There are moments in life when our mind is like a bright blue sky. When there are no dark clouds far and wide that could push in front of the sun and the sun’s rays warm us from within.
Moments when the sun shines in our head.
But for many of us, such moments are anything but the rule.
We barely enjoy this warmth when something comes along that has the power to plunge an otherwise cloudless day into cold darkness in no time at all.
A dense fog that fills our head and covers everything that was previously lovingly touched by the sun’s rays, suffocating any warmth.
To many of us it may even seem as if this fog is the normal state and the warm moments in the sunshine the exception.
An exception that we long for, but which, when it occurs, is often short-lived. Before the fog settles over our inner life again.
But the fog itself is only one half of the problem. The other is what is hidden in the fog.
While for some, fear creates a persistent sense of threat in the fog, for others there are thoughts and images hiding in it that tell them they are not good enough. Still others find reasons for worry in their fog, no matter where they look. For some, the fog is bathed in dark red color and pulses with anger and irritation. While others’ fog settles so thick and dark that they can’t seem to find anything in it that reminds them of joy and happiness.
But how can we get rid of this fog? Regardless of its type, or combination of types.
To find an answer to this, we need to look at what causes the fog to rise in the first place. A key question can help us do this:
What if this fog is not something that happens to us, but rather something that we create ourselves?
What if the fog were a direct result of something that we do? And the more we do this action, the more fog rises?
Our mental processes can be divided, roughly speaking, into two groups: those over which we have control, and those over which we do not.
We all have thoughts, images and feelings that come to mind throughout the day. Sometimes for no apparent reason, sometimes with. Sometimes we are more aware of them, sometimes less. Over all this we have no control. It just happens.
Any form of reaction to these thoughts, any mental engagement with them, however, is not something that happens to us, but something that we do.
Let us imagine these thoughts, images or feelings as colored, filled bubbles.
When these bubbles pop in our minds, an aura buzzes around them that, depending on the color of the bubble, gives off a sense of threat, worry, hopelessness, or something else. Which can be very uncomfortable for us.
If we do not occupy ourselves further with these bubbles, they fade away quite quickly. After a few moments they have completely dissolved. Often we don’t even know what it was all about a few minutes later.
However, if we engage with these bubbles and their contents, for example by paying attention to them, by trying to “solve” them, or by engaging with them in some other way, we not only prevent the bubbles from fading, but also cause them to burst.
And before we know it, we have released their contents – a dense fog infused with swaths of color – which now emanates into our minds.
Once this fog is in our minds, we often feel there is not much we can do about it, and thus our fears, worries, feelings of worthlessness, and other distressing emotional experiences that are hidden within it.
But what if we were to see these experiences as a product of our rumination – our mental preoccupation – and rumination as something we do, rather than something that happens to us? Then a path to a solution opens up for us.
If controllable thinking creates the fog in our minds, that also means that no fog rises as long as we are not doing that form of thinking. If, on the other hand, we are already ruminating, we can allow the fog to fade by stopping the ruminating. Until the fog finally dissipates completely.
And what if we see rumination as just another, ordinary, action? As something we do? Yes, mentally, and yes, often charged with hard-to-process emotions, but despite all that, something we do?
Then we would realize that we have a choice.
A choice that may not always be easy, but that we can make nonetheless.
There are enough reasons beyond our control that can push dark clouds in front of the sun.
So why not enjoy the warming sunshine in the midst of a bright blue sky whenever possible?