Thought Addiction

Yesterday we began a discussion of checking out reality by observing our mind.  One of the first things you notice when you begin to watch the mind is that you cannot find anyone in control of it.  It seems to “have a mind of its own”.  In reality the 90% of our mind that is subconscious is what is actually ruling the show.  The 10% that is conscious is what makes it through the filters of our subconscious. How to establish a unified mind will be the topic of a future post.  Today, lets talk about one type of automatic thought pattern.

This pattern I call thought addiction.  It involves repetitious thoughts that lead to chemical changes in the body. Here is a personal example of it in action.

About two months ago, my work settled down into a nice pattern.  I had lost a major client earlier in the year, but a second client showed up with additional work.  As I planned a summer vacation, I noticed that I was constantly thinking about how great my work was.  I also kept noting how for the first time in over five years I had enough money to cover my expenses.  These thought were quite pleasant, but also quite repetitious.

I realized how much energy was going into repeating these thoughts over and over.  The pay off was that they were pleasant and I imagined that they helped me release some happy chemical as I repeated them again and again.  This is why I called it a thought addiction.  In my case I was addicted to a happy chemical, but I imagine many people use obsessive worry to produce a similar change in biochemistry.  Other people find the chemicals released with anger to be stimulating as well.

The release of happy chemicals is one of the premises behind the power of positive thinking.  I was learning first hand how thinking positively actually makes one feel better.  I can appreciate that this practice releases a powerful endogenous drug, however, I’m actually trying to weed out all addiction and behaviors that are based on clinging to certain states.  I can imagine a better state beyond such petty addiction.

Yesterday, I noticed a similar thing happening as I performed my last massage.  I kept thinking about my day off today and what I was going to do.  Again, I can only see the purpose as creating “happy chemicals”.  I was avoiding the moment and the richness of the moment, perhaps because I was a little tired and the massage was a two hour one so the novelness of the activity was wearing off.

True freedom comes when I no longer distract myself from the moment by essentially meaningless thoughts.  True freedom comes with equanimity and equanimity comes from the insights that are gained by exploring and investigating how I think and act.


I could feel it on the way to work today.  Resistance.  Not much, but it was an undercurrent playing in the background.  Yesterday morning I looked at my schedule for today and was pleased to find it was completely empty.  I had some things I wanted to do around the house in preparation for my out-of-town guest (arriving that evening) and having no clients would be fine.

Then someone snatched up the first slot of the day.  This would not have been any big deal if I was working at home, but I was on call from 9am to 4pm at the Hawaiian Experience Spa in Scottsdale. If I have to go in for a 9am massage, then it makes the most sense for me to stay at the spa rather than risk driving the half hour home only to be called back in.

As I drove in I acknowledged the resistance.  I had been trying to ignore it.  No sense feeling unhappy about the massage appointment when there was nothing I could do about it.  Still there was that undercurrent of not wanting to go in.  I wanted to have the day go my way.  That is really what it is all about.  I had a plan and I wanted it my way.

Running current through a material with high resistance creates heat. In this picture, a cartridge heater is glowing red hot due to resistance. Similarly, people with resistance tend to heat situations up.

Resistance is the greatest energy sap I can think of.  Resistance takes whatever joy is around and clouds it over.  When I speak of resistance, I am talking about energy that is just being used to fight against something that simply is. Sometimes the thing that “is” is something that cannot be changed, but other times it is possible to change the situation.

For instance, in my case, if I had seen the appointment and decided I didn’t want to do it, I could have called the office and asked for them to give it to someone else.  Instead, I decided I wanted to do it.  At least part of me wanted to do the massage more than I didn’t want to do the massage.  Rarely is any decision made with 100% of my being.  The resistance I was feeling was the drag the minority of me was putting up against the direction the majority of me decided to take.

That’s how it goes with resistance.  Many times I have found that part of me fights against something that “I” have decided to go along with.  Awareness is once again the key to peace.

I confronted the resistor within and affirmed my decision.  Then I turned my back on the rumblings.  The best way to get rid of unwelcome resistance is to focus on what is good and cultivate acceptance.

One trick I use is to “give thanks in all circumstances”. (A nice story about this can be found in my book, The Answers Are Within – Volume 1.)  I decided to believe that this day was being created in a way that really did serve me and all my needs perfectly.  This is an example of Reframing; another great way to get rid of resistance.  I chose to let go of my resistance (and these days it is easy for me – I’ve been practicing this for twenty years) and I resolved to be totally present for the massage.

How did it go?

Went great!  After the massage, I felt ready to leave the spa.  I trusted my intuition.  I decided to get an adjustment at My Chiropractor. When that was over, I decided to get some gas and then get air in my tires.  Before long, I found myself at home – still on call.  I opted to write this post and as I go to publish this I have made it through the day without being called back in.

So, actually a perfect day.  A nice balance of work and taking care of somethings I might not have done if I wasn’t “forced” out of the house.  But the true victory is not the positive outcome.  The true victory is that even if I would have been called back in I would have been peaceful.  Victory over resistance is a gem.

Reflection:  What am I resisting?  What am I saying, “No way” too?  Is it possible to be in faith and resist what is?  How is internal resistance and “drag” different from action directed at change?


venus from the seaI have begun work on the Venus picture for my Goddess Wisdom series.  I am contemplating portraying the goddess with her back to the viewer.  With this in mind I needed a model, so I googled “nude woman from behind“.

The results were shocking.

My instant reaction to the page of images was equally interesting.  It was like a wave of energy washed over me.   It was so strong, I wondered if it was all coming from me, or if I had tapped into the collective energy being focused on these images from around the world.  It was intriguing.  I observed myself.  Another example of the subconscious in charge.

Reactions of this sort are commonly called being triggered.  The sight, sound, taste or touch of particular things results in a specific emotional or physical reaction.  We see or smell food and we feel hunger.  We see our favorite vacation place and we feel relaxed or happy.

Most of the time we are nonreactive to the things we encounter in our day.  These encounters are considered neutral.  These encounters include seeing the walls in our house, smelling the normal aroma around us, feeling the ground beneath our feet.  In fact, we are usually not even aware of these happenings.  Neutral stimuli tends to get filtered out or unattended to.

Less frequently we have pleasant or unpleasant encounters.  The smell of our favorite flower makes us smile while the smell of a trash heap makes us frown.  However, there is no person, place or thing that is 100% pleasant or unpleasant to everyone.  This means that our reaction is not dependent on the person, place or thing.  It is dependent on whatever is stuck in our subconscious.

Many of us leverage our reactions to certain things.  For instance, people often listen to music in order to feel uplifted.  Music is a mind altering drug, as is dancing.

I once had custody of a 15 year old for a few months.  While I always got up and “forced” myself to do tai chi.  He would get up and cruise You Tube for martial arts videos.  He would watch them until his motivation rose and then he would practice.  He intuitively knew how to overcome the obstacle of laziness by using something to motivate him.  (Earlier post on obstacles and remedies).

There is a tendency to let ourselves be tossed about by our reactions.  Yet it is possible to remain objective and watch our reactions.  This use of mindfulness creates some distance between our reactions and the subsequent actions we take.   Mindfulness is the beginning of freedom.  With practice we are able to choose our actions.

We can also become proactive.  We can predict our reactions and use readings, contemplation, connections with others to reduce unpleasant reactions and increase our positive motivation.

Once again, consider who is choosing to get out of bed in the morning?  The answer to that question may be trivial, but the bigger question of who is running your life isn’t.