Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mental Looping

I used to think the three worst things on planet Earth were Space, Time and Gravity. Space is why my dog can run away, or why I can be stuck in traffic (on my bike), or why I can't be with the people I want to be with at any given moment. Time is why I can be late. Time is why things aren't done as soon as I think of them. Gravity is why I can't float in the air, or fly by thought alone. Gravity is why things fall and make messes for me to clean up. Gravity is probably my most common swear word, and most common explanation for why things aren't the way I want them to be.
But these  are just stories I tell myself.  I now think the real problem is mental looping.  By mental looping, I mean the act of telling myself stories over and over again with the accompanying emotional roller coaster. I said something I wish I could take back, or I failed to say something I wish I'd said (probably something I didn't even think of at the time - I'm not good at thinking on my feet - that's why I write -- I think on my fingers.)  So, my mind loops through the story again and again -- always with the same ending - always giving me the emotional upset that accompanied the story the first time.  Or my mind makes up future events and wastes my time on those emotional rollercoasters. Playing either the past or the future loops has no effect on changing the past or controlling the future. Another rotten feature of the future loops is that they are usually worst-possible-case scenarios.  e.g. last time I met with him/her things went badly, and I imagine another bad encounter, probably worse than before.
Mental looping is why space, time and gravity are problems.  If I didn't tell myself stories about unpleasant things that will happen because I'm not where I want to be, I'm late, or I broke something, then those events wouldn't upset me. In fact it's not the events, but the thoughts - the thoughts that keep looping -- the thoughts about the bad things that will happen, the good things I'll miss out on -- that do the real job of upsetting. 
And I have the power to hit the OFF switch. I can't turn off space or time or gravity. But I can stop the mental loops. I just have to figure out that I am looping and then make the choice (often a difficult choice if I'm imagining that this time the loop will end differently - it never does) to STOP the loop.
Those loops are sneaky. They try to start in different places, start with different emotions, suck me in with fantasies of fixing things. But they are just mental loops with no power. 
I have learned to stand on my head with my eyes closed. I have made myself write and finish several novels and screenplays. Learning to stop these loops is the hardest thing I have ever tried to master.  And the most important. I looped through the idea of writing this post for several days before doing it -- and I think that was good looping because it helped me shape these ideas into presentable form.  That's the trickiest part -- some loops are good -- the ones I need to stop are the ones that feel bad and I need to persist in the ones that create progress.   

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