Welcome back to #thoughtfultuesday. As I reflect on this week, it appears to be rather ordinary; simply a series of events and a myriad of thoughts. In moments of awareness over the past seven days, the fleeting and erratic nature of the mind has repeatedly revealed itself. The most recent instance of this transpired as I was shopping today for a pair of overalls, in attempt to relive some forgotten aspect of my childhood. I was in a flowing state until the point of trying the overalls on. Next ensued an awkward encounter with my half-naked self in the mirror, unleashing a series of critiques. Disgust, disdain, frustration, and hatred circulated rapidly in my mind in the time it took to step into the overalls and pull them up. All of this occurred as I was talking with the saleswoman on the other side of the curtain. There is no better reality check than self-hatred to remind you that fifteen years of therapy can’t touch the inherent critique that is the mind. This is exactly what my mentor alludes to when he speaks about doing so much and getting nowhere; spinning one’s wheels in the sandpit. In mentioning this, I am not discounting the numerous benefits of therapy (as has been mentioned in previous posts). Rather, what I am addressing is the target of therapy. From my biased perspective, I believe that working on the level of our thoughts, with the objective of altering our thoughts, is a fruitless endeavour. We will continually encounter situations as such that elicit kneejerk reactions from the mind. The work, in my opinion, comes with the recognition that thoughts are flowing at all times, even more rapidly in triggering situations. The sweet spot resides in the allowance of all thoughts to exist and flow through our psyche without buying into them. Yet, more often than not we assign merit to our thoughts and believe them. What happens when we latch onto the bait? At this point, our commitment to the bait trumps our wellbeing, so we hold on for dear life as the fishing line is reeled in. Resultantly, a story emerges.
Stories are the foundation of our human existence. From birth to death, our lives are narrativized. Via this narration, we interact and connect with other beings and the environment. Standing alone, stories are neither fundamentally good nor bad. Yet, stories can transpire to elevate and accentuate moments of appreciation or elation. Typically, thoughts surrounding “light” circumstances don’t lead to therapy sessions, which is why they are not the focus of this post. On the contrary, when stories are developed in alignment with thoughts and/or beliefs like those expressed in the example above, they can become festering sources of pain.
It is known that when various individuals are exposed to the same triggering situation, each will recall the situation differently. Thus, a variety of stories will be developed and shared. Shockingly, some may not even perceive the situation as an adverse event. This is also evident amongst closer knit social groups such as family units. Clearly, it is virtually impossible to experience any and all aspects of life outside of our frame of reference, regardless of genetic commonality.
What is the point of this discussion? At times, our wounds and hence pain are perpetuated by our stories. Although I do not deny the happening of an initial experience and its ramifications, there comes a time when the sharing of or belief in a story is no longer cathartic or therapeutic. Here, our suffering is prolonged through the entrenchment of our story. Just as a story was developed to explain the suffering experience, we also possess the ability to develop another version of this story. I wholeheartedly believe that our story in this moment, or today, does not define our next moment, or tomorrow. So, my fellow story tellers, create your stories in awareness and with intention.
Over the river and through the woods,