An article by Anke Sommer
The power of thoughts and learning to control the mind
Who hasn’t lain awake at night with problems going round and round in their mind, losing hours of restful sleep and still not finding any solutions? Many people are forever mulling over the same issue, weighing things up and still not getting any further until they’re left exhausted by their own thoughts. Only one wish remains – to be able to regulate their thoughts.
Despite all this, the mind means well. It’s always getting involved, muscling in, and happily so if there’s something stirring inside us, i.e. our inner impulses have something to say. But it’s often the case that inner impulses don’t match the thoughts and activities of our mind, with the result that we either completely fail to register these impulses or the mind suppresses them – sometimes as soon as they appear.
Whether the mind permits an impulse and finds it good is determined by how we were influenced in the first four years of our lives, as it is during this period that the foundations of our thinking and activity patterns are shaped by our parents or immediate environment. You could imagine the mind as a doorman who’s received clear instructions about the type of information that is or isn’t permitted to reach our consciousness. While rational thoughts are welcome guests, unfortunately physical impulses aren’t.
How do physical impulses get past the mind? An initial approach to finding a solution.
If we’re unaware of the mechanisms of the mind then it has carte blanche to act in accordance with its ideas, which means that rational thoughts have the power to suppress physical impulses. There’s already a strategy you can adopt at this point: if we take a conscious look at the power of our rational thoughts, we then get an initial opportunity to control and influence our thinking. If we already know that our minds are always intervening and getting stuck in, then we have an opportunity to question some of our rational thoughts and are able to regulate our thinking at an earlier stage.
We can also be attentive to how, exactly, inner impulses feel when they occur. They usually appear quicker than rational thought. Physical impulses are also clear and unambiguous, as impulses have no discursive basis. They’re feelings that indicate to us whether something is good or bad, or right or wrong. A physical impulse knows immediately what needs to be done. And we’d know it too, if only we’d listen.
However, even listening doesn’t achieve very much if we don’t then act – except for maybe giving us a guilty conscience towards our innermost selves. And now we’re back at the start: if the mind thinks that the impulse doesn’t conform to its standard settings, it slides itself in between.
Getting the mind on side
If rational thoughts elbow their way in and repel the impulse, concerns and strife appear instead, which basically mark the limits of our intellect. In order to first expand these limits and then overcome them, it’s worth getting the mind on side. Simply taking countermeasures against the dominance of one’s own intellect doesn’t achieve very much. Persuasion is the key.
If we can persuade the mind of the need to also recognise other physical aspects as a support mechanism for decision-making and life then our mind becomes a comrade-in-arms.
Strengthen mind and body at one and the same time.
Managing your thoughts is possible provided the mind understands it. Firstly, it should understand that physical impulses are calibrated to meet our survival and self-preservation needs, and that this is actually the task of our body awareness rather than our intellect. So what’s our intellect’s actual task? Ultimately ‘only’ one of reflection in the encounter with influences.
Physical sensations are sorted on the basis of good and bad. Our bodies react to influences, e.g. to systemically conditioned factors that are difficult or impossible for the mind to grasp. For example, if we are a) listening to our bodies, and b) trusting them then we instinctively know when we’re in danger, say, and this also applies in our everyday lives: when we meet people, we subconsciously sense – without really being able to explain it – whether he or she is good for us or whether we’d be better off maintaining a healthy distance from them. Our body awareness is thus a better assessor of danger or trustworthiness.
Perception on all levels increases reality in one’s own life
In addition to body consciousness, our hearts, in the figurative sense, also provide essential information about our lives. But the heart has its own difficulties with the speed of the mind and its wish to intervene. Everything we hold dear quickly gets lost under the influence of the mind, if it deems it unimportant. Our parents already learnt that the intellect should be prioritised to the exclusion of all else.
If we haven’t done the work with our minds then we too will inevitably follow the old thought patterns that were shaped by our parents. If a purely mind-driven decision is made, i.e. one made on only a single perception level, then a great deal of reality gets lost without our really knowing it.
In order to avoid this, you should bear in mind that the heart, like body consciousness, is somewhat closer to reality than the intellect. You can see this in the way that both the heart and the body react immediately to a wide range of circumstances. Neither wastes any time in differentiating between good or bad insofar as this relates to our preservation and welfare, to our very individual state of being.
By contrast, the mind utilises what we’ve already learnt and interprets these circumstances in line with its reality. This isn’t a negative trait in itself, as we need our minds’ skills, but without the input of the body and heart we lack some of the key components we need in order to be able to make wholly positive decisions.
Managing thoughts through a symbiosis of body, heart and mind
Ultimately, you’ll able to regulate your thoughts if you understand that the mind is only a small part of the decision-making apparatus that is available to us as human beings. At the same time, we have to recognise that we’re influenced by reality as a whole, i.e. by current influences as well as systemic factors that reach far back into the past.
The intellect alone is overwhelmed by this, as it is unable to perceive and appropriately classify everything around us. We can ease the burden on it – and thereby manage it – if we open up to all physical levels of perception. If we then only use the mind once we’ve picked up on impulses at the physical level then our reason can do what it’s good at: analysing, processing, developing and comprehending.