I am indebted to Josh Cohen who contributed material for this
I could sense a certain hopeless exasperation in
"I try to stop myself, I wish I could stop myself, I wish I could
make myself stop" she said, "but I can't, I just can't, I
just keep on doing it.". "Whoa!" I said, "Stop
what? Doing what?". "Stop myself thinking all these
thoughts" she said, "I'm always thinking, I'm always analyzing, I'm
always being critical of myself, nothing is ever enough, nothing is
ever good enough. But I just can't stop, I just can't stop
myself thinking so much.".
"A-Ha!" I said, "You say you try to stop yourself
thinking. But that's not you. You can't stop yourself if what
you're trying to stop isn't you.". "What do you mean by it
'isn't me'?" she asked after the briefest pause, "It
is me!?" (it was a lilting half-assertion /
half-question). "No it's not" I said, "That process started before you
got here. It was already going on long before you were even born. At
very best, you were
born into it.".
"Oh nooo, it is me" she
a bit more vehement now, being challenged. "OK" I said, "if it is you
(and let's suppose just for the sake of discussion that it is you) then
stop thinking, stop analyzing, stop being critical of yourself.".
"OK" she said triumphantly, "I will" ... followed a brief moment later
by "OK, I have. I've stopped.". I waited - not very long, maybe twenty
seconds max - and then I asked "How about now? What's it like now?". At
first she was silent. Then an awkward look came over her face, and she
said slowly (very slowly) "Oh ... my ...
It's started again. It's back.". "All by itself?" I asked. "All by
itself!" she echoed,
I said "So if you can't stop it, then that's not you doing it in the
first place ie if you can't stop the thinking and analyzing, then
that's not you doing the thinking or the analyzing. You can't stop
yourself if what you're trying to stop isn't you.".
"WOW!" she said ... and then quickly "Wait, what ...?". "No, don't do
that" I interrupted her gently, "at least not now. Just keep
what happens when you try to stop thinking and analyzing and being
critical of yourself.". "Well, I can stop it" she said
"but then after a while I notice it's started back up again all by
itself.". "You say you can stop it, but you can't stop it starting back
up again all by itself - which means you can't stop it, which
means that's not you, yes?". She didn't answer. It's par for the
for people that it renders us speechless. In a trice, who you've always
been being for yourself, lies in tatters.
There are many take-aways from
like this. One is that thinking and analyzing are
like breathing and digestion, both of which while vital for human
beings, we can't take any credit for. And because of that, they're
(the realization of which in and of itself brings prodigious relief).
Another is a provoked question (a corollary, if you will). It's:
OK, if you're not the thinker (that's not you) and if you're not the
analyzer (that's also not you), then who are you?
Here are two
two ideas in response to this
inquiry: one, you're the space,
in which the thinking and analyzing
two, while you're neither the thinker nor the analyzer, you're the one
who's saying what's being said about the thinking and
analyzing ie you're the one with
this: over the thinking and analyzing, given they're
on full automatic,
we wield scant power, whereas over what we say about the thinking and
analyzing, we wield enormous power. The problem may not lie in the
thinking or analyzing. The problem maybe lies in what we say (or don't
say) about the thinking and analyzing.
Through all of that, she didn't say
Her demeanor reminded me of a kernel of popcorn seconds before it pops.
Unlike adopting some new
that likely won't
anything life-transforming, she'd just had
which, like her first experience of balancing on a bicycle, would be
available to her forever.