Yup, thinking can get you in trouble.
Often when thinking we are worried about something or trying to figure out something we do not understand.
We can go around in circles and expend a lot of energy without getting anywhere.
We can improve our thinking if we understand better how to use our brains.
How We Use Our Brains When Thinking
Usually, we use our brains in response to a threat – when we see or notice something that is different, is moving, or something we have to be afraid of. Our brains are most often simply a part of our defenses.
When we are worried about something, when we are trying to resolve issues related to the past, when we are anticipating the future, we are using our brains defensively.
We usually respond to the perceived threat by seeking information from our own brain’s database of experience, researching outside of ourselves – accessing other’s brains, or by using our imagination.
Can We Use Our Brains Better?
None of this is bad or wrong.
Every morning I put out food for the feral cats that live nearby. Over time, they have come for food enough times that the grass has developed some pathways, that they now seek as a way to reach the food.
Our brains are like that too. When our lives are mostly a succession of threats that we are handling, our brains develop pathways and then other brain potentials are neglected. We then stunt our growth and are unable to develop our brain’s creativity.
Why? Because creativity is mostly constructive rather than reactive. When we are reacting we are surrendering our creativity more often than not. (Of course we can approach threats in a creative way.)
Why Is Creativity Different?
The simplest way to describe the difference between creativity and threat response is to consider how each uses our imagination.
The imagination is a powerful aspect of our brain functioning. How well it functions and how well it is able to support our well-being is important. If our imagination has been directed toward fear, that is a pathway in our brain that will automatically arise when we are contemplating a task – especially a new one. When our imagination has habitually been directed to imagining something positive, that is where it will naturally go.
These are both brain habits which means that our natural tendency may not reflect reality or it may. It is important to be aware of your brain’s conditioned tendency so that you can question it and make the best choices for yourself.
So the next time you do something, try to notice the direction your brain takes. Repeat the exercise and if you can journal about it. You may notice a pattern that has caused you some difficulty and which by being aware of it, you can change.
Sometimes it is wise to be afraid and other times it is wiser to be optimistic. It is even better when we can feel confident that we are able to respond appropriately to whatever is going on with us or our lives.