It’s not ‘what’ you think

Image: frank mckenna

Positive thinking is a lot of damn work.

All those affirmations and voodoo tricks of the mind designed to ‘make us happy’.

Some people even completely revamp their living/working spaces so that every square foot is filled with a mantra or a talisman designed to get their thoughts back to positive.

(Question: What happens if they have to go to the store or something? Are they totally screwed then?)

It’s all good. Positive thinking is wonderful. Affirmations are awesome. And good interior design is a necessity, in my book.

But it’s not the end-all-be-all.

Sometimes, having a ‘negative thought’ is useful (Which makes me think, “Is there really such a thing as a ‘negative thought’?” — for another post, sorry).

For example, when we lose someone close to us, it’s healthy to have a ‘negative thought’ about it. Same as when we stub our toe or are about to get ran over by a bus or when the Cubs lose.

Thought happens. Sometimes we deem thoughts to be ‘positive’. Sometimes, ‘negative’. Other times, ‘indifferent’ — all depending on where we are in consciousness.

The key is to allow thought to remain in-flow.

It’s not about the content of our thought — it’s about keeping it moving.

Thoughts arise in the moment and fall away naturally. Any toddler will demonstrate this perfectly. Something funny happens — they laugh. Something upsetting happens, they cry or throw a tantrum. The thought flows through and they’re on to picking their nose or trying to jam a nail in the light socket.

As adults, we develop useful things called memories. We’ve found it useful to commit things to memory such as pin numbers, passwords, anniversary dates, names of friends, where danger lurks, etc. We store these things in the vast database of our minds.

We then start picking things up from others — beliefs, thought-patterns, and insecurities, not all of which serve us well.

In the moment, some of these memorized thoughts are useful. George Pransky called this, Process Thinking — an essential part of our mental toolbox as humans.

The problem is when we misuse/overuse it. When we become stuck in our heads and stressed about thoughts that we pull, not out of our response to the moment, but out of the database. We let them stagnate and recycle them again and again needlessly.

Process Thinking becomes a habit. Soon, we find ourselves living completely out of the database in past thoughts and the memories and emotions they cause. All of a sudden, we create this frantic, effortful, fear-based reality out of the stagnant thoughts we keep digging up again and again.

Let them flow through. Open up the dam. Live in the place of free-flow thought. If we can trust it, we’ll see that the innate intelligence we’re plugged into is incredible. When we’re in-the-moment and allowing thoughts to flow through, new thought can come to us.

We see that restaurants/food options appear to us when we’re hungry. Time becomes available when we need it to. Our hand miraculously blocks our head at the ball park when the batter hits a line-drive at our face. We stop when the light is red. And we go when it’s green. Process Thinking will rise up and flow through in the moment as room is made for fresh, insightful thought (where the good stuff lives).

But when we’re stuck in Process Thinking, we can only see what’s stored in the database. Old stuff, most of which are ghosts and skeletons.

Reawaken the flow. All it takes is a willingness to do so and a habit of trusting it. From there, the floodgates will open and our mental state will self-correct. It’s an amazing design, if we let it work.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I gotta move my lava lamp and prayer candle.

I’m Jonas Ellison — a motivational messenger and high-performance coach who writes daily here on Medium. To get my short vignettes in your inbox every day, click here.

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