Vampires and Allowing Thoughts
No one is more hated, than he who speaks the truth – Plato
I think a good addition to the great thinkers words would also be:
No one will be more courageous, than he who thinks the truth – Not Plato
Within the sphere of self mastery, let’s get into thinking, thoughts, ideas, memories and in particular, repression.
I would love to know the combined mental energy spent repressing thoughts and ideas. Wouldn’t that be something?
I’m certain it would be enough to power multiple large cities, countries even.
I’m referring to the taboo, the ones we don’t want to think about but we do, whether frequently or not. If frequent and/or debilitating then it is possibly obsessive compulsive and when infrequent it’s just a part of being human.
But there’s an undeniable common thread: we all have thoughts we’d prefer not to have. You’re not weird for having them, in fact it’s highly normal, to be expected. You’d actually be weird for not having them.
Repressing thoughts is like trying to blow out a flame – from a mile away.
By trying not to think of something you automatically make your self think of it (as in Wegner’s ironic process theory or rebound effect). The absolute classic in psychology is to instruct someone to do the following:
Do not think of a pink elephant.
And…I can guess what you just thought of.
In worst case scenarios, excessive thought regulation can enter into OCD territory or the lesser known Pure O, ‘Pure’ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which doesn’t manifest in outward rituals like excessive cleanliness, or checking a light switch is off. Instead, mental rituals unobservable to anyone else take place. Research suggests that Pure O has links with PTSD in children and the resultant thought suppression common with traumatic incidences.
Allowing thoughts to exist is part of the key to reducing stress and anxiety.
Bravery Without Medals
With repression, the only cure is to be courageous and face the thoughts.
Remember the flame referenced earlier?
The closer you get to the flame the more chance you have of extinguishing it.
Now— let’s imagine the flame is on the other side of a lake.
The direct route, the optimal route, is to start wading in to the water to immerse your self in the thoughts and allow them to flood over your mind before you kick for open water.
This is where courage really becomes a powerful thing.
You face the demons, or you can spend a years or a lifetime pushing them away, silently screaming, closing doors desperately behind you, scared of the very place that should be your innermost sanctum, running, running, running (without any cardiovascular benefits).
If that doesn’t scare some one into action, I’m not sure how else to reach them.
When I thought of that concept for the first time, what terrified me was the very real risk I posed at that time to spend a life – an entire life – blocking thoughts and making myself miserable through that. It’s my mind. I’m the king.
And so, it was my choice to be brave or be cowardly.
And in your own mind, if you choose to be brave, there are no rounds of applause, congratulatory speeches or medals, there are no tangible elements, and it can be very lonely.
The key point to remember is that thoughts are just thoughts.
How you react to them gives them power and energy. The process involves an extinguishing of reactivity to the thought or thoughts that bother you, until they occur infrequently and become ghosts of your psyche, vague shapes of past fears that like all memories, do not disappear totally. But their power is so weak it fades out and becomes laughable.
Just as you can enter the lake and swim towards the dot of light, you can also swim back to shore and try again later. That’s a choice you have to make in terms of how you master your inner world.
Vampires are analogous to repressed thoughts with many handy features to exemplify the idea.
The thoughts you have, that you try not to have are your vampires. Every time you run from a thought or thoughts, you go from the light towards the dark, allowing perfect conditions for vampiric thoughts to strengthen, thoughts that suck the energy out of your mind and drain your system of valuable resources that you could use elsewhere.
Think of it this way: if you have one part of your mind occupied by vampires, that’s one part of your computational capacity as a thinking human being that is offline. Repression is a virus, and the vampires will grow bigger and stronger every time you fight them when you forcefully make your self think of something else.
The neurons becomes wired, ready to fire again.
As mentioned earlier, the only way out of the conundrum is courage.
And because they exist in your mind, with your own personal twist on them, the thoughts can easily multiply in the darkness unless you address them directly: perhaps write them down, tell a trusted person. Do some research on the subject. Minimise and humanise them with acceptance as just the products of brain spew.
A flame is easy to blow out if you’re close enough.
A Fair Judge
And part of the process is not to judge your self for unwanted thoughts.
A further addition here: Some of our repressed thoughts or memories are actually not even conscious or available to us which can complicate things.
They can exist below the water of the lake where your legs are kicking. But when you find the courage to face one personal demon, suddenly, you empower your self to slay some more, and you may just allow some more to reach the surface by kicking in the waters, stirring up other ‘monsters’. Be ready for more and be mentally prepared: with the bonus of expectation you can deal with them more readily.
That sounds undesirable, but trust me, in the long term the benefits are certain in that your mind will literally be clearer freeing you up to be more engaged, focused, spontaneous, free spirited, and creative as well as closer to your true self, with a greater sense of your emotions and how to manage them in future.
That pays dividends for the rest of your existence.
As Marcus Aurelius wrote, the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.
The aim with our brain is self mastery, which means to be able to control our thoughts, or at least to direct them and guide them when required – as a shepherd not a dictator.
A final piece of advice.
Thoughts are just thoughts. In and of themselves they are nothing more than a flash of an idea or memory fragment. Undesirable thoughts do not necessarily, and often do not represent you, or suggest any terrible aspect of you as a person. Thoughts are not your personality, or who you are. How you react to them can be.
Ultimately, thoughts just happen.
The brain churns them out all day – and all night it has to dream. Without thoughts the brain is dead. Don’t get too attached to the ones you don’t like. Maybe pay attention to them, maybe don’t. Perhaps there’s a message there. But often there isn’t.
Stepping away from hyper vigilance is a major part of giving your self freedom of mind and reducing anxiety, by working on reducing your reactivity to thoughts.
Be scared and act anyway.