How to Control Your Thoughts? (Slow But Effective)
A very relatable and sometimes a pain in the ass predicament for all of us: the never-ending infinite stream of unwanted and unsolicited thoughts bombarded towards us. I get it, it’s something we all go through. Some people come out of it pretty quickly, some don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s always better to know how to control your thoughts before it gets out of hand.
The point when this becomes troubling and irritating is when those thoughts bring back the bad lot of memories, the failures, the screw-ups, the mistakes, the “Oh I wish I did that”, the “Oh I wish I didn’t do that the way I did” and so on. When the thoughts are related to your past achievements, your success, your highs, your proud moments, you don’t have a problem with any of those, right? I mean, why would anyone?
Nevertheless, the former outdo the latter by a huge margin. How often do you get bogged down by a trip down the ‘negative’ memory lane in comparison to getting overwhelmed with the ‘positive’ memory lane? Yeah, I know right!
No matter what anyone says, at the core nobody wants to fail, nobody likes getting failed, and certainly, nobody wants to get bulldozed by the torrent of thoughts reminiscing about your failure. Failing in something is not the only troubling thought; you not being able to succeed is the more pestering one.
And when our mind keeps on oscillating between the two thoughts, we often miss out on doing the necessary and important work we were supposed to do. And that’s what calls the need to familiarise yourself with the concept of ‘how to control your thoughts?’ Because make no mistake, you are gonna be needing it sooner than later.
Thoughts Can Be An Impediment To Excellence
Extending my previous point only, so often, you were supposed to do something else, but since you never really got over the overwhelming pressure your thoughts put over your head, you got subjugated by them. And now, your very thoughts, that are supposed to be looking out for you, have become an impediment, a bump on the road.
I mean instead of figuring out what went wrong, fixing your faults, righting your wrong, improving yourself in all aspects, you might be busy handling meaningless and blood-sucking thoughts like “That’s the ninth time I am failing, what if I fail again. All my friends are way ahead of me, even my own brother achieved what he set out to achieve. It seems like I am the only one left out.” and so on and on and on.
The minute you direct your energies towards these unsolicited thoughts, you are taking both your time and energy from what could have been a meaningful session of you trying to make yourself better and working upon yourself. But instead of that, you squandered your time, and for what?
A) You didn’t achieve anything meaningful and b) you put yourself down in your own eyes. Every time you let those memories come up, you are letting them rob you of confidence, respect, worth, and god knows what else.
Is there a sure-shot way to Control your Thoughts?
The mind keeps on wandering between the past and the future or to put it in a nutshell, in a whirlpool of thoughts. So, is there a way for you to control your mind and direct it to hold onto the thoughts that should be there and leave the thoughts that have no business with you?
What I mean by that question is that the thought that should be lingering around in your mind (can be related to work, health, relationship, or anything substantial), loses its grip somehow and another thought takes its place.
Think of your brain like a movie screen, where thoughts are being projected one after the other continuously, nonstop. Ideally, the projectionist of this screen should have you, but due to some inexplicable reasons that’s not the case and the thoughts are simply coming out of nowhere, completely random. And it’s ultimately we who have to look at the screen. So, now imagine just how unfair and horrendous it is that you are not being shown what you should have been shown? It’s like you bought a ticket to watch Inception but are stuck watching Carle Monto. Ain’t that a shame?
Similarly, on your mind cum screen, you wanted to see the thoughts related to your work to boost your career, strengthen your relationships, and simply live a calmer, happier, and more successful life. But instead of showing you your desired film, you are made to watch the dreadful events of the future and the not-so-cherishable moments from the past.
And these thoughts are coming at an astronomical pace, making it virtually impossible to concentrate on a single thought at a given time. By the time you gather your distracted attention and focus on one single thought at a time, you are washed down by a bazillion other thoughts. That’s what focus is all about, isn’t it? Being able to stay with a particular thought related to whatever it is you are doing is what focus is all about.
