I owe a lot of my peace and contentment in this world to one particular insight:
Much of what makes me suffer begins in my own mind.

It comes from overthinking: taking an issue and blowing it completely out of proportion by obsessing on it, or looking at the painful past and re-inflicting myself with the pain it caused. Often, I’m creating more pain than ever really happened or is even possible in any real situation. I have come to realize that if I want to feel helpless and/or scared on purpose, I simply have to look at my regretful past or create an impossible future.

This kind of thinking is either untrue or unprovable. Period.

In other words, it’s a waste of time- and yet we talk ourselves into believing those untrue, unprovable thoughts.

How much of thinking is completely in the moment? Not much, it turns out. Most of us are either thinking about the past, worrying about the future, or constructing scenarios that may or may not happen in order to “be prepared”. How much energy is lost in this? It seems more efficient to me to stay as completely in the moment as possible, to practice awareness of the present and thinking on my feet in order to skillfully and purposefully respond to whatever happens. That means taking ownership of my thoughts and directing them, not vice-versa. It is my mind after all. I can teach it not to torture me. In so doing, I am teaching myself not to torture me….

Having said that, I know it’s not that easy. It takes work. I don’t succeed in this as often as I’d like, but I’m improving. I’m becoming more successful at staying in the moment with meditation, intentional breathing and daily reminders that I’ve strategically placed in my daily life. Side effects include a drop in stress and a lift in happiness and serenity. Loving what is- simply by acknowledging it and staying with it.

I love the following quote by Fulton Oursler:

‎”Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves- regret for the past and fear for the future.”

Time to get off that cross- it’s not my place.

4 comments on “Self-Torture

  1. Mark S. King says:

    Amen. My happiness exists in the here and now. When I’m unhappy, chances are I’m regretting what’s happened or worried about what is to come, and doing it obsessively. Once I recognized that, though, I could start learning tools to keep myself in the present (“Where are my feet?” is something I’ve learned in recovery, meaning, “I’m right here, in this place, and everything is going to be okay.”)

    But damn if my mind doesn’t enjoy indulging in the past or present, just to screw with me, until I arrest that thinking and toss it aside. It’s a daily process!

    Mark S. King


  2. Lisa holliday says:

    Awesome! So much of my life i have lived in my thoughts of what is happening now. I was so shocked to realize this realization that every thought was a thought of the past – even my thoughts of now. By the time i entertain a thought about now, its already over. Im already in my interpretation of now. That can be helpful on occassion but the vast majority are just taking me out of the experience almost instantaeously. Or i am busy thinking about “being” in the now – and missing the experience completely. Your post captures that perfectly. I can’t tell u how much i appreciate ur clarity. I dont want to keep missing my life. Just like u said i am putting in the time and the work-it aint gonna get cleared by someone waving a magic wand. I am seeing there is a symbiotic relationship with life that requires my participation. Ive done the short cuts. I continued to suffer. Love u so much.


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