Chapter 31

Your Mind Can Be a Bad Neighborhood


Thinking is a system, and in the down times it can be a scary thing to endure. When uncontrolled negative thoughts start to cycle one after the other, it’s like finding yourself in a bad neighborhood, knowing for sure that your best bet is to quickly get out of there, to a safer part of town.

Being able to get out of your head at a moment’s notice is an essential step toward finding freedom and peace. You want to develop the ability to step outside and slightly above that streaming video that is your thinking process, knowing in your gut that the thinking itself is an isolated system that can be directed. Do that, and you’re on your way to effectively managing your own little slice of reality.

Are freedom and personal peace even possible? Not completely, because everyone has a cross to bear (including yours truly, of course). For you, like everyone else, it’s going to be impossible to permanently stay out of the bad neighborhood, but there is no question that when you find yourself there, you can quickly escape by taking a cognitive approach that jives with reality.

And remember this about the thinking process: The brain is not capable of processing more than one thought at a time. Thinking is linear, with one thought following another, relentlessly. You can subconsciously multitask (e.g., driving a car, walking and talking, etc.), but you simply can’t multitask your overt thinking. Thinking is strictly a one-at-a-time endeavor, and the proof of this is to try having two conversations at once.

But, although sequential, the thinking system is quickly malleable. So knowing this, scrutinize your mental deliberation by getting outside of it, watching it, and then reaching in and directing it. If your thoughts begin to go down the road toward the bad neighborhood, interrupt them and get them out of there.

If you don’t control the content of your deliberation, who or what controls it? Our peer group, TV, electronic gadgets, a guru? Or maybe it’s some feel-good menu of life that is more wishful thinking of how you think things should be rather than how they actually are. Carefully steer what happens in your head (and promise me you won’t mess up your miraculous thinking mechanism with state-of-mind-changers).

Visualize your thinking as a streaming video in which it’s your job to control the flowing images as they, one by one, pass by your consciousness. Watch your thinking happen and consider those thoughts as guests: Who will they be; how long will they stay? Do you want them to be there at all?

This ability to watch your own moods and emotions from an outside location really is the simple solution. It’s no more complicated than being able to mechanically reframe your thoughts, to change the channel, so to speak. At home alone on the weekend, lonely? Go see a movie, clean the house, take a nap, eat something healthy, go shopping, call a friend. Take the mechanical approach to channel your emotions into a better place. Boring but true: It’s that simple.

Ask yourself: Am I going to assertively direct the content of my thought processes or not? And take this expression home with you: Sometimes my mind is a bad neighborhood, and when it is, I need to get out of there.


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