Thoughts are what I like to call neutral potentiality. They are completely neutral but always have the potential to appear to us in a way which they are no longer neutral, if this makes sense?
They can be experienced as anything you want them to be depending on how you respond to them. If you want to them to appear big and scary, they’ll appear big and scary. If you want them to appear as insignificant clouds passing through the sky of your mind, then they’ll be just that.
Thoughts are never permanent
Because everything abides by the law of impermanence, thought, by it’s very nature, is transient, fleeting. Thoughts are like bubbles of the imagination. This is their essential nature. However, thoughts can easily transform from bubbles into stones when we resist and/or fear them.
This is why they feel so solid and so real to us because we are buying into the content of our own thinking. We are taking it for the absolute truth. Content meaning the subject matter of our thinking.
The reason why we take the content of our thinking seriously is because we are like fish swimming in water. We have become so caught up in our thinking that we cannot see the reality of thought anymore.
What is the reality of thought?
Bubbles of the imagination, nothing more. Said another way, thoughts are just manifestations of energy passing through our mind like clouds passing through the sky.
They only appear to become an immovable boulder blocking our path when we give them importance. In order for thought to become temporary bubbles again which flow through our minds, then understanding is crucial. Why is it so important to understand the reality of thought? For the simple reason that understanding something can take away fear.
As Marie Curie once said, “nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”
I love that quote because it’s the essence of my work. Understanding things to take away fear.
Why does thought cause us to suffer?
It doesn’t. Thought by itself, doesn’t have the power to create/cause suffering. What does have the power to cause us suffering is our interpretations of the imagination bubbles (thoughts).
The only reason why suffering is created is because we take the content of our thinking for the truth and then fear the content. “OMG! This thought is terrible, I would never commit such an act.” “This thought is SO SCARY!”
Regardless of the disturbing and/or scary content, we forget that the content of our thinking is no different from a horror film, no different from a horror novel. No matter what our thoughts look like, it’s all fiction.
We also forget that thought itself is just a bubble produced by our perfectly healthy but at the same time, overactive imagination. An overactive imagination is not inherently a bad thing, it’s all to do with how we perceive our overactive imagination.
For me, I look at it as a way to generate new ideas. It allows me to think more outside the box. Before I used to view it as a curse. I’m not saying that it can be overwhelming at times, it certainly can be. I am just saying that I choose to look at it with a perception that helps me rather than hinders.
When we understand this, everything will start to change for the better.
It’s like waking up from a nightmare. The sweats and the racing of the heart are present, but because we’ve clocked on to the fact that the nightmare was just a figment of our imagination which has no bearing in reality, then seeing this is all that’s necessary.
We don’t have to do anything about it because we can’t. And anything we try to do just convinces ourselves that the nightmare was real and important. Even in the nightmare itself, the thoughts we experience whilst we are dreaming this horror show are still only fiction.
They are still registered by our brain as neutral until we make the decision to fear them. Even though we are asleep, there is still a part of us that makes the decision to perceive the content of our dream (thoughts) as serious and dangerous.
This is when it turns into a night terror where we experience the cold sweats and potentially all of the other symptoms which are brought on by the fight/flight response.
Well having a nightmare is no different from suffering from what’s classed as an “anxiety disorder”. It’s still the same thing going on. Thoughts which we perceive to be scary, triggers the activation of adrenaline (fight/flight) to keep us safe. We fear the symptoms/feelings it produces which sends a message to our brain that this level of high anxiety is required because of how we are reacting to our symptoms.
The brain doesn’t know that we are reacting fearfully to our thoughts and symptoms, it just thinks that we are in a dangerous situation because it doesn’t have the ability to differentiate between a real danger or something that is only a figment of our imagination.
So, it’s safe to say that our imagination is the culprit/cause of our “anxiety disorder.” More accurately, the cause is our fearful interpretation of the thoughts created by our over-active imagination.
The emotions we feel in our body are not the result of actual external events, they are created by our thinking.
Everything we experience has to be processed and then decoded through our brains and given a conscious meaning before we experience a feeling Our emotions don’t come directly from the outside world, they are a reaction to our thoughts. All experiences must be decoded by our brain and become interpreted.
“We don’t directly experience any kind of external “reality”; rather, we take in sensory information from the world around us and our own internal kaleidoscope uses it to create a picture that we then call “the way life is. This is how it is that every person who ever walked the earth had his or her own unique version of reality.” – Dr. Amy Johnson
This means that we don’t have to work really hard in trying to manipulate the world around us in order to flow with our experience. Because understanding what’s going on inside of us is enough to allow change to happen naturally.
The brain cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. This is why we suffer from anxiety and depressed feelings. No amount of changing our external circumstances is going to make much of a difference until we understand where it’s all being created from. Once we get the inside right, the outside will fall into place said the Buddha over 2500 years ago.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we neglect what’s going on in our external world because changes our required when we find ourselves in undesirable circumstances. If we want to become fit, then we exercise. If we want to become healthier, we eat better foods. However, this is all about understanding the nature of thought and how psychological and emotional suffering is created.
As we take our thoughts seriously, when we give them our respect and fear, our brain, which is a protection machine, does what it does best which is activating the emergency response to keep us safe.
We are then disturbed by the feelings this emergency response (fight/flight) produces which creates even more fear. In reality, our emergency response is being triggered not because there is a real danger out there in the world, but because we have made the choice to fear our imagination. It’s as simple as that.
This is why we feel so shocked, scared and confused when we cannot identify an external trigger for our anxiety. That’s because it’s all happening in our imagination.
We then try absolutely everything in order to make sense of what’s going on. We turn to doctors who prescribe us pills, talking therapists that get us to dig up our past and find the cause or the triggers which ironically makes us focus more on the anxiety and thus empowering it. Basically, we are looking in the wrong place.
We might try thought changing techniques, writing down our thoughts or rating our anxiety levels from 1 – 10 all in an attempt to make sense of what’s going on and trying to break free from this horrendous experience.
From my experience, the more I tried to work out what was going on and the more effort I made in trying to get rid of my anxiety which included thought suppression and distraction, the more I felt even more worked up and anxious.
All of this pain, effort, confusion and struggle could of been avoided if I had a firm understanding of what was creating my anxiety in the first place (imagination) and what was keeping it alive all this time (my fearful reactions to my thoughts, feelings and sensations).
And because I eventually understood that my feelings of anxiety were not being created from the outside world and that thought and feeling are just temporarily manifestations of energy which didn’t require me to do anything about it, I gave up the fight and allowed my anxiety to dissolve in it’s own time.
There’s less to do than we think.
I trust this post has helped you understand the nature of thought and why we suffer when we don’t really know how to respond to it.
Until next time.