I experienced a lot of thinking at the beginning of this week.
Nothing major happened; my mum’s doing well after fracturing her shoulder through a fall a couple of weeks ago, and I’m doing well after going up to look after her. I received an email a couple of days ago, telling me that I’ve been offered a place on an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology. To celebrate, I had an excellent pie. All is well with my world.
And yet, something happened over the weekend which triggered an avalanche of stories in my head – or, as Professor Lisa Borlotti explains in Will Storr’s astonishing book The Science of Storytelling, more accurately, confabulations.
When we confabulate ‘we tell a story that is fictional, while believing that it is a true story.’
How many times a day do we confabulate in our heads, I wonder? How many times do I do it? The answer is; more than I’d care to admit.
As Will’s book confirms, we humans are story-making creatures, and what we experience as reality is not much more than a “complex hallucination” (as neuroscience, amongst others, confirms).
(That quote about how “we don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are”? Despite its unknown provenance, it’s pretty legit.)
I’m kinda lucky, though. As I journalled one morning, I was able to recognise that I was “feeling my thinking” (as per usual). Recognising what was going on helped me to catch my breath. This felt particularly important as I struggled to “work out” what to do next.
Then I remembered something I’ve just read in Michael Neill’s deceptively simple book The Space Within. While it focuses on what many of us would describe as spiritual matters, his observation about performance is what’s lingered in my mental RAM.
Most coaches – most of us, really – think performance = capacity (your ability or capability etc) + information.
If you know better, you’ll do better. And for some of us, in certain circumstances, with certain information, that’s totally true.
(If you’re trying to reset the clock on your oven whenever the clocks go back or forth, you’ll swear that it’s the lack of instruction manual that stands between you those successful digits.)
But it’s the alternate model that Michael points to which has captured my imagination: Performance = capacity – interference.
Performance is our capacity, MINUS any interference in accessing that capacity.
We succeed when we have less interference to our innate wisdom and the deeper mind (the kind of mind where inspiration and new thinking permanently hangs out).
And when I mean interference, I mean the kind of self-conscious, ruminative, often anxious personal thinking that we all have when our mental gears mash each other in a desperate search for a solution. Yeah, THAT ONE.
Given such noise, such mental clamour, no wonder those damned confabulations seem so real.
And, given that our brains can’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s imaginary in the first place; well, no wonder I felt my thinking so deeply.
Being able to recognise what was going on helped me to name-check the interference. Oh, there I go again. Getting up in my own grill. BLESS.
I put a hand on my heart, and felt the warmth soothe me as I recognised my suffering, and the source of the suffering – my thinking about my earlier experience. Nothing to do, nothing to fix, just keeping myself loving company until the thought-storm passed.
In this quiet, tender space I allowed my mind to become relatively quiet, and allowed myself to rest in a relatively beautiful feeling.
And, as usual, the wiser part of myself gave me the words of encouragement and insight I was too restless to hear moments before. A way to proceed arose, and my worst fears have been slowly washed away by the gentle, natural unfolding of events. It’s allowed more ease, and less stress. Which has to be a win in anyone’s book.
Because, as I’m slowly learning, despite my pride in my personal mental ability; less thinking leads to more wisdom when it’s the wiser mind offering the thoughts.