The other morning I was driving to school and was suddenly jolted into a panic. I didn’t recognize the scenery around me. Had I missed my exit? Did I take a wrong turn somewhere? A few minutes later, I recognized where I was going. I hadn’t gone off my route at all — I had simply “spaced out”, like I do almost every time I drive to school. I didn’t recognize the scenery around me because I never paid attention to it.
Like many people who become caught up in their thoughts instead of “being in the moment”, I often let my busy mind distract me from the task at hand. It’s not that my mind goes blank, though. Most people assume that when I say I’m “spacing out”, what’s really happening is that I’m just letting my mind sleep while I’m awake. That’s not true. I space out because I constantly allow my mind to slip away into thoughts that consume my consciousness for the time being.
Aside from this habit hurting my productivity, I realize a similar impulse of mine also harms my relationships in life. My mind can be both my best friend and my greatest enemy. Lately, it has been the latter. I’m not sure if this is just a natural tendency for women, or if I have deeper issues to blame, but my mind often decides to deceive me. I frequently find myself doubting and second-guessing people’s intentions. For example, my boyfriend has chosen an extremely demanding career path: medical school. He is often too busy to call or text as often as I’d like throughout the day, and instead of accepting that he really has no ulterior motives, I let my active mind run away with all the horrible possibilities it can think of. I assume he just doesn’t care about me, or that he has better things to do, or that he just doesn’t think of me as much as I think of him. These insecurities start out small, but once my mind gets going with these thoughts, things get out of hand rather quickly. Small insecurities become big problems, which lead to hurtful fights.
So how do you cope if you find yourself in this situation? Here are 3 simple steps to try:
- Address the Thought as Soon as it Occurs to You
I realize that a lot of misunderstandings between my boyfriend and I could have been prevented (or at least minimized) if I had just brought it up to him as soon as the thought popped into my head. When you let your mind play with those ideas, often the most terrible possibilities can grow and fester until you truly believe them.
- Accept the Potential for Other Possibilities
Sometimes, simply opening your mind to the possibility that the other person is not trying to hurt you, or that they do not feel the way you think they do, is enough to calm your nerves. A lot of the time, letting go of my misconceptions, and being able to choose logic over irrationality are made possible for me by simply understanding that things aren’t always about me. Most of ideas that my mind likes to toy with is that when someone does something that I view as hurtful, I assume they meant it personally. But I’ve realized with time that people get busy. People forget. Their actions aren’t always directly connected to how they feel about you. Just knowing this gives you the opportunity to stop your mind from telling you what to believe.
- Give the Other Person the Benefit of the Doubt
We have all been hurt before, and anticipating others’ hurtful actions is one of the ways we try to protect ourselves. We think, “I just know he/she doesn’t care about me! That explains everything!” in order to prepare ourselves for the very worst. But the problem is, this puts up a wall. We are no longer open to our partner or friend’s explanations and true intentions. Try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt until you can talk to them about it. I promise, more often than not, they deserve it.
Busy minds can cause destruction more quickly than most people probably realize. We can’t always be in control of our initial thoughts, but we can be in control of how we react to them and deal with them afterwards. You control how your mind works. Don’t let your busy mind control you. This is a form of manipulation, and the more you allow yourself this self-destructive behavior, the more miserable you will be. It’s definitely something I am slowly learning to get used to myself. I know that, with time, being able to put my hostility aside and just accept the love that others have for me will lead to a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with both my partner and myself.