One of the constants that characterizes the human experience is, of course, the fact that we THINK. (It is a marvel to me that everything man-made around me as I type this came from THOUGHT.
The keyboard I’m typing on, the computer that’s saving the file, the coffee I’m drinking, the coffee cup I’m drinking from, the windows I’m looking through, the words on this page…)
And, because we are constantly living in the feeling of our thinking, we then experience feelings.
I’ve been noticing recently that, what often gets us into trouble is not the fact that we think, but the fact that we then think about our thinking – sometimes in ways that lead to feelings such as overwhelm, anxiety, fear or ‘stuckness’.
I was coaching somebody the other day in a café. My client is a wonderfully intelligent, creative and caring person. She was explaining to me how her experience of life is often sad, depressed, anxious and even bitter.
As she was describing her thinking to me, I said to her “You don’t have to rub salt in the wound!” I grabbed some condiments that were on the table, a jug of fresh clear water, a bowl of pepper and a bowl of salt, and lined them up on the table.
The jug of water is us. The pepper is our thinking – it just adds flavour, that’s all.
The salt represents the thinking about the thinking.
See, the initial thoughts she has about herself wouldn’t be that much of a problem – if she just allowed new, fresh thought to come along. And it always will if we allow the stream of thoughts to just keep flowing – the way the system is designed to work. But, like many of us, she then goes on to think about the negative thoughts and concludes that she must be a terrible person – leading to feelings of guilt, regret, self-blame and anxiety about the future.
Michael Neill tells the story in his book “The Inside-Out Revolution” of a person he was speaking with who had been exploring this understanding for many years. “What’s the biggest difference for you?” Michael asked. After a reflective pause, the person said “More full-stops, fewer commas”.
We all have times when we do something that we’d rather not have done, and then think negative thoughts about ourselves, or the world, or other people.
There’s a big difference between thinking “Oh, I just snapped at my colleague… I’ll try to be kinder in future….” (Pepper), and “Oh, I just snapped at my colleague, and now he probably hates me, and …. It’s just like that time when I had the argument with so-and-so, and…. Oh God, what sort of person am I? There must be something wrong me… It’s probably because of that thing that happened when I was 7… and …” (Salt)
You get the idea.
When we stop rubbing salt in the wound, we experience a kinder and gentler ease in living.