Have you ever noticed how much time we spend in our heads replaying bad memories and worrying about future "calamities" that haven't even happened yet?
And if this isn't enough stuff to be constantly wrestling with in our minds, we actually let all this stuff influence how we act in the present ... right here, right now.
For example, we begin to think about an upcoming meeting with our boss and start ruminating about previous meetings, especially the difficult moments of those meetings. This in turn gets us to project similar difficult moments onto the meeting we are about to have and relate to those moments as if they are actually happening right now.
Pretty soon we are cooking up a strategy to avoid similar difficult moments in our upcoming meeting with our boss based on these projections. It's as if our mind is some kind of crystal ball that sees into the future. And we rely on this magic crystal ball over and over. Maybe that's where the term "magical thinking" comes from? Who knows?
Have you ever stopped to wonder how accurate these projections actually turn out to be? Anyway ... hold that thought.
Here is another way of looking at this. It's as if your negative thoughts, emotions, memories, etc., are passengers on a bus. This is a very important bus. It's called OUR LIFE. We spend our time trying to drive the bus in the direction of those things we value in life; e.g., having a loving relationship with someone, being a good parent, enjoying time with our family, having a fulfilling career, feeling spiritually connected to life, etc., etc.
As we drive around, we pick up passengers in the form of memories, images, thoughts, feelings, etc. There is just one little hitch though ... these passengers we keep picking up ... they get on the bus, but they never get off ... they kind of remind me of that line from the Eagles' song Hotel California ... "you can check out, but you can never leave" ... we wish these passengers would check out AND leave but they never do ... you get the idea.
Ok, so we are driving through life in our bus, moving in the direction of those things we value and we have all these passengers with us. Now, everything would be cool except for one thing. Some of these passengers we pick up try to intimidate us into going where they tell us we need to go rather than where we want to go.
For example, let's say we want to ask our boss for a raise. Just as we begin to drive our bus in that direction our negative thoughts, I call them "thugs," run up from the back of the bus and say something like, "what are you crazy ... don't you remember how you screwed up last time you were in a meeting with your boss ... you can't ask for a raise you fool ... don't be such a putz!"
All too often, we actually listen to these "thug-thoughts" and avoid going where we want to go. We also start to become increasingly caught up in our struggle with them. The more we listen to them, the more they bully and cajole us. At some point, we may get so fed up with them that we even try to throw them off the bus. But that doesn't work either.
Why? Because the rule is that once they get on the bus, they never get off. Remember? And besides, stopping the bus to deal with them takes us away from the valued direction we were trying to go in the first place.
Over time, things start to get out of hand and the bus route becomes narrower and narrower. Before long we get to the point where we seem to just be driving around in circles. Why? Because the "thugs" don't want us to go anywhere other than where they tell us to go. They really don't have a desired direction of their own ... they just don't want us to go where we want to go. Why should they? ... they're just thoughts.
However, if we are lucky, we just might notice that in spite of all their threats, they never actually do anything to take direct control of the bus or where it is going. Why? Because they are just thoughts ... how can something as immaterial as a thought move matter; i.e. the bus. All they can do is scare us into driving the bus in the direction they think it should go.
In fact, we might notice that the only one who actually has control over the direction the bus is taking is the bus driver ... that would be US!
Once we get it that we are the only ones who can actually drive the bus regardless of what our thoughts tell us, we are free to go wherever we want to in life.
Will the thugs still try to influence us? Yes, of course ... that's their job. Do we have to listen to them? Nope ... not if we don't want to. Can they hurt us in some way? ... No not really although we will have to put up with their whining now and again.
So come on thugsters ... everyone on board ... we are going for a ride. Where to you ask? Oh don't worry about that ... unless of course you want to ... just sit back and relax ... if you behave yourselves, I'll stop and pick up some cake and we'll have a little snack together. Why not ... it's time to celebrate this journey called MY LIFE.