What about thoughts I need to think?
Yes, I hear you. You’ve got stuff you need to think about. Work issues, practical issues, it’s not all just emotional stuff rattling around in there.
First of all, a great deal of your problem solving happens outside your conscious awareness. It’s then brought into your awareness and allowed to run through the “figuring it out” program, giving you the impression that you worked it out step by step, because that confirms the belief that you are logical, rational and in control. So, if that is what you are doing, okay. You get a pass. But just know it’s not strictly necessary.
However, most of the time when you are chewing over problems, it’s not at all creative, just circular. You take it in a mental loop, like driving around the block, over and over.
See if you have any control over it. Once the thought loop starts, can you hit the STOP button, or even EJECT? Does that work? Or does the loop continue to play anyway? That’s a definite sign you are not in some creative problem solving mode, but just stuck in a thought loop posing as one.
Another experiment is to control the timing. Decide that you are going to think about the topic and try to problem solve it, be creative, etc. Make it a problem solving session. Decide when you are going to start and when you are going to conclude. Let’s say, 30 minutes. At the end of the session, you jot down your ideas (if applicable) and then you stop thinking about it. Period. Can you do that?
If not, you are probably in a thought loop.
The preceding was about being able to identify thought loops posing as problem solving. I find one of the very useful ways to problem solve is to identify the issue and all the components. I’m technically oriented, so I imagine entering this information that way, but you can visualize putting all of it into a package and giving it to your “subconscious”, which is really more like your supraconscious, along with the request for solutions.
I can actually feel my supraconscious processing tons of information in the background. Since my personal space is clear and my attention isn’t scattered, when the information comes back to me, I am aware of it.
There is a program that almost all of us have that leads us to believe that “thinking”, in the usual discursive sense, is how we figure stuff out and how we get stuff done. I used to believe that, too. Now I know that it’s quite the opposite, and that this is just a dirty trick to keep us focused on the though loops.
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