“Once you think a thought, it is extremely difficult to unthink it.”
Thoughts are persistent little bastards. In a world in which we talk ad nausea about short attention spans and distractions it would seem almost counter intuitive to think that some random little thought you spent a moment considering can weasel its way into your brain, settle in, and … uh oh … call your brain home.
Continuing that metaphor. As any house guest can be — sometimes it goes to the bathroom at night waking you, sometimes it plays the stereo too loud, sometimes it sleeps and you forget it is in another room.
But … it is there … in your home … drinking your coffee, using your water and piling up dirty laundry in the laundry room. In other words. They are persistent little bastards.
While most of us espouse the thought we are open minded, the truth is that more of us are more likely to think a thought, embrace the thought and hold that thought, then we are to think & discard.
And once we have a hold of it? It’s hard, really hard, to let go of it. It is really really hard to unthink something you have thought about.
Now. While it would be quite easy to focus this on negative thoughts <about yourself or Life>, I believe this thought is even more powerful when you think about people in general and thoughts in general.
Good or bad, true or untrue, think about the fact that regardless of the thought it is there in your head waiting to whisper in your ear. Psychology has a shitload of words to describe why people don’t like to change their minds — motivated reasoning, confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance.
But the reality is <at least psychological studies suggest> the reason why we cling to our thoughts is because we think they are the “right” thoughts or maybe even good thoughts. This distinction matters because, therefore, we do whatever we can to protect these thoughts and keep them safe. We do so thinking these thoughts make us safer <other thoughts can be construed as the enemy of the beliefs – we believe – that enhance the likelihood of our survival in today’s world>.
And, no shit, we even do this with untruths and bad thoughts.
This tightly protecting our thoughts may sound absolutely absurd, but just think about how difficult it is to change someone else’s mind — even when they are holding on absurdly negative incorrect thought.
They protect their own thoughts doggedly.
Uhm. And so do we. And we do so even when claiming ‘open minded’ <FYI … research suggests if you are actually happy with yourself and have some self-confidence you protect your current thoughts a little less tenaciously>.
Thoughts are persistent annoying little bastards.
Now. It is quite possible we fear to unthink something because to do so we need to open up the secure gates in our minds and while letting that one thought out we aren’t quite sure what may be trying to get in.
This theory is not really fear, it is more about security.
That persistent little bastard of a thought, even the bad ones, provide comfort. Stability. Consistency. Uhm. Security.
Unthinking it means you have to travel outside the secure walls and are forced to see new shit and there is no guarantee you will like the new shit and, worse, there is no guarantee the new shit isn’t intent on destroying you and your world.
So. Yeah. Even bad can look better than unknown.
“You traveled the world … now you must journey inwards … to what you really fear … it’s inside you.”
Thoughts are persistent little bastards.
And even the littlest thought gets stronger the longer it stays safely tucked somewhere in your mental house. Just like that stupid nick knack you have somewhere in your house that you don’t really like that much — as time goes by it gets more difficult to actually throw it away. It is almost like time increases its value in some way.
Maybe it is some warped version of sentimental value <even if it is a negative thought or an untruth thought>.
The longer the thought stays in your house the more they seem to belong in your house.
Your favorite sofa <even though the springs are broken and the color has faded>.
The shirt that fit you 12 years ago … but no longer fits.
The bad movie you have on DVD which you know is bad but is your guilty pleasure.
All these things, newer and older, settle in and become hard to unthink as part of your home.
I imagine I end there because I once purged my lifestyle — a three bedroom house to a studio apartment and it was surprisingly one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
Choosing between what should stay and what should go was miserable. And even I, one who likes to make a decision and just go, hesitated and semi-held on to some of the most absurd things <as I reflect>.
Even the smallest of items carried some 20+ years of social and cultural conditioning in my head. And fighting against that conditioning was hard. Really hard.
My point? That’s just “stuff”, not even beliefs, thoughts & attitudes. So. Once you think a thought it enters into a comfortable entry hall in your home of social and cultural conditioning in your head. If you don’t stop it in the entry way and say “uhm, thanks but no thanks” then and there … well … that persistent little bastard is gonna walk right in and find a place to settle in.
And maybe that is where we get ‘unthinking a thought’ wrong.
You cannot unthink.
You can only evict.
You can only purge.
You can only accept the fact that once you think a thought that persistent little bastard is gonna persistently find ways to stay in your home until you kick its sorry little ass out and close the door behind it on the way out and tune out the persistent knocking and screams to let it back in.
It is called purging.
It is called evicting.
It is called hard.
Whatever it is called.
Thoughts are persistent little bastards.