​Do I live by thinking involuntarily?

Contribution by Esteban Rojas Nieto, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain

You will already have realised that your brain does not stop thinking when you do not set it to work on a specific task.  Whenever you become distracted, it reverts to its normal routine which consists of brooding over unresolved issues, especially things that relate to you.

The brain rarely sets itself to think automatically about the theory of relativity or how to fix a broken chair in your house.  We normally do this voluntarily.

This automatic functioning is normally connected with seeking solutions to internal problems relating to yourself: to things you said, or were said to you, to things you wanted to say and did not say, to things you did and would have preferred not to do, to embarrassing situations and to positive or negative feelings that you relive for some reason.

Behind the scenes it seems that your brain is seeking better solutions to unresolved personal problems.

Perhaps there are emotions that have been experienced on other occasions that trigger this repetitive brooding.  Sometimes, through fear or expediency, our actions are not consistent with what we would have like to do.  The response or the action we took, left a bad taste in our mouth and/or implies a conflict. 

As we tend to be unconscious of that background, we are not aware that we fear some kind of punishment (e.g. making a bad impression), or not feeling capable of doing something that is required of us.  Whatever we have failed to resolve, is something that our brain tries to re-process and it seeks to exonerate us, thus reducing the tension that we built up as a result of the situation.  Do you recognise this type of scenario?  No doubt you do.  How often do we say “I should have said such and such a thing”, “I always think of the right answer when the moment has passed”.   “I overstepped the mark in what I said”, etc. when it is all over.  You also realise that this burdens us with tension, anxiety and irritation, in short, a generalised malaise that leaves us in a state of mind that is not very peaceful.  So, we spend our lives re-living in our minds everything that we have resolved badly in real life.  To avoid this, there is no alternative but to pay more attention to what happens within us, since our fears or interests appear without warning and take the reins over our actions and over our lives.  If we are capable of observing it, we will undoubtedly be capable of providing better responses that go beyond the automatic obstacles that arise.  We will give our brains less additional work and it will give us peace, because we will have behaved in a more open and consistent way free of tension.

In this way you will cease to spend your life in involuntary thoughts.