Recently I sent this out:
“Useless things to think about: Imagining a scary future, rehashing the past, thinking I know what others think, judging myself and others…”
This concept came out of one of many discussions with a friend over the summer, in which he explored my practice of ‘deconstructing my thoughts’. He commented that sometimes he will pay attention to his thoughts and then think, “Oh, I am rehashing the past again”, or, “I am engaging in judgmental commentary again”.
In ‘deconstructing my thoughts’ I’ve tended to focus on the process of deconstructing, aka questioning, thoughts for the purpose of resolving negative emotions. But my friend’s point is useful – there are entire categories of thought that we can recognize as origins of unhappiness and depression.
Imagining a scary future (this could be easy for someone in my situation), rehashing the past, thinking I know what others think, judging my Self and others… these are just a few areas of thought that can lead to depression. Other categories that come to mind are thinking I need someone else’s approval or love, attempting to live someone else’s life for them (i.e. “…she should do this”, “he shouldn’t do that), denying reality (“things shouldn’t be like this”), asserting unquestioned inevitability (“…things always go badly”, or “I can never get it right”).
For example, right now I could sit here and imagine that I am going to die soon, and that the dying process will be drawn-out and painful. In other words, “Oh my god, I’m going to die, it’s horrible!!”
What is the reality? Am I going to die? Yes. But that is true regardless of the cancer, and it is just as true for you and everyone else as it is for me. I notice that most people around me, even though they know that they will in fact die someday, don’t seem to let that knowledge interfere with their daily living. Why should I?
Is dying going to be painful? I cannot know that. I cannot know that there is any truth whatsoever to what I might imagine the pain could be like. I can only know the present reality – which is that so far the pain hasn’t been enough to keep me from enjoying each day.
But if I sit here lost in imagining the pain that maybe, perhaps, I might experience someday, then what am I missing? I would be missing this present moment, when the sun is shining over the beautiful meadow before me as a cooling breeze touches my face. I would be missing the good fortune of having the time, energy, and place to type this right now. I would be missing the joy of knowing so many wonderful people in my life. I would be missing the opportunity to care for my body as well as I can in the present circumstance.
That is a high price to pay, just for living in my own fearful imagination instead of living in the present reality:
I would be missing my own life.