There are thoughts and there are thoughts

I have always been fascinated with the working of the brain. How does the brain work? How do neurons do so many things? How do they store memories? How do they establish connections? So recently, I have been reading up a lot of books on the brain and the way it functions.

Recently, I came across a book called,"Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts" by Sally M. Winston and Martin N. Seif. This book gave a very interesting perspective on thoughts. Juxtaposed with what I had learned while learning meditation (a closely linked topic), I put together the following perspective on thoughts.

Thoughts are of two kinds. Involuntary and Intended. Involuntary thoughts arise in our brains all the time. Weird thoughts, random thoughts, dangerous thoughts and so on. Intended thoughts are those that we consciously think. Like while solving a problem. Deciding between two options. Anywhere where we intentionally put our brain to use and think.

Most of us do not distinguish between the two. These two types of thoughts are completely different. Most of us take the first kind too seriously. That is a big mistake. We start believing these are reflective of our true, deeper persona. We start associating them with our identity. What I have realised is these thoughts are much like an itch in the arm. The itch happened involuntarily and it is merely a physiological event. It has nothing to do with what I am as an individual. 

An involuntary thought is merely like this itch. It is a physiological event. It has nothing to do with what I am as an individual. Note that these thoughts might be triggered by real events that have happened with us in the past. However, they are not our conscious reaction to the events.

Some examples given in the book were a mother, who loved her newborn baby, suddenly got a thought to throw the baby out of the window or a student who got a thought to strangle his teacher. Both these individuals never had a conscious thought to do these things. They were not bad people. In fact, they were deeply disturbed that they got these thoughts. It was merely their brains 'itching'.

Knowing about this phenomenon is quite a relief, actually. While learning meditation, you do learn to ignore thoughts or observe them. But the clarity this book offered was quite amazing.

If you are being bothered by intrusive thoughts, relax. You are not the person who those thoughts indicate. Your involuntary thoughts are merely an itch in the brain. Don't take them seriously.


Nisha said…
As always very useful and essential post. This post once again emphasizes the importance of meditation. Thanks Kamal for sharing . ☺️
Usha balu.