Thoughts About … Thoughts

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about thoughts.

I realize that’s a recipe for spinning uselessly, but I also think it’s a worthwhile endeavor. After all, if thoughts about “reality” create our reality, and therefore our emotions, and all of it together creates our actions, which contribute to reality, and so the cycle continues …

My ultimate fear; being stuck.
My ultimate fear; being stuck.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about my relationship with my thoughts. Some I like, some I don’t, but is it a good idea to attach to the “good ones”? And what to do about the “bad” ones? Chase them off? Let them go? Let them in?

For example, take my claustrophobia. It’s the very definition of something that is “entirely in my head.” The “reality” of being in a small plane, for example, is not a threat. But my mind tells me it is, which kicks off a cycle of anxiety which I often have to dull with medication … unless I can find some other way to deal with those thoughts. Or create new ones in their place.

I was recently on a trip which I knew would end with a ride in a small airplane. The trip itself became difficult and then just unpleasant. I wanted it to end. I wanted out of the situation. This was combined with my sleeping in small rooms, and the “get me out of here” thoughts began to pile up. First I tried medication, but I needed to save some for that plane ride. Then, after overcoming my fears of what others would think, I tried sleeping in another room — what a concept.


By the time I got to the plane ride, I had one dose of my meds remaining, but I noticed something interesting as I got closer to the flight: I was pumped up about getting on that plane. I was stoked; I’m finally getting out of here! And somehow that positivity — associating the small plane with liberation instead of incarceration — meant that half a dose of meds was enough, maybe even unnecessary.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since. If the context of the thoughts changes, if the situation can be seen as “good” rather than “bad,” then the thoughts themselves don’t matter as much. So when I check into a small hotel room and that first little wheel of claustrophobia starts to turn, I can just say, “No, this is great.” After all, I don’t need to conquer those thoughts, just change my relationship with them, fend them off for a little bit until something else can come in.

So many thoughts at once!
So many thoughts at once!

And if this is true, then why wouldn’t it be applicable to bigger thoughts and stories? On this same trip I have made lots of little mistakes — packing mistakes, forgetting stuff, not thinking through decisions very well — and every time this realization is followed by a wave of negative thinking. But when I see all that “I’m a failure” stuff coming at me, what if I just said, “No, it’s cool, I’ll just replace that item,” or “I’ll find some other way to deal with this, and who knows, it might be better.

And if that can work, what about the thoughts that come with my seemingly-ingrained tendency to become depressed … or even that thought itself, that I tend to become depressed?

Now we really are into a tail-chasing scenario with “thoughts about thoughts,” but I think some of this is helpful. If I can change my relationship with my thoughts, who knows what might happen? Maybe I won’t need meds for small airplanes anymore. Maybe I won’t get so frustrated when I make little mistakes. Maybe my depression won’t be such a driving (or braking) force in my life.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. I’m giving it a try.

Thanks for reading.

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