Day 448: Thoughts

Day 448: Thoughts

Tonight’s badass art is from MrLoveKraft, which I *think* is from a series of drawings about a generational starship…pretty cool 🙂

I listened to the first episode of Invisibilia today…well, the first episode that they’re releasing exclusively as their own show, not a tie-in with This American Life or Radiolab. It was about thoughts.

The lead story was about this guy who was having obsessive, very violent thoughts, and he was afraid that some day he might act on these thoughts. He didn’t, and it turned out he had a form of obsessive compulsive disorder…but that extreme example was really a window into something far more universal, which is the dark thoughts that all of us have on a daily basis.

You know, the thoughts of “I’m worthless” and “I’ll never have enough to get what I want” or “nobody will ever like me” or “I’m not good enough.” We all have those thoughts. I know I do. Sometimes, I have those thoughts without even realizing that I’m having those thoughts.

I haven’t actually finished the whole episode yet, but there was something in there that I very much related to, and related to this blog, specifically. Apparently, in the world of therapy, there have been three major movements that have happened (so far). The first was the Freudian movement, where we recognized that often times we have thoughts that manifest themselves because they’re rooted in some other emotional trauma. Ie- I feel like hurting myself because my Dad beat me and told me that I’m worthless. That kind of therapy is still out there today, and without a doubt is effective for many people who have emotional issues to recognize and connect to present-day behavior.

But…it’s not the only answer. After all, there’s a lot of damage that dark thoughts do to us, to me, that have no root in some past emotional trauma. They’re very much occurring and rooted in the present. In the case of that man in the radio show who was having these horribly violent thoughts, those thoughts had no root in some traumatic past, they were simply thoughts that he could not get out of his head. Same thing with much of my own negative thoughts. They’re very much a product of my environment here in LA. It’s a town of failure and rejection, and that is very, very hard to deal with on a daily basis. So, what do we do about those thoughts?

Movement two of the therapy world was kind of the antithesis of Freudian psychology. Where Freud was arguing that our thoughts have great meaning, that they’re connected deeply into our emotional past…this second movement was to say that these thoughts meant absolutely nothing. That negative thoughts are nonsense, and that they should be confronted with the truth. Lies inside our heads, basically. This is called Cognitive Therapy, I think. It involves taking these negative thoughts that we have, and confronting them with rational evidence. If I’m feeling like nobody will ever love me, I make a list of my family, and my friends, and confront that thought with all the evidence to the contrary…and then that thought starts to lose its power. Invisibilia says, in fact, that most therapists that you might find to go see today fall into this category of therapy.

But, now, there’s even a third. They take this idea of thoughts, and they don’t fall on either side of the issue. They’re not weighted down with so much meaning that we must dig into our past to uncover their hidden meaning, nor are they lies that need to be confronted and actively banished. Rather, they are just thoughts. They’re utterly powerless in and of themselves, and this new “Third Wave” of therapy simply involves sitting with those thoughts until they fade away on their own. The radio show called it a kind of meditation. You would sit in the room, and listen to the sounds around, letting anything and everything bubble up in the mind as it naturally would, and not try to force the mind to go anywhere. To just sit with your thoughts.

And *that* is what made me think about this blog. This blog is absolutely 100% a form of meditation for me each night. Exceptionally rare is the entry that I have planned out in my head beforehand, not even tonight’s. I knew I wanted to write about this podcast I’d listened to, but I wasn’t sure how, or really even what I wanted to say. I just sit down each night and let the entry fall out as it does. And, I have to say, I find it to be enormously therapeutic. There’s a LOT of personal struggle that I put into these entries, as I’m sure it gets boring and monotonous to read, but I really lay it out on here. For the most part. What I feel most self conscious about, what I’m struggling with, feeling like a failure…and I sit with those thoughts each night and don’t try to drive them away or cover them up. I recognize them for what they are, and I write about them until I don’t feel like I need to write about them any more, and then I move on. Or go to bed. And…I’m pretty sure that’s what at least part of this kind of therapy is about, or at least my impression of it.

Sure, this blog is also the “evidence” type of therapy. Writing a trail for me to go back and follow to remind myself of the things I really have done, and when I’m feeling down, looking back at times in the past that I’ve struggled and then got right back to what I needed to do. It is that, for sure. But REALLY, night after night, it’s simply about sitting with all those negative (and positive) thoughts I have about my own life, pouring them out until I feel like I don’t have to pour them out any longer. It’s a practice that has quite literally turned my life around. I feel calmer, more confident, and more able to focus.

So, yeah…recognizing negative thoughts, for me, and letting them come, saying that I have them and just living with them on a regular basis has drastically reduced their effect on me long-term. In the short-term, they most certainly can get the best of me…but not for long. Not for as long as they used to…and that, I think, is the definition of happiness. We’re not going to be happy all the time, but if my default setting is to be feeling calm and in control of my life…well, that’s a really amazing place to be.

It worked for me, this blogging thing. I hope that you can find that meditative place that helps you to have negative thoughts and watch them drift away, powerless. It’s always a process, but it’s a process that’s worth it.

Good night, y’all, and check out Invisibilia from NPR. It’s pretty damn good 🙂