Colors Of The Mind #8

Grab a seat, Sip some tea and Wait it out

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Make Life Worth Living (MLWL) is a project by Zaluso Arts whose goal is to explore and spark conversations about issues concerning mental health, through art.

As a man thinketh so he is, goes the famous quote. For a long time, I took this quote seriously, maybe a little too seriously for my own good. Initially, I had adopted this as a solution to becoming a better version of myself. I thought thinking or believing that I’m a great human being would eventually turn me into one. After years of living by this notion I actually felt worse and not better for it. I found it hard to reconcile who I wanted to be, with the person I actually was. This gave me headaches. Thinking I was an awesome person didn’t magically make me awesome, no matter how hard I tried to think I was.

Thinking you can change who you are simply by changing your thoughts may make for a great inspirational quote. But it’s not practical, as I later found out. It’s synonymous to the notion that – “If I believe I do not need food, then this will make me less hungry”. A week into such an endeavour, a growling stomach will quickly dispel such beliefs. Thinking obviously plays a huge role in transforming our lives. But taking your thoughts about yourself too seriously can be detrimental to mental well-being.

This was something the man responsible for this quote missed. Man cannot re-create himself simply by thinking it. Why is this so? Why did the act of “believing” I was awesome and repeatedly telling myself that I was, fail to make me feel better about myself? Or suddenly make me awesome? The answer is this; research has shown, that our thoughts are largely controlled by unconscious processes. In other words, the mind generates thoughts with or without your conscious will. Dreams are a good example; you don’t appear to choose your dreams; they seem to happen to you rather than the other way round. Your mind is a thought making machine and it never switches off.

Let me illustrate this point further with this example. Let’s say you are taking a walk in your neighbourhood. As you walk, you notice your crush coming towards you from the opposite direction. Suddenly, as if gripped by an evil spell, you are more conscious of how you look. You notice you are wearing your least favourite shirt. This makes you start to wonder what impression the shirt is giving off. Your confidence levels start to dwindle. Nerves start to run amok. You try to tell yourself to stop feeling nervous. Your nerves seem to be in no mood for taking orders. Your crush comes closer. You can sense them noticing your nervousness. You curse your luck. You wish the ground could just mouth you up.

It should be obvious to anyone who has ever been in any experience like this one, the extent to which our thoughts are disobedient. Yet we take this for granted. We go around, everyday of our lives, identifying with our thoughts. Always comparing ourselves with others. Always wondering why we fail to live up to the expectations we and society have set for ourselves. Is there a way to turn this switch off then? Can we find a way out of this dissatisfaction and stress created by our minds? The answer is both yes and no.

Unfortunately, there will always be times when your mind runs amok with fears, wishes and insecurities. As luck would have it however, it is not all doom and gloom. The escape only comes from knowing you can’t escape. Sounds like B.S, I know, but its true. The remedy for feeling better about ourselves is “not” clinging on to positive thoughts. It might work in the short term, but ultimately backfires. Clinging on to positive thoughts traps us in between a never ending tag of war between our negative and positive emotions.  The only way out is acceptance. Accept whatever you are feeling as a state of mind at that present moment. Instead of identifying with the thoughts that are passing through your mind. Try to let go and observe. Be there in the moment. You can only get your breath back if you release it. Holding on only complicates matters. There is no constant mental state, just like everything around us, our mind is in a continuous state of flux; change is happening all the time. Remember however, that no storm lasts forever. It is also useless to try to fight a storm once it ensues. Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing.

When the clouds start to form don’t curse and wish for the sun. Find yourself some shelter and make yourself some tea if you can. Then kindly grab a seat and wait it out.  Just like any other practice, learning to let go and not identifying with your thoughts takes time. This is no quick fix and anyone selling you a quick fix is only seeking to profit from you. Be patient. Let go of the urge to control your thoughts. Let things flow. Sometimes the best way to win, is not to play at all.

Author: Mtameni Kachusa is a philosopher who likes to spend his time thinking about the question “Now that we are here, what should we do?” He is also a book enthusiast. Music lover, an aspiring musician and as evidenced by this post, a writer. 

 

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