogy.  He cried to the depths of his being and as he surrendered to his grief a pin point opening of a smile and happiness emerged at the centre of his pain.  In time it kept expanding.   I am sure I have followers who have experienced this deepest of surrenders that can happen when we fully give into our grief or pain.  Since we are not struggling but have surrendered in time the cloud or storm of grief disperses, just as a rain storm does and a chink of light or rainbow appears.  This occurs because we have surrendered  and let go deeply into the moment and being, pure experience, not lost in thought we are found by being open, naked, present and vulnerable in the heart of that moment with all that it represents.  We are also not lost in fear, flight or fight.  We have opened, we have awakened, we have surrendered.

Published by: emergingfromthedarknight

"The religious naturalist is provisioned with tales of natural emergence that are, to my mind, far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us." Ursula Goodenough How to describe oneself? People are a mystery and there is so much more to us than just our particular experiences or occupations. I could write down a list of attributes and they still might not paint a complete picture pf Deborah Louise and in any case it would not be the full truth of me. I would say that my purpose here on Wordpress is to express some of my random experiences, thoughts and feelings, to share about my particular journey and explore some subjects dear to my heart, such as emotional recovery, healing and astrology while posting up some of the prose/poems which are an outgrowth of my labours with life, love and relationships. If anything I write touches you I would be so pleased to hear for the purpose of reaching out and expressung ourselves is hopefully to connect with each other and find where our souls meet.

Categories Uncategorized8 Comments

8 thoughts on “Problematic thinking”

    1. Nice post and comments… Living in past is so hard when you have attached to things and not knowing own true SELF. The moment you become witness to each and everything same moment you become totally free the past and the future nothing can make you fearful, the witness is not the doer in this world…. The witness can be only witness not involved in anything…

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  1. we’re not always stuck in sorrow, pain or anger – but the potential for the vortex to arise and for us to get caught in it is very strong – so perfect. Loved the reminder of how easy it is to get sucked in to the pity party. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am personally not a fan of that term as it can at times be used to disparage. That said there is a time whe being totally self obsessively consumed with our pain and thoughts of angst fuelled by the non acceptance of resentment becomes counter productive.

      Liked by 2 people

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