“Had he learned–would he ever learn–to discard those thoughts he couldn’t use?”-Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding
Our heads can get so noisy.
There are so many things to do or that should be done, so many memories of what could have been done and maybe what shouldn’t have been done. So many things to think about that our heads are swimming in thoughts.
It’s noisy in here.
The problem is that it’s often difficult to tell if the thought that you are having in any given moment is actually helpful. Does it provide you with clarity or insight into who you are at this moment? Does it even provide any insight into what is actually happening to you?
Seeing through the mist.
Thoughts are like a fine mist that covers everything that we do. Negative thoughts will sprinkle negativity on even a bright and sunny day, while judgmental thoughts will have you looking for fault in your three-year-old’s finger paint picture.
And it doesn’t matter what you do, you will always be thinking about something.
The key is to surface what those thoughts are and to get clarity on the purpose that they are serving you and those around you.
Many thoughts are considered “discursive” or like a discussion that’s only mildly related to what’s happening. Pay attention to your thoughts and see if they are like a running commentary or a conversation with someone who isn’t there. Notice if it feels as though the thoughts are leading you someplace helpful.
Sometimes this shows up when we have an argument with someone who isn’t there, other times it’s when we are trying to think strategically about how to bring something up to a partner, colleague, or friend. Regardless, whenever you find yourself in conversation with someone in your head, it helps to identify this as delusional thinking.
Because you will have the illusion (or the delusion) that you are resolving some conflict with the other person, or that you have figured out exactly how to frame your point so that they won’t be mad or hurt. No matter how much you chase this discursive thinking, you will always be led to a place that is ultimately delusional. That is, only so long as you believe the thoughts as being helpful.
Settle those noisy thoughts.
It can help just to say to ourselves, “This is thinking, not a real conversation” and then check to see if what you are thinking is helpful. Does it actually provide any clarity? Is it helping?
If you’re able and willing to discard those thoughts that aren’t useful, then you can focus your attention on having the actual conversation that you’ve been rehearsing. In my experience, the more that we think our dialogue, the harder it is to actually have the dialogue.
Lean into the relationship and be willing to have the conversation in real time.
Don’t trust your assumptions or your judgments, and instead be curious.
The result might very well be less noise, more clarity, and deeper relationships.
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