Do Not Pass Go

ImageSo, You Want To Take A Chance?

In yesterday’s blog post, I wrote about renewing the search for love.  Last night I tossed and turned about that post.  I kept thinking that chance is a terrible way to find love or to do really anything at all in life.  But chance happens.

We leave so many things to chance.  We call it by many names but it is the word ‘chance’ that has a sense of mystery.  What could happen?  Anything, by chance.

But it’s not all that mysterious.  Things happen.  One thing leads to another and before you know it that butterfly has caused a hurricane.  That little insignificant remark has caused a loved one pain.  That chore that you forgot to do caused your house to fall around your head.

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This Is The Result Of Chance And Risk

Some people feel that certain things are better left out of our consciousness, that we can focus only on the important things one at a time.  I know that’s largely true for me in that my attention span, roughly that of a gnat, can’t take on all the mysteries in my life all at once.  Others have no problem at all with juggling everything on their plates and juggling the plates, too.

Sorry, but I can’t do that.

Instead, with my remarkably bipolar brain, I focus on one thing at a time.  Over and over and over.  With a vengeance.  With remarkable nervous clanging buzzing wicked clarity.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.

And what’s the outcome of such laser vision?  Usually: get nothing done.  I’ve spent all my time going over every permutation of every fact related to every element of every aspect of every problem.

Damn, I’m good.

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Imagine Every Thought Has Very Sharp Teeth

So after writing all about the renewed search for love, you can imagine the riotous thinking that happened next.  What if?  What if?  What if?  What then?  What then?  Can I?  Can I?

God, please, smite me with something so I’ll stop that infernal rotational thinking.

If you stop and examine all your thinking there’s something else happening too: you’re suspicious of your thinking processes.  When you’re in therapy and examining those thinking processes, there’s legitimate work going on.  You’re learning how to think all over again in a way that makes sense, a way that is logical and based in fact.

But what if?  What then?  What about this or that?

See what I mean?  Suspicious of every motivation.  Looking for reasons where sometimes they don’t exist.  Overthinking.  Worry.  Manic worry.

If you were the border guard looking for shifty characters and you’re suspicious of everything and everyone, then you’re going to have a real problem with overcrowding the holding cells.

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Gee Whiz, Mister, There’s Only Apples In There

Of course, the regulation of each and every thought is ludicrous.  Most people don’t police themselves in this way although, when you come to think about it, perhaps policing what comes out of their mouths might be a good idea at times.  But for the most part people don’t have to question everything.  They just get on with it with some confidence that they’re functional.

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So What Thinking Gets Jailed And What Doesn’t?

I have this part of my brain I’ll call (for want of a better name) my Thought Jail.  I throw thoughts in there when I have too much worry happening over something I deem not critical or significant.

But how does one decide what is truly critical or significant?  Most people can prioritize their thinking in logical ways.  However, when you obsess over a thought how can you effectively make  the decision or prioritize it?

I take that thought and put it in thought jail.  When I can take the time to study that thought it almost inevitably turns out that it has a lower priority than I originally assigned it.  So when I let it out of thought jail, it goes into the proper prioritized order in my thinking.

Of course, that’s not always the case.  When I’m depressed, obsessive thought is almost impossible to escape.  And when I’m hypomanic, I have so many thoughts that they all have the same priority — top priority.

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When To Refuse To Entertain Thinking

Listen, if two Hobbits and a very nasty Gollum showed up at the door of my fine restaurant, I’d point to this sign and say “Sorry, silly Hobbits.  Ain’t gonna happen.  I let you in and the next thing you know we’ve got The Dark Lord Sauron in here demanding to return the supposedly ‘overcooked’ steak he ordered rare.  Very rare.”

That’s where it starts.  If you take the time to question everything it takes forever.  But establish a few rules — even only one or two — then you’ve got a gate that those thoughts either enter or (I have to say it) They Shall Not Pass.

First: Is This Thought Rational?

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Don’t Think I Don’t Know What You’re Thinking, Buddy.

Rational.  Reasonable.  Sensible.  Based in fact, not fiction.  Based on reality, not emotion.  Something that just about anyone would say, makes sense.

It would be so nice if that were simple to do, but it isn’t.  When you’re suspicious of every thought then what do you think you consider rational?  It could be almost anything at all.

But that’s not how it works.  You have to step away from that thought and give it a little room so that you can look it over.  Don’t like what you see?  Put it in thought jail for a while until you have the time to interrogate it.

Second: Am I Amplifying That Thought?

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Wow, That’s AWFUL

Amplification.  Awfulizing.  Making a mountain out of the proverbial molehill.  You know how to catastrophize with the best of them.

If you’re bowled over by the sheer immensity of a thought — the thought is a roaring lion in your brain — then you’re giving that thought a great deal of power.  Maybe that’s a good idea if there really is a murderous lion chasing you down.  But for the most part, making something bigger in scope than it needs to be is wasting energy.

You need more energy to fight it.  You need more energy to wrestle that thought into submission so that you can deal with it.  But you know you made it a great big out of control thought when you first catastrophized that bad boy.

So here’s the plan.  Is that thought rational?  If so, go to step two.  Am I amplifying that thought into something bigger than it should be?  If yes, the next step is to adjust your thinking.

And there’s my therapist waving happily at me for doing a good job with analyzing my thinking without making everything terrible.  Maybe I get a cookie this time,

Taking chances?  Allowing risks?  Not with MY thinking, thank you very much.  I can’t allow risky thinking.  I can’t be taking chances with my mental health.  That’s why there’s no Hobbits in my restaurant, no sir.  Can’t take a chance like that.

That means you too, Sauron.

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