Thought is a uniquely human process. Our capacity for linear and lateral thinking process, logical movement between topics, and engagement with multiple thoughts at any one time, seems to separate us from other animals. We are capable of processing complex information, organising facts and opinions, keeping filing cabinets in the corners of our brain, ready to be opened when we are next in need of them. We have our own concepts of the world, we keep our own conspiracies, our own faithful, religious, or spiritual beliefs. We think about the daily taxes of life, the little chores, the news headlines. We think, we think, we think. We think, therefore we are.
Surely all this thought is a great and wonderful thing, allowing our lives to be more detailed and carefully constructed. We think about what we will write in our emails in order that we make a good impression, we think about our responses to global events and what we might do about them. We even conceptualise things outside of our control, imagining what life might be like if only we had to create these thoughts for a living. We think ourselves into the minds of great leaders, corrupt politicians, celebrities. We imagine their lives and their thoughts as vibrantly as the magazine pages they occupy.
We overthink. We rethink. We think about that conversation from three days ago, all the things which are so obvious to us now, if only we had just said them. We think about that break up from six years ago, we could have been kinder, we could have said something else. We live with all of our thoughts, like troubling ghosts who walk alongside us, among everything we go on to do. We might lose our confidence, lose our sense of self, lose something in thinking about another thing.
We must learn to manage our thoughts in a minimal way, as though we are managing possessions. We must learn which thoughts we value, which thoughts improve our lives in tangible ways, and which only serve to burden us. Our thoughts are as much things we live with as the possessions we own, as the food we eat. We tend to believe that overthinking simply means that we care, when in reality it often prevents us from seeing what is truly important or significant in the present moment.
Instead, if we treat our brain like a hotel, allowing in thoughts as guests but refusing to continue to serve them when they become hostile, then perhaps we can allow our minds to be a place of rest, rather than a boxing ring. When we learn to manage our thoughts and our thought processes, that’s when we can reflect on our experiences and our thoughts, keeping the pieces which hold value, and letting go of what no longer serves us.
Do you think too much? How will you process your thoughts differently in future?
Featured image: Aaron Burden via Unsplash.