I find controlling my thoughts extremely difficult at times. One fearful thought leads to another and before I know it, I’m speeding down a floodlit highway of worst-case scenarios. This happens so quickly that by the time I catch myself, I am mentally very far from where I’d like to be. I’m also physically and emotionally worn out and that is purely because our mind cannot tell the difference between what we vividly imagine and what actually happens. So, it triggers emotions and chemicals in the body as if we were actually living the scenario.
‘I’ve been through many things in my life, some of which have actually happened’ (Mark Twain)
What made it so much easier, was understanding what actually happens in my head: So here it is: Mind – understanding our operating system:
Our mind space can be classified into 5 different states, driven by 3 different parts of our brain: ln a peak state, we operate from the neocortex. In this space, our thought patterns are abstract and creative; we think about our thoughts. We feel peaceful, grounded and well. We experience intimacy in our relationships and connectedness and purpose in our spiritual life. Our behaviour as a result is optimal.
When we’re feeling good and stress is minimal, the neocortex is still at the helm. Our thought patterns are clear and concrete. We feel balanced and present in the moment, aware of both the negative and the positive. Our relationships are companionable, and we experience awareness in spirituality. Our behaviour is healthy, we get things done.
Once a little more stress creeps in, the limbic/emotional brain takes over the wheel. Our thoughts become rigid, with a set and narrow focus, while we are simultaneusly distracted and our mind wanders easily. Our feelings are mixed: we are either numb or fairly negative. Our relationships are merely social and we become spiritually unaware and pragmatic. Our behaviour as a result is only of a moderate quality. Add more pressure and we’re definitely stressed. The limbic/emotional brain remains in charge. Our thought patterns become reactive, combative and obsessive. Our feelings are unbalanced and we experience powerlessness, self-persecution and other rather intense negative feelings. In our relationships, we are either needy or distant and we are disconnected on a spiritual level. Our behaviour, as a result, is unhealthy. If things get worse, we become super stressed out and the reptilian brain kicks in. Our thought patterns become confused and irrational, ‘all or nothing’. We can’t think clearly and we can’t find a way out. We feel overwhelmed, panicked, deeply depressed and lost. We experience our relationships as merged: we either suffocate the other or disengage completely. We are lost/absent spiritually and our behaviour becomes destructive. (extracted from ‘Surfing complexity’ by Amanda Holt).
This helped me realize that I need to monitor my anxiety levels and dial them back, so I have a fair shot at keeping my thoughts in check enough to stay off that highway. I may have liked the adrenaline rush initially, but eventually I opted to save my energy for living life for real and not wasting it on coping with my own imagination.