Caught in the Thought Loop

**Psst. Psst. Can you still hear me? Are you sure you want to do this? Think about it. It doesn’t seem very safe. Are you sure you want to try? Think about it. Shouldn’t you just stick with what’s safe? Think about it. I mean, really think about it.**

**I don’t think you’re doing enough. You should hurry up! I think you’re doing too much. You should slow down!**

**Why not make a list? It always help you sleep when you know you have a list to jump on first thing in the morning, right?** 

I know this voice, it is the sound of my thoughts. It is the sound of my busy, buzzing, preoccupied mind. Maybe it sounds like your thoughts too. But there are other voices, voices that appear in my head but come from somewhere else entirely. Strong voices, sure voices, voices saying things that don’t really make sense when I think about it… but somehow I know they’re spot on.

Example: it’s Monday morning and I sit at my computer for another day of typing my way toward making a living. These voices say:

***Feel that connection? Feel that inspiration? Yeah, that’s why you’re here. You live this way because you love it, not because it is the next right move up the career ladder. You live this way because it’s in alignment with who you really are and that feels good.***

But then the voices start to argue. 

**Shouldn’t you go out and get a real job? Shouldn’t you stop pretending that this ‘freelance consulting thing’ is working? You’re just another writer/blogger/speaker. You can throw a rock and hit one of those these days. You’re nothing special.**

**‘Will think for food’ is your stupid mantra right? You’re just a small fish in a vast ocean. Didn’t you see Finding Nemo? Why are you away from the reef? Don’t touch the boat! Get back here right now!**

 Example: Now it’s friday night and I’m choosing to stay home with my dog because she’s been alone all afternoon.

***Ahhhh, this is nice. Warm blanket? Check. Glass of wine? Check. Dog-ball for repetitive tossing while watching a movie? Check. Eager dog staring intently at the ball? Check.***

The voices begin arguing again.

**Wait. Didn’t that woman from yoga class seem suggest you two get a drink to talk more about chakra meditations and breathing exercises?  Shouldn’t you be out there dating? Shouldn’t you be out there meeting people? Shouldn’t you be lamenting the state of the dating scene post-30, post-Facebook, post-Match.com. Shouldn’t you be unhappy about something?**

I realized in 2008 that I’d grown so used to listening to the insane loop of self-consuming thoughts that I didn’t really–and I mean really–question my thoughts.

  • Where are they coming from?
  • What formed them?
  • Why do I believe them just because I think them?
  • What if everything they ever said was a lie or, at the very least, only a tiny part of total perception?
  • Why don’t I give the same attention and sway to the voices of emotion and instinct?

As I wrestled with these questions, wrestled with the feeling that I was trapped in my own head… and I realized something even more insidious: I project these thoughts onto other people. 

  • You should this, you should that…
  • I just thought you’d be able to do that…
  • I’m disappointed in you.
  • Why can you be more like…?

It’s bad enough that I torture myself with own thoughts, can I be more mindful of not subjecting others to them? Sam Harris provides a fascinating perspective that speaks to he constant struggle I have with that unceasing narrative running in my head:

…if you speak to yourself out loud all day long, you are considered crazy. But speaking to yourself silently — thinking incessantly — is considered perfectly normal… the continuous identification with discursive (digressive, circular) thought is a kind of madness.

Thoughts are like the mythical Ouroborus (oo-roh-BOH-rohs), creating and consuming themselves in an infinite loop. Intuition and emotion try to break break the cycle but so many of us, myself included, learned only to listen and trust in that self-defeating loop.

Today I encourage you to see when you can start to break that thought loop–to hear the other voices in your head–so that you might live more fully. I started by abolishing the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary and then moving on to ‘supposed to’. Now I enjoy challenging anyone who uses those words in conversation. It makes me a lot of fun at parties.

And don’t worry, if you don’t choose to break the loop… I won’t be disappointed in you. I won’t even judge you. I won’t think myself better than you. I won’t feel sorry for you.

Non-judgment is one of more significant way I stopped listening to the whispering, doubtful voices in my head–voices that make me doubt me and voices that make me doubt you.

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