Your Thoughts Do Not Come From You; There Is No ‘You’
If you are losing the fight to be an individual, it is probably because you are fighting against the truth.
We are a collective, not an individual.
We are the sum of many parts, but we are under an illusion.
An illusion that we are just the voice we hear.
But the voice you hear is just Astro the Dog.
You don’t identify as a dog… so what do you identify as?
A note on Pizza.
There are few sweeter joys in life than leftover pizza in the morning. It was some years ago, and I’d ordered an extra pizza from my family’s favorite local takeaway, just for the sheer bliss of waking up the next morning and devouring it whole.
I walked downstairs filled with excitement, buzzing with energy. In my mind I could see and taste the pizza already.
I came to the fridge. I opened it. Saw the box and lifted the lid.
My heart sank into my stomach. All that remained were a few dusty crumbs and scattered pieces of capsicum. What had been a rich rainforest of D’Angelo Pizza had been decimated by some cruel fiend, who’d left behind a barren wasteland of cardboard.
They say the early bird gets the worm.
They say the early bird gets the worm – though when there’s pizza, the early bird snatches the pizza instead.
And in lieu of the worm is an even more revolting vertebrate who refers to himself as my youngest brother.
I swore vengeance on my brother.
I began to imagine vivid and elaborate tortures for my brother.
Should I start with waterboarding? No not sinister enough… how about finger-nail extraction? That will make it harder to pick up pizza slices in future I suppose…
Then something unexpected happened. I caught myself in the act of thinking these thoughts. My lizard brain started to calm down, Astro the Dog stopped barking.
My reactive thoughts started to seem a bit overboard, now that I had time to calm down and look at them more objectively. As good as that pizza would have been.
You think you control your thoughts.
I have not forgiven my brother completely for this violation of trust and basic human decency.
But I have forgiven myself for these sinister, maniacal thoughts. That’s because these thoughts were not me.
We suffer the illusion that we have control over our thoughts, that we create them and therefore, they are us. But I did not create these thoughts, and I have limited control over my first reactions.
Thoughts are catalysed by feelings.
How can we claim to be in control of our thoughts, if thoughts are catalysed by feelings?
The rush of blood to the head. The snap reaction. The impulse to strike.
There is no switch we can flick to feel happy, no button we can press to calm down. We try and make the next best thing when we manipulate chemical compounds into various pills, but their efficacy is not straightforward.
Where do feelings come from?
Feelings come from our wiring. Our programming. They feed and ‘suggest’ thoughts, forwarding them to our conscious self. Sometimes they are fed to us to consider, but other times they bypass our conscious gatekeeper completely, particularly on the spots we are most defensive.
How are feelings encoded? They are labels and translations of information picked up by our sensory organs. Now I am sensitive and alert when I see my brother walking past the fridge…
What are you sensitive to? What trauma in your past, is Astro the Dog trying to protect you against? How does he make you hyper vigilant, paranoid and alert to threats that only seem like threats to you?
Does it serve you, or does it only get in the way?
Time to understand your wiring. Your programming. And de-program it.
Do not judge your thoughts – that is one of the lessons from Buddhism.
Let’s go further… don’t judge period. Because you are not your thoughts, and other people around you? Well they are not theirs.
If you are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings, who are you? Where are you?
Answer: No one. Nowhere. There is no you. This thought is at first scary, at second terrifying, but at third, liberating.
You are not a true individual.
You are the sum of parts, of a collective. Built, not created from thin air. You are not free, you are captive by these parts, until you begin the honest and liberating work of understanding them. Then you can reprogram them, and modulate them.
Then you will have more self-control; then you will not steal your brother’s pizza.
Your thoughts do not come from you. You are not your thoughts.