Our Psychology is a Self-healing System
Just the other day, I was playing a game with my family that turns from a card game to momentary mini games of tag. It is my nephew's birthday soon and he had asked me to play with him and the family as part of his birthday present, which was something I was happy to do.
As it turned out, during one of these moments of tag between me and my nephew, I was running after him when all of a sudden I found myself face down on the pavement with both my hands and right knee scuffed up. Not the way I wanted his birthday game to end, but the focus quickly turned from playing to cleaning up my wounds and bandaging them up to protect them from infection.
The day after, I was not as sore as I expected to be, but there was still a lot of sensitivity around the wounds, which was to be expected. I have been reading a book of stories about past life regressions put together by Brian Weiss and Amy Weiss. In one of the stories that I read the day of my injury, something happened in the present moment to the author that helped her fully appreciate a lesson that began taking shape in an earlier regression.
The memory of this story was fresh on my mind, which led me to reflect on my fall. I wasn’t a stranger to hurting myself playing as a kid, but I’ve never fallen just running around like that. So, naturally, my mind began to wonder why I fell. I understand how I fell but is there more to it? There may or may not be, but the self-reflection led me to think of a few things I wanted to share.
Fragility and Gratitude
The first thing I thought of was that this has been a great reminder to me about how fragile our bodies are. Given the covid pandemic at the moment, I didn't need a reminder of our vulnerability but it’s amazing how quickly and easily I take my body for granted and forget how easily we can get hurt.
The second thought that came up was a deep sense of gratitude. Both in the fact that the injuries were only superficial but also because it reminded me of how lucky I am to have a relatively healthy and fully functioning body. Every day, I care for my aging mother whose body is definitely feeling the effects of old age but ironically, I rarely reflect on how appreciative I am to be healthy. The wounds on my hands and right knee are a humble reminder that my healthy body is something to be grateful about.
The Body is Designed to Heal
So, those were the thoughts I had shortly after I fell but the next day my reflections were more towards the wonder of our bodies’ self-healing system. We all know that if left to its own devices, our body will naturally heal itself of cuts. It's amazing to think about everything that happens for this healing to take place, and it all happens without the need for us to get involved. Yes, we help by cleaning the wound, we put on an antibacterial ointment and then we cover it up to protect it while it heals. But then we try not to get in its way while it heals and it conveniently reminds us to leave it be with a bit of pain when we do interfere.
When I first started learning about the inside-out nature of our experience of life and of how the mind works, I heard a couple teachers saying that our mind (or psychology) is also a self-healing system and that we innocently interfere with it, preventing it from doing it's thing with the way we use our thinking. Constantly thinking about our emotional hurt is the equivalent of rubbing sand in an open wound, preventing it from healing.
Truthfully, I have never been a big fan of this analogy because it's very easy to poke holes in it and quickly find the weaknesses in the metaphor. But, I recognize that the metaphor can be useful if we simply try to understand the meaning behind the words and refrain from trying to rip it apart.
Characteristics of Thoughts
So, given that this injury has reminded me of the analogy between the self-healing body and our self-healing mind, I figured I’d share it. But before going into it, I thought it would be useful to start with some characteristics of how all thoughts work:
- Thoughts are transient by design, they will come and go on their own
- The life of a thought is only as long as we feed it with attention
- What we feel is a reflection of the thoughts we are having
- We don’t control which thoughts come to us
- We can keep a thought alive by thinking about it (I know this is kind of the same as 2 but worth repeating in a different way)
When we remember something hurtful, if we feed it with attention (by thinking about it more, by analyzing it, by recalling every detail of the attached memory, etc.), we keep the wound alive, just like an open wound being rubbed with sand. However, when the hurtful thought comes, if we simply let it be on its own it will pass. When it passes without being fed, next time it comes, it will come back with less of a charge and with less strength. Eventually the thoughts will stop coming as often and when they do, they are more neutral, more like any other normal thought.
People often wonder if this is denial, but not feeding a thought with attention is not the same as denial. Denial secretly gives a thought attention and feeds it in the background, as we “try” not to think about something or tell ourselves that what we are “trying” to deny isn't important. Not giving a hurtful thought attention is simply nothing more than letting it come and go with ease. I know this can raise a ton of questions, but I hope you get what I’m trying to share.
There is Nothing To Do
Something else that is quite common, is for people to create things they feel they need to do with regard to their thinking, like monitor, observe, or change their thinking. But this is not what I am proposing at all. In fact, what I am suggesting is the opposite. It’s a recognition that the system will do what it does and the less we do, the more easily our thoughts will come and go, without effort. Not giving the thought attention includes an element of awareness, yes, but it isn't about being aware of your thoughts. Just like not feeding it with attention is not the same thing as actively letting go of the thought, as something you have to do. It is more effortless and natural. It's about letting things be as they are, knowing they will eventually pass (in seconds, minutes, hours or more), because that is the nature of thought, to come and go. There is a sense of acceptance that comes with the understanding but it isn't about learning to accept your thoughts either. The acceptance is a consequence of knowing how our mind and the system we live in works.
Going back to the lessons of my recent injury. When I move my hand or knee in a way that interferes with the healing process, my body reminds me of its sensitivity with a little or a lot of pain. Psychologically, we do the same thing. When we start feeding the hurtful thoughts we are reminded of the fact that we aren't helping it heal because we feel more pain. But because no one taught us how our mind and thoughts work, we innocently don't recognize the signals to stop hurting ourselves. It's obvious to know when we are hurting ourselves with the body but with our mind it is much more subtle. In fact, with our mind we often want to go the other way because we have been taught it's good to think about things. We often believe that if we think about something more, if we understand it better, if we come at it from a different perspective, eventually we will come across something that will help us heal. We do this innocently. Our psychological wounds are healed when we don’t feed them with attention and simply allow them to come and go with ease.
Our Emotions Are a Signal
Something I have found to be very useful is to recognize that our emotions are like a barometer that measures the quality of our thinking in the moment. Our emotions are there as a reminder to stop hurting ourselves, they will always show us when we are innocently using our thinking in a way that is hurting us. When we are in a dark or low mood, all it means is that we are having dark and low thoughts at that moment. If we let them be, without feeding them more attention or trying to change them, they will pass much quicker and easier and we consequently go back to feeling better.
The natural direction of our psychology is to go towards our innate well-being and peace of mind at the core of our being. Unfortunately, we innocently interfere with how we use our thinking, which comes from a combination of not knowing how things work and because we are supposed to feel and experience our thinking. It is through the thought/feeling relationship that we experience life but it's very easy for us to misuse our ability to think and dig ourselves deeper into psychological holes, or to keep re-opening psychological wounds.
How Free-will Gets Involved
Something else that was very helpful for me regarding this subject was learning that we don't control the thoughts that come to us (consciously or unconsciously), but we do have a direct influence on the thinking we then create with our free-will about those first-level thoughts. It is also through our free-will, consciously and unconsciously, that we assign importance to the thoughts that come to us. All thoughts are initially neutral until we choose which ones mean something to us and which ones don't, for all different kinds of reasons. Naturally, the ones we deem meaningful are the ones that live us, or live through us, for as long as we continue to feed their existence.
Please don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that you stop giving your important thoughts meaning, but knowing how the system works is often helpful to put the thinking we are having into perspective. It allows us to have a very different relationship with our negative thoughts.
I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any questions about what I've written, feel free to contact me. Everything I share in this blog and this site is to help us understand our experience of life and of the system we are living in. So that we can make more informed decisions about how best to live our lives. It’s all connected to or related to the inside-out understanding of life, which I will undoubtedly continue expanding on in future articles.
Lots of love, ❤️
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