It’s All In My Head
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
I’ve been thinking about thoughts.
I’ve had them for ages, thoughts. Ever since I can remember, and remembering is a type of thought too. I think.
What am I thinking right now? I’m thinking: if I can sit and write for an hour, then I won’t feel like a failure afterwards. My self-worth is tied to how productive and disciplined I am, especially in terms of being creative. If I don’t work hard enough I get sad. Then when I’m sad, it makes it harder to be motivated to work. But then sometimes I’ll write stuff about being sad and then I feel productive. It’s quite difficult to work out whether it’s a vicious or virtuous cycle. I think it might be some sort of figure of eight shape.
I’m also slightly hungry. In my head excuses are emerