by jai cross
Virtually everyone experiences rather trivial events that the mind obsesses over. It’s as if we repeatedly press an internal replay button to recreate the details of those incidents over and over. This is similar to having a distracting song continually pop up in the mind’s ear. And we often think, “Why does that tune keep bugging me? I don’t even like that song...”
Just like those annoying musical ditties, we often don’t enjoy reliving the incidents that seemingly force themselves on us. Think back to a recent time when you were pestered by the memory of an occurrence that kept looping through your mind.
For me, an example occurred just last night. I went to a local bar to hear a country Western singer from Austin that I admire. I was sitting towards the back of the club, and three guys came in and stood in the middle of the floor, blocking my view. Realizing that I wouldn’t be able to watch Susan for a while, I concentrated on listening to her colorful lyrics while I relished a plate of chicken enchiladas. The newcomers were engaged in an animated conversation that lasted through my slow meal and showed no signs of abating. I finally approached the group, mildly scolded them for being so loud and distracting, and suggested that they relocate to a nearby open side wall if they wanted to keep talking. They apologized and quickly moved aside as I had suggested.
I was still in bed and only half-awake this morning when my mind started to replay the sequence of events while adding a commentary. So I found myself listening to a complaining and judgmental inner voice that sounded something like this – “You should have said something earlier. You shouldn’t have waited until you were angry to say something. It would have been better if you grounded yourself instead of reacting from emotion. What if an argument had ensued? No one else seemed to be bothered by them...”
Luckily I quickly recognized this old pattern of looping thoughts and consciously disengaged from it. However instead of repressing the memory of the incident, I asked myself what elements of truth did my review contain? What could I learn from this rehash? I recalled that I have been encouraging myself to speak up more, to express my emotions as they arise. So that part of my response was in keeping with a larger intention. And I admitted I probably waited a little too long to initiate that necessary exchange and that I might have handled it more skillfully if I had taken action sooner. So that’s what I resolved to do the next time a similar situation arises. Case closed.
In my not-so-distant past, the outcome would often have been much different. I might have continued repeating, replaying, and rewriting that scene off and on throughout the whole day. It might have become such a nuisance that I felt tormented by it, as though plagued by a cloud of persistent gnats.
If you are periodically troubled by similar looping thoughts, I suggest that you turn and face them. Like so many mental abstractions, they gain power over us by when they speak from the shadows. Shine the light of awareness on the opportunity that is calling for your full attention, glean the truth of the situation, take the necessary actions, and move on.
The present moment is the only time segment that is alive – past reconstructions and future projections are simply concepts. So use the concepts to your advantage while not becoming ensnared by them.
Life is too precious to be relinquished to those pesky gnats.