The mind is an amazingly persistent machine that pursues questions hoping to find an answer. What happens to the unanswerable questions? Why do un-answerable questions about situations from our past or concerns about the future plague us? Why does irritation show up as frustration, anger or depression? The mind motor over works, slips gear and then begins to overheat.
Perseveration. Redundancy. Repetitiveness. Old stories told over and over again; past humiliations and pain regurgitated ad nauseum. I could puke at the pain of these old tales. YES it was important to get the images, the experiences, the feelings out there, out of the ferris wheel of my mind. I needed to work them through, tweazle the important nuggets of information and education that they had to offer. But, eventually, I need to let them go: those stories of pain caused and pain received. The times I was hurt and the times I hurt others. The shame I was made to feel and the shame I brought upon myself. I need to move beyond the story and into the solution; the world of “after:, the universe of recovery.
The mind is a marvel – it stores absolutely everything. Every sensation and feeling. But we also like the connections to come to resolution. If this THEN that. What is the resolution to the story line, the solution to the questions lingering in the consciousness? If we can’t come up with a satisfying answer the mind keeps churning and reviewing the story and the feelings. When this happens our emotions can come out sideways- we may become anxious or angry, critical or fearful. The lack of mental resolution grates on our nerves. We may be aware of this or unaware- only noticing because our behaviour deteriorates, we lose our emotional sobriety.
When a memory is triggered but no resolution is recalled, the mind can keep going back over and over looking for an answer, for satisfaction. It may strive to find cause, try to find the source; like a disc set on auto replay. The mind wants conclusion. It may feel it cannot rest without resolution.
This happens with what I call the “imponderables”- the un-answerable questions that we chew on like a twig, over and over again without it breaking down completely. I have those thoughts: “What would I have become if I hadn’t been an addict?”, “Where would I be in life if my parents (had not criticized me over and over, allowed me to have a childhood, had stayed together, had stayed apart, hadn’t moved so frequently…?) “What if I had stayed with that particular employment, left that job sooner, been more skilled, stayed in school, studied something else…?” “Why did I have to be assaulted, pummeled, laughed at, left behind, shamed?”
Or I can cast my mind into the future wondering what would happen if…”Can I control this outcome, encourage my friend, or child, or sponsee in this direction rather than that? What will happen if I do get this diagnosis, that job, or finish this book?” Looking into the future for a currently unknowable result, we respond by ignoring and not appreciating the now that is here.
Over and over, a litany of unanswerable questions rolling around my mind, sapping my strength, turning my energy toward the negative (because I don’t seem to remember the pleasant from the past, or look into a rosy future.) I lose sight of living in the solution, of gratitude and of being in today.
We have a magnificent mind and it will, when trained through practice, step work, wise counsel and meditation, let go of that perseverant behavior. It takes awareness, an acceptance that that is the way the mind is designed, to hold all memories, to refer to the past and to plan for the future. With practice I can remember that it is not in my best interest or in my best health to allow the mind to do this to excess.
Rather than being addicted to thinking, I practice putting in the clutch, to practice taking a pause, taking a breath, with kindness. I know that thinking is the way of the mind, and it is the way of the heart to meet that with compassion and to guide it by saying “Not right now.” Practice the art of refreshing, redirecting, reframing and rest.