This chapter is something everyone does, right? I mean, right this second, you are contemplating the concept of think which that within itself is thinking. I don’t mean to get all philosophical on you (at this point in time) but this is something everyone can relate to. Myself, I love to think and perhaps this is why I love long car or plane trips because the only thing one can do is think. My thinking, though, is very intense and I work out many of the day’s problem while thinking. While it may be intense there is one massive downside to this and that is the fact that there is no off switch. The other downside is that I’m often thinking about many things at once.
One of the most difficult questions you can ask me is, “Aaron, what are you thinking?” I’ve been in a few relationships and so often this question would be asked and I would either lock up trying to discern what all I was thinking about or I’ll be honest and give a long answer of what I was thinking about and how those thoughts led to these thoughts which came full circle and in the end I was oblivious that the right answer should’ve been, “you.”
It’s true, though, that I will be thinking of all those things almost at once. And not only that but these thoughts are on a visual level and I can play out scenarios in my brain of how things would proceed if X, Y, or Z were to occur. As mentioned, there is no off switch and this can also be triggered in my environment which is how this chapter connects with the previous one.
If you want to know the most exhausting place I’ve ever been in it was school. I say exhausting because thinking is tiresome and if there is a constant barrage of thoughts to think about, and other things to process, it leads to mental and even physical fatigue. And also remember that I am overly in tune with my environment which wants me to tell you this story of kindergarten. It was a fire drill of all things which I had had several beforehand throughout the school year but this fire drill wasn’t on the normal Thursday and was in the morning hours instead of the usual afternoon. This raised alarms in my mind that something was different. These alarms grew louder as I saw over in the distance that the principal and office staff were also outside. In the prior events they stayed inside so I quickly knew something was different and that this wasn’t a drill but perhaps something serious like, say, an invasion of snakes of black widow spiders in the school. Remember, I was in kindergarten and my mind would play scenarios out and I wondered what would happen if those two situations happened and I was pretty sure, as serious as those two creatures are, that the building would immediately be evacuated. As it turned out there were no spiders or snakes involved, but rather a bomb threat coupled with a suspicious backpack that was laid by the front door.
Most kindergarteners probably wouldn’t have picked up that this wasn’t a drill and since I knew something was different I kept asking my teacher what was going on. I asked over and over again and she kept saying, “Everything is fine” which after 10 minutes of that I knew was wrong. This led my mind to come up with wilder and more serious situations and I became afraid for my life.
I used to always ask questions over and over and over. One common question I’d ask my dad was/is, “Is everything going to be okay?” This is about as open-ended as a question can get and I’ve heard from other parents that this type of question is actually commonly asked. This question could be anything, such as when I was in kindergarten asking about if it was a drill or not, or if dinner will be at 5:45, or if the plans we have are going to happen. Why is there this constant asking of questions and perhaps even asking the same question again and again? It all lies within this issues of thinking.
I don’t know what time of day you are reading this. I think most people read at night which if that’s the case have you thought about what you are doing tomorrow? And if so, how deep have you thought about it? Wouldn’t it be great if everything you’re thinking now goes exactly how you planned it? But, what if one event doesn’t go according to the schedule you have envisioned now? What would you do then, what’s the backup plan? And if that doesn’t go according to plan? Now, imagine having these thoughts, instead of me prompting you to right now, to having them of every second of every day. Remember the chapters you read earlier about worry and feeling an emotion and combine them to thought? Those two play mightily into the reason why we ask the same thing again and again.
For those couple of moments we are reassured when we ask a question we can think about something far more productive and far less anxiety producing than when we are worrying about what we are thinking about. A little reassurance can go a long way.
When the thoughts I’m having aren’t environment based, or worried about a schedule, my thoughts can actually be highly productive and I love getting into a state where it’s just my mind and thought. This could be if I’m watching a race analyzing everything I’m seeing, or playing a game of some sort, or just sitting by myself and appearing to be just staring into a world of nothingness. When I am in this state and someone comes up to say my name, and I respond, it often times sounds as if I am highly angry. At this moment, most of the time, you can’t take my tone as a sign of anger towards you. Instead, this tone you may be hearing has to do with the fact that I’m angry the way my body is reacting to the situation as well as the fact that my thoughts I were having are no longer there. Think of it as being awoken in the midst of a dream; when this happens, when someone gets waken up in the midst of a deep sleep, I don’t think someone just happily says, “Well hi there! What’s up?” It’s very much like this.
When my brain wants to think about something it can be very hard to distract it which is another reason why school was difficult for me. If I found one subject or concept taught earlier in the day I would only want to think about that and nothing else. Why would I want to learn about integers when just a few hours earlier we were talking about Mount St. Helens and volcanoes? Why would I care about a spelling test when earlier we were talking about the differences in clouds? When something caught my attention and became a Kansas it because ever so difficult to focus on the now because all I wanted to do was keep thinking about what I had found interesting. This was one of the root causes of the exhaustion because I tried to fight it and in the mornings I could but in the afternoons I no longer had the energy to do so which meant my mornings were always productive but as the hours progressed my ability to produce and focus diminished by the minute.
The other thing about thought is that it may take a bit longer. While, from talking to “normal” people I think I have more TPM (thoughts per minute) it takes a while to come to a consensus on what it all means which is why we may retreat from something to allow us to have a more quiet place to process. Thoughts can be very loud in our minds and if there’s a lot going on around us we may be unable to get to the end of the thought process so we will be stuck there processing, processing, and processing some more. And, to put this all together, we may not be able to respond to a situation until we’ve had ample time to think about it because we may have to play out all the scenarios which means you may have to give us our space to be able to think about it. And you may also have to give us time. I understand we live in a, “now, now, now” culture but my brain doesn’t work like that and the more you rush me the more uncomfortable I’ll become and I will quite simply be unable to respond. Pushing, sometimes, isn’t the best course of action and in this area I know it isn’t for sure.