Our minds are an internal playground where we make stuff up. Nothing in there has any basis in objective reality, it is entirely a subjective space. Our minds do exist in an objective reality, our brain, which can be removed and examined, but what we’ll never find is a single thought of the millions, even trillions, that will inhabit it over our life times.
We can act on our thoughts and it’s in our interaction with the real world that we can learn whether our thoughts have some valid use and purpose or are a pile of self indulgent garbage, which includes every opinion ever held.
Our thoughts, however, do have an internal reality, specific to us, which can make our lives into a heaven or hell (or any place in between) and can make all the difference between enjoying life or hating it.
I think it is a mistake to call thoughts illusions, that suggests that they are unreal. Apart from the measurable energy they use, we also lend them some of our substance and we can become enslaved to our thoughts. Truth to tell I have been enslaved by them, in varying degrees, for every one of my conscious years of life in a battle that is far from over. So powerful were my thoughts that they used to freeze me with terror on the streets as a child on my way to school. I also used to experience bouts of hysterical terror returning to school if I had been to the dentist, for example. My Mother, with whom I made such extra curricular excursions, would always be persuaded to leave me and I would eventually calm down enough to go back to my class. Little did my Mother or the school realise that my hysteria was my desperate cry to be rescued from the hell of school by the one person who had the power, but lacked the insight, drive or knowledge to rescue me. The calming down I achieved was the hopeless subjugation to the inevitable and interminable hell of school, where I was held prisoner without my consent and against my will, which did not matter to adults who believed they knew what was best for me.
All my thoughts and feelings were locked inside me, no one ever asked me to express them, nor was I taught how to. I was both a prisoner of a social system that did not have my best interests at heart, just my imposed subjugation to it, and also a prisoner to my internal thoughts and terrors. I learned my lessons well, that I, as a human being, did not matter, only my obedience mattered, and I learnt that very well, even being nicknamed, by adults, ‘Smiler’. They only saw and heard the screams when I could no longer contain them, but, eventually, I even learnt to do that. Quite the achievement, but it was merely suppression and containment, to survive. The depression, when it came at puberty, was as black as boiling tar and all consuming.
It has taken 71 years to realise how well I internalised the prison, of eleven long formative years, that they initially forced me to endure and am still working and continuing to release myself from to this day. At the very least I can acknowledge and know that I found me, the human being I had to imprison and isolate myself from.
Finding me was glorious and came through the help of some truly amazing people. I remember the day I emerged (came out). I was seeing a wonderful therapist and lovely human being called Del. I was on my way to see her for our weekly session and it occurred to me that I had something that I must tell her. It was vitally important that I express it and bring it out into the real world of flesh and blood. This was a terrifying prospect. I had to tell her whilst knowing that I would be handing to her the power of life and death in my life. If she refused to hear me, mocked, or poo pooed, me, I knew I would kill myself. It would be all over for me. Such is the real power she had which I had engaged with and learned to trust.
I rang the bell when I arrived and Del invited me in. I was consumed and overwhelmed with terror and stopped in her hallway, looked at her, and said the words with which I was about to change my life forever. “Del,” I said, “I’ve had a hard life.” Placing my life in her hands. This amazing woman looked at me and gave my life back to me, she said, “Yes, Keith, you have.” I broke and the tears came, the long held, silent and dry tears, burst into life and healing and I lived and came home to myself. And over many, many years, I’ve come home to the ‘miracle’ of my self.
That’s the genesis of a ‘Conspiracy of Kindness’, long in the making and the most important thing in my life, because without kindness I would not have emerged. At best I would have been just another dumb prisoner, educated for servitude, in which, in the end, they failed, and I lived.
It is incredible that we can become the prisoner of our thoughts, but I learnt that our self (our humanity) does not give up easily. I learnt that the depression that I thought was a curse in my life, was a result of my self striving to be free. It became my most trusted friend, like a traffic light, it shone a big red light, telling me when things were going wrong, when I was in danger, when to fight, when to run, when to reach out for help and when to reach for freedom. I learnt to welcome the pain, like a hefty thump from a good friend, because it was guaranteed to grab my attention, even if for a long time I could not understand, it persisted until I did. In the end, it left, it’s work was done when I had developed the tools with which to take possession of my own mind and body and the process of emerging. It’s still hard, I still resist, but I pay attention before that immensely powerful self needs to bring on the big guns of depression once again.
With love, Keith.