The Trick of Scary Thinking

The Trick of Scary Thinking

Photo credit: Kenny Eliason

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to write something about ‘scary thinking.’  🎃

Scary thinking can show up in many forms:  it can be dark, obsessive intrusive thoughts that might involve being harmful to others (it’s common for post-partum women to experience this) or it can show up as worst-case-scenario thinking, taking the form of extreme worry that bad things will happen to you or those you love.

We all get scary thoughts from time to time.  These could be anything from, ‘I’m gonna throw hot water on the dog next door if it doesn’t stop barking,’ or ‘If I don’t do this presentation well today, I’m going to be fired,‘ to ‘My child is 10 mins late.  Something serious must have happened,’ or ‘What if I accidentally drop my baby?’  Most of us don’t pay any attention to that thinking for long. It comes, we might get momentarily scared, but we don’t attach to it and so off it goes again.   That’s exactly how our thinking is meant to work. 

But for some people, a scary thought showing up is just too much to handle.  If you’re one of those people, you’ll take that thinking seriously.  You’ll analyse it to death and think that it says something about who you are.   You wonder why you thought it.  After all, if they weren’t meaningful, then why would you be having them in the first place, right?  WRONG!

In fact, you couldn’t be more wrong!   They say absolutely nothing about who you truly are and they’re not facts about the future.  They’re just possibilities. 

Think about obsessive, intrusive thinking.  These are unwanted thoughts.  You don’t like them so you do all you can to ignore them, get rid of them and resist them because they’re the complete opposite of what you deeply know to be your essence.   The fact that they are making you suffer, is evidence in itself that they’re not part of your true nature.  And consider that ‘you’ don’t think them anyway.   If you could choose the thoughts that turn up in your head, why would you choose thinking that makes you suffer?   It doesn’t make sense!   

Here’s a more accurate account of what’s going on, as I understand it.   A so-called ‘scary’ thought is no different to any other thought, like ‘What am I going to have for dinner?’ or ‘I need to remember to pack the kids books for school.’  They’re all made of the same stuff. But we take ‘scary’ thoughts more seriously because we don’t like the content!  And because we don’t like the content, we have a lot more thinking about them and before we know it, we’ve layered thinking upon thinking upon thinking and find ourselves in trouble!

But focusing in on what we think is looking in completely the wrong direction.   We should be more curios of the fact THAT we think.   We have the capacity to think anything from pink fluffy bunnies to big hairy monsters that live under our bed. Our imagination is infinite.  It can be truly wonderful or completely horrific and the extent to which we believe the thinking that shows up, determines our feelings, emotions and ultimately our behaviour.

Understanding how our thinking works is the key to less suffering.   When we see that it’s transient, neutral, random and meaningless, it just doesn’t look and feel the same anymore.   We can see it as energy, moving through us, taking whatever shape it takes, then moving on again as another thought comes up behind it.   It’s an endless conveyor belt, of who-knows-what.  

Doesn’t that make all that scary thinking less compelling?  I think so! 😊

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