So, how on earth can you control your mind to stop the surge of thoughts? What should you do to make the film you don’t wanna see stop and switch it with the one you do want to see? Is there a way to even achieve things like these in the first place?
Well, sure is. There always is, isn’t it?
Controlling your Thoughts is not a fool’s errand
Like all good things take time, this one ain’t any different. Don’t be under the misguided impression that you are suddenly gonna cast a magic spell on your tiny little mind and everything will be under control. Nuh-uh, that’s not how this works.
It takes practice and understanding and patience to be actually able to control your thoughts. It involves slowing down the gush of thoughts to alleviate the impact it would have. And ultimately bringing the whole stream to a standstill with time as your understanding deepens.
So, transforming a fast-flowing river into a peaceful lake is what controlling your thoughts actually implies. Let’s get down to the gritty nitty details of the whole process.
Thoughts are Neither Positive nor Negative
This is the first dose of intelligence that is gonna help you get rid of this ‘thought’ virus that’s apparently more harmful and destructive than COVID-19.
Thoughts are thoughts, they are neither positive nor negative. So often we simply label them under either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ and completely miss out on the fact that they are simply a figment of our own imagination. There is no set structure or form or that can actually distinguish between the so-called positive and negative thoughts. It’s our own flawed and irrational mindset and process that filters out the two kinds of thoughts.
Any kind of thoughts, positive or negative, that come to your mind which is NOT related to the task you are doing currently, is equally damaging.
For instance, let me give you my example. I am writing this article right now. So, if I start getting either the ‘positive’ thought like “Damn dude, pretty soon your blog is gonna reach enormous heights, everyone is gonna be talking about it, and you are gonna get a shitload of money and will become crazily successful” or the ‘negative’ thought like “I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future. What if nobody gives a damn about what I write and it turns out that I just wasted all my time”; both of them are not helping me in any way.
That’s right, getting all excited and pumped up with the so-called ‘positive’ thought isn’t actually assisting me in any way to improve the quality of my thoughts any more than getting anxious and stressed with the ‘negative’ thought. They are both distracting me away from where my focus should be.
All the more reasons to be adept in being able to control your thoughts.
“Why did the Cat Eat the Mouse?”
Whatever it is you think you should achieve in life after which everything will become fine is plain bollocks. You are never gonna run out of problems, ever, at least as long as your thoughts are getting the better of you.
You will face different sets of problems while in school and different kinds of problems while in college; the problems in one company will be different from the problems in another company; you will face problems while you are single and you are definitely facing problems when you are in a relationship.
Most of us keep living in this illusion that they are just ‘one achievement’ away from sorting their life out once and for all. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The crux of our issue of why this happens can be summed up in just one line. All the problems pop up when we question the fact that ‘why did the cat eat the mouse?’
You think the problem lies outside when actually you yourself are the carrier of the virus, so wherever you go and whatever you do you can’t really escape from the clutches of it unless you, you guessed it, control your thoughts.
People are who they are. Your family members aren’t gonna change themselves, your nitpicking boss isn’t gonna shower you with flowers, your backbiting relatives aren’t gonna have a sudden change of heart, your unsupportive friends who push you down aren’t gonna become all encouraging, and the judgemental society isn’t gonna stop judging.
Those who can’t wrap their heads around it and aren’t ready to accept this ask stupid and naive questions like “Why did the cat eat the mouse? It shouldn’t have done that. Poor mouse did nothing wrong in his entire life, and this is what he DESERVES!! That ain’t fair.”
The whole notion of antagonizing the cat, making it the Bond villain, and sympathizing with the mouse is the root cause of your never-ending flux of disturbing thoughts. In order to control your thoughts, you gotta elevate your understanding and see this through.
Imbibe the Right Thinking to Control your Thoughts
The wrong kind of thoughts, not the ‘negative’ ones, are what causes all the turmoil in your life. Just because a thought is ‘negative’ doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and just because a thought is ‘positive’ doesn’t mean it’s right.
There’s a world of a difference between ‘positive thinking’ and ‘right thinking’. Now, while some people may take shade behind the ‘positive thinking’, I personally am a more firm believer in imbibing the ‘right thinking’.
Thinking positive is not the permanent solution to any problem, it may be temporary but not permanent. The right thinking is the one-stop solution to all your problems. And let me also say this, right thinking is a culmination of both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ thinking. This essentially means that you can’t solely rely on either positive or negative thinking. They both play a crucial role in different circumstances of life. The right-thinking involves using both kinds of thinking in an optimal amount to create a peaceful balance in your life.
The Problem with Positive Thinking
Excess of anything is bad, and nothing can escape this rule, not even our little friend ‘positive thinking’. Overly indulging in the whole notion of positive thinking can at times diminish our ability to see reality as it is. And when you don’t see the reality as it is, your actions aren’t gonna be that effective and fruitful as you haven’t exactly grasped the situation and are living in your own dream world.
Let’s say you have an abusive boss at work who’s constantly exploiting you and mentally torturing you, and instead of standing up to him, you are naively and immaturely thinking positive and are sucking it all in. Your inability to see what’s really happening and your judgment being clouded is all a side effect of positive thinking overdone.
The right-thinking would have involved looking out for yourself and your self-esteem and having a nice little chat with your boss regarding his nature towards you and your future in the company and the ramifications.
That’s just one example. I can go on all day, but I guess you got the point. Stuffing in and replacing your current thoughts with positive ones may not necessarily be the best solution for you.
What Actually is a Thought Anyway?
Let me zoom things out for a bit and ask you a simple question. ‘What is a thought?’ I mean, if you wanna learn how to control your thoughts, it only makes sense if you are thorough with what a thought actually is in the first place. So, ask yourselves the question and see what you come up with.
Is it an illusion? Is thought and thinking the same? Are thoughts just a perspective? Is it what we imagine? Is it what we feel? Do emotions play any role? Ok, before you bombard yourself with all these questions, I will make it easy for you to figure it out. Let’s make your mind blank first so that it becomes abundantly clear what thoughts really are.
In order to blank your mind, just ask the question, “What am I thinking about right now?” This is probably the fastest and easiest way to put a stop to those endless streams of thoughts for some time. The minute you ask this question, your mind will go blank. Try it.
Now, it’s time to answer the question. Thoughts are nothing but what you say to yourself inside your brain. That’s right. You can’t possibly have any thought without talking to yourself. Sometimes you are consciously choosing to talk and sometimes it’s happening on its own.
Can you think about something you don’t know anything about? Can you think about something without using any words? Try it and see it for yourself. You can’t have any thoughts without words(language).
The senses you have facilitates the different types of signals from your surroundings to your brain. Every sensation you feel, every sound you hear, every smell you smell, every sight you see; whatever you are intaking through your senses, you have associated these inputs with a word or a phrase. Simply put, word(s) given to a form is a thought.
You hear a sound, and you immediately scan your database(memory) to see if the query matches with anything and if it does, then comes a thought as a result, and if it doesn’t, then no harm no foul. You saw something, and whatever you say about what you saw in your mind is thought. For instance, if there’s a strawberry in front of you, then you are gonna say the word ‘strawberry’ in your mind to have a thought associated with the same. Easy so far, right? Stay with me.
The Best Way to Control Your Thoughts
A small piece of advice. Bruce Lee once said, “When a finger points at the moon, don’t look at the finger, look at the moon.” So, whatever I am saying here, don’t take my words as it is but instead try to see the meaning of what I am saying through those words.
Essentially, this whole game of thoughts is revolving around language. We humans haven’t been able to control the genie from getting out of the bottle. Perhaps this is the arena where other animals have a slight edge over us. They are utilizing the language in the optimal amount.
This is why you won’t find animals getting depressed as severely and frequently as we humans do. Since their language isn’t that evolved, they don’t go through the same level of sophistication of thoughts as we do, which is why their headspace isn’t that confused and tangled up.
A lion isn’t gonna sit and think about whether he should eat the deer or not. He isn’t gonna go like “Hmm, ok I heard the other group of my friends talking about how inhuman and cruel it is to kill other mammals for your own desire. So does that make me a bad lion? After all, I killed so many harmless deer who did nothing but respect me. But hang on, I also need to satisfy my hunger and look after myself, so now does not killing a deer make me a wuss? Am I a failure for not being able to hunt even a single deer in the past week?” He will simply pounce on the deer, if he succeeds well and good, if he doesn’t he will simply look for something else.
The lion won’t give two shits about his ego if he’s not being able to get his desired meal. And since his ego remains intact, he doesn’t look down upon himself, he is more likely to be able to hunt down his meal the next time. His thoughts are under control and he doesn’t have to bear the burden of a plethora of unsolicited and unwelcome thoughts.
He doesn’t communicate in words, he operates in sign language which, come to think of it, is much less of a pain in the ass. The language of other animals is actually helping them with their day-to-day activities. Unlike humans, where language can pretty easily become the reason for your debacle.
Language is not the Real Thing
Don’t get me wrong, everything has its pros and cons and I am simply keeping my focus on the cons of the ‘language’ as I don’t think I have to emphasize the pros of it. That’s pretty obvious. But most of us lack awareness about the harmful consequences of language, which is what I intend to shed a light on. It’s paramount to understand this if you want to control your thoughts.
So, continuing my ‘language bashing streak’, today language has become more complex than ever. So many words have multiple meanings, innuendos, conflicts, and whatnot. And besides, we consider language to be the real thing when actually it isn’t.
The word ‘water’ isn’t really water. Repeating the word ‘water’ isn’t gonna quench your thirst. Now, you may think it’s pretty trivial and childish but it’s actually really deep, deeper than you’d think.
Whatever you think, speak, and hear about Elon Musk isn’t the real Elon Musk. They are just words and phrases which aren’t real. The role of language is solely to communicate, period. But consciously or unconsciously it’s doing so much more than just communicating. We have been using language for a whole set of other reasons. Reasons which may not be having our best interests at heart. And this is simply because people have no clue as to what is mind, thought, or language.
But when you do understand all these terminologies from the core, you will understand their roles and their importance. You will automatically stop using them in places they have no business whatsoever. You don’t use a refrigerator to store your clothes and neither do you use a mug to piss at because you are thorough with their functions and uses.
Understanding is the Best Tool To Control Your Thoughts
The second you understand what a thought actually is, you will also understand its real role in life. Then you will use thought just for what they were meant to do, which is to communicate. And you communicate to get things done. It can be a compliment you wanna pass, a request you wanna make, feelings you wanna share, an idea you wanna explore, and so on.
Basically, you will be using thoughts whenever you wanna do something or the other. Any external work on the outside requires a thought. But when you don’t have anything to do, what are you gonna do? That’s right, you will say goodbye to thoughts. That’s what controlling the mind, or controlling your thoughts is all about.
There isn’t any other permanent way. You may distract yourself for some time, you can only meditate for so long, but until and unless you deeply understand the place of a ‘thought’, you will be back to square one.
Your Thoughts aren’t a Magical Phenomena
People want to believe in some kind of fantasy or fiction in real life. They are of the opinion that their thoughts hold power and at times, what they think comes to fruition. The funny part is that, so often such people actually wait for a particular incident to occur to reinforce their belief that that particular incident happened because they were thinking about it. Just because you were thinking of a red Ferrari and it suddenly crossed you, doesn’t mean that your thinking brought it from an open sky.
You were simply thinking about it and were all focused that’s why you spotted the car. It is totally plausible that you might be thinking about a green Lambo and you wouldn’t notice the red Ferrari at all. If simply thinking gets things done, then probably no one would sleep hungry and be homeless in this world. All kinds of pain and suffering would have already ended if thoughts really hold some psychic or mystical power, but that’s not the case.
So, don’t put your thoughts on a pedestal. If something bad happened to you, then it wasn’t because you were thinking bad about it. The problem isn’t the negative thoughts, the real problem is we having a problem about having negative thoughts. And because of that, whenever any negative thought comes (which they will), we get all fearful and apprehensive about it, which in turn actually makes the situation worse.
For instance, just because you had this ‘negative’ thought you are gonna get fired from your job, doesn’t mean that you have this thought caused your firing. The problem lies with you not being comfortable with the negative thought. So, because of that, the second the negative thought struck, your color starts to pale, your breathing pattern changes, and your whole body systems start to deteriorate which resulted in you performing poorly which ultimately resulted in you being unemployed.
Simply, look at your past, and think about all the times you imagined the worst of the worst happening. Did it happen? There you will have your answer if thoughts can really have an effect on the outside world the way you think.
Blabbering and Whining isn’t gonna take you anywhere
An unanticipated event in the past is not the pressing issue, you complaining about it, whining about it, and crying about it all the time is. Torturing yourself and mentally exhausting yourself with abundant thoughts isn’t gonna do anything meaningful.
Although if you are using your thoughts to learn from your past, acknowledge your mistakes, accept your limitations to work upon them, and simply become a better version of yourself then you are using your thoughts to your benefit.
Now, it’s not a magic trick or something mystical that will instantly change your life. It’s gonna take some time. Your current habit of getting swamped in a pool of thoughts took years to develop, so it will be naive and immature to expect that you will break that habit overnight.
But hey, that’s ok. You took your first step today of reading this piece of valuable information, which is always the hardest. So, kudos to that. Every good thing takes time, and you just planted the seed of the tree which is gonna give you unlimited shade and scrumptious fruits, for free of course.
Fearless VS Fear
Let’s say you are in a jungle, and suddenly a lion jumps out of nowhere and is now standing in front of you. So, there your fight and flight mechanism will kick in and you will run like hell to save your ass or climb a tree or something. That won’t come under fear. Your action will be followed by immediate perception of the ground situation.
Fear will be treading through the jungle and thinking all the time, “What if a lion comes and eats me up like raw meat?” Now, I agree that you must be careful when you are in a wild jungle, but letting thoughts like that eat the living shit out of you and hindering you from doing stuff, that’s an issue.
You can replace the jungle situation with any of your 112 other day-to-day situations where a single thought paralyzes you and stops you from taking action.
Hence, if you can understand what I am talking about here you will be able to control your thoughts and all your psychological fears will come to an end. You will realize that no experience is either good or bad. If you are learning from your experiences, then even your bad experiences will turn into good, and if you are not then even your best experience is worthless.
We kinda established that for a thought to exist, you are gonna need a word and a form of a kind or another. The absence of either of them won’t result in a thought. The word “Jignaoughily” won’t conjure up a thought as it doesn’t mean shit. Similarly, any formless entity like the space around you won’t give rise to a thought.
Don’t be under the misguided impression that being in a thoughtless state will be tantamount to being ‘dead’ or ‘not lively enough’. In fact, it will be the exact opposite.
You will become hyperactive and extra efficient in your daily chores. You will become like a computer that’s working at its max efficiency as it doesn’t have any apps running in the background which would have only resulted in a loss of memory, space, and efficiency.
Who do you think will be more productive if given to solve a problem, a person whose mind is cluttered with unnecessary and redundant thoughts or a person whose mind is relatively emptier and cleaner. Of course the latter. That’s the goal you all should aim for.
Let the thoughts come in, be it positive or negative, for they are simply what you say to yourself. The minute you understand that neither the brightest of thoughts aren’t gonna make your life all sunshine and rainbow nor the worst of thoughts will make your life hell and dull, you become relaxed and handle the whole thoughts situation pretty well.
To control your thoughts, understand their real role and importance, and they will stop rattling you once and for all.