We have so many vague feelings of hurt, envy, anxiety, and regret, but for the most part we never stop to make sense of them. It’s too un-comfortable and especially difficult because we are so often busy and frazzled, hyper-connected yet a bit lonely. To really understand what we feel and think, we must turn away from distractions, common sense, and other people’s opinions. We need to develop intimacy with ourselves.
One of the truly frustrating features of our minds is that the more interesting or pertinent our ideas happen to be, the more they have a tendency to escape our grasp. They streak across consciousness like a comet in the night sky, illuminating everything for an instant, then leaving us back in darkness.
There can be a devilish correlation between how important and necessary a thought is to us and how likely it is to elude our command. The truly precious thoughts have something elusive about them, so inclined are they to simply vanish at the slightest approach of our conscious selves.
A core reason why we can have trouble holding onto our bigger, more essential ideas is because – even though they are frequently crucial to our development – they also tend to induce intense anxiety.
New ideas can threaten the mental status quo and are often sharply at odds with our current commitments and habits. An original thought might, for example, alienate us from what people around us think of as ‘normal’. Or it might herald a realisation that we’ve been pursuing the wrong approach to an important issue in our lives, perhaps for a long time. One part of us may want the comet thought to elude us in order that we won’t have to face up to a regret or loss. If we took a given new idea seriously, we might have to abandon a relationship, leave a job, ditch a friend, apologise to someone or break a habit.
To encourage ourselves to know our minds, a blunt demand that we should ‘think harder’ may not be the best approach. In order to give new, important ideas the best possible chance of developing, we may have to lie in wait for them with some of the patience of an astronomer.
We should accept that our brains are strange, delicate instruments that evade our direct commands and are perplexingly talented at warding off the very ideas that might save us or help us flourish.
A5 Linen bound notebook | 210 x 148 mm 192 pages | 100grm Munken paper (acid free) with printed dot grid