Inspirational Articles

The Transient Nature of Our Thoughts

The Transient Nature of Our Thoughts

Conscious Living Column

By Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak

July 2014


Let’s open up with the burning conundrum many of us have as to how relevant are all the thoughts we have, from ice cream on a hot day to discoursing on the aggressive stance of one nation against another, as  an endless stream flows through us, with countless possible directions. Many people believe that the words and images drifting in and out of our brain are of great importance and placing absolute trust in the messages they carry for us.  Yet if we can observe our self when we are thinking and examine our thoughts we would see they are all over the map. Whether it be brilliant creative ideas, or childlike fantasies, or dark brooding images fueled by our anger and pain, they all vie for centre stage. Some thoughts flit in and out so quickly we barely notice them while other ideas may arrive, dropping a proverbial anchor and take up residence filling us with all sorts of ideas and images. These unpleasant thoughts combine to create experiences which can plummet our emotional responses into disturbing and fearful places.

We humans have a natural progression of internal events which have evolved throughout the millenniums in terms of both our thought processes and our emotional processes. In all of us, we first have a thought which in turn can elicit an emotional reaction. The emotional response tells us whether this is big issue or perhaps a minor one and from this decision we may go on to include the body. In other words, from a solitary thought we are now experiencing various feelings which compel us to move into various behaviours. This three stage engagement of our beingness can be part of our instinctual survival/defense systems but it is both powerful and stealthy requiring us to be aware of the movement from one stage to the next. This is especially important for anyone who is working to change old patterns, addictions or other behaviours. The triggers ignited by a memory and followed by any feelings can move us into old behaviours faster than we would ever imagine.

Not Just in Films

Occasionally, rather than triggering or initiating a behaviour we stay in our heads and begin a process that is often referred to as ‘looping’. We are probably familiar with the idea of looping as it applies to films where a single scene is begun then played through and loops back to the start again and keeps going over the same scene. We are most apt to do this looping with issues that involve our self-esteem, self-worth and have no control over the actual event we are replaying. The looping is an attempt to discover some logic or answers to things we do not comprehend or at least we do not want to. Looping also occurs when we are in a stationary position. Walking, running or any movement by our body is not conducive to the looping process. Instead we sit or lie down in a position, staring straight ahead, and not moving at all while an entire experience plays itself out repeatedly in our minds. If we stay with our looping we begin to rewrite the storyline adding to it, not pleasant additions, but more foreboding elements which is ramping up our emotional temperature. As we add these fictionalized enhancements we are drawn deeply into a scenario all the while the external world we are sitting in ceases to exist. Rarely if ever are these additions of a positive nature which would bring us closer to the idea of daydreaming or fantasizing. Rather they tap into inner wounds and pain about our self and end up leaving us feeling unbalanced and filled with fear and anger.

The experience of looping can be powerful enough to have us believing and feeling that we actually are living through such a scenario. Little is accomplished by the distorted thoughts usually occurring in the looping brain. It is probably best to avoid allowing ourselves to drift into such a level of turmoil that has been concocted by our thoughts but triggers such strong emotional reactions within us. In addition to our maintaining an awareness of our brain entering into this mindset and changing to some other thought, the one sure fire way to get out of this state is simply move your body. Remember the body is virtually locked into position in order for looping to exist, by sitting up straight, uncrossing your legs and arms, or better yet, get out of the chair and walk about.  A problem can be, is if you were deep enough into a loop, you will feel ungrounded, shaky and even disoriented when you suddenly snap back to reality as you will still have the aftermath of strong feelings washing over you. Where possible never jump up or allow someone else to go back into full motion too quickly.

Fleeting Images

Our thoughts are a mishmash of memories, hopes and visions, fictional images and illusionary stories meandering through our mind, some moving at break neck speeds. Most of us give much too much power to the accuracy and veracity of our thoughts taking our self very seriously. Our language is filled with sayings and quotes that attest to the transient nature of our thoughts. An example is- “it is a woman’s purgative to change her mind.”  If our thoughts were that real and entrenched in truth then why would one want to change it? The reality is we choose to believe what we want to believe, usually because it backs up what we may have been thinking in the first place. Just because we think something makes it neither true nor worthy of action. Some people can get themselves so riled up as to be almost inconsolable because they believe their own thoughts and its irrationality. The writer Rumi espoused, “The most important warning we can receive in life: Protect yourself from your own thoughts.”

We have learned to believe that our thoughts are truth exonerated but when one can stand in a shop and not be able to decide between chocolate or vanilla ice cream, then choose the chocolate, of course, only to decide not to have ice cream at all, pretty much wraps up the transient nature of our thoughts. Just because we can think it, does not make it accurate or true. From far back in our history, Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”