One moment I can be elated, feeling hopeful and excited about my future, about life, about love. Then in a moment, a literal moment- a beat of an eyelash, an exhale of breath - my feelings can turn to despair, sadness, or anger. I used to find this destabilising, but these days I choose to be curious. Curious and fascinated that my thoughts can have such an overwhelming influence on my wellbeing, moment to moment.
About a year ago, as I spoke to my coach about my practice and future plans, a random thought came into my head “I wonder what Huw would look like with afro hair?”. It came out of nowhere. Whilst the thought made me laugh, it was intrusive, misplaced. I let it drift by, I gave it no meaning. (Incidentally, my coach is in his early 50s, caucasian and British!).
Some theorists suggest that your thoughts say a lot about who you are. If I took the above example to a psychoanalyst, goodness knows what they’d make of it! Personally, I’m less concerned about where these thoughts come from. However, I am interested in what we do with our thoughts when we become conscious of them.
In the example I gave, it was clear to me that the thought was misplaced, so I disregarded it. I gave it no meaning. I didn’t go down the route of thinking “is there something wrong with me?”, nor did I analyse it to the nth degree. It just drifted by and I wasn’t troubled by it again. I’m sure you’ve had similar thoughts, be them random, inappropriate, illegal(!) or ones that you’d never dare share.
We seem pretty good at spotting these random thoughts and filing them under “PAY NO ATTENTION”. Yet, when we are in a happy place and an intrusive negative thought presents itself, we seem unable to do the same. We go into analysis mode. We look to our environment for meaning - we want to give the thought a cause. What, or who, triggered it? And yet, could it not simply be the case that this negative thought is equally as misplaced as the thought I had about my coaches hair?
I don’t believe that we are ever fully in control of our thoughts. Somewhere in my consciousness there is a thought factory, and I’m definitely not the person running it! But I am gifted with choice. I can choose which thoughts I give meaning to and which I let drift by. It takes ongoing practise to maintain an ‘observer’ position when it comes to your thoughts, but I think it’s a huge step towards a more peaceful mind.
So what do you think? Do your thoughts control your behaviour? Could you get curious and fascinated by your thoughts? Who is calling the shots - you, or your thoughts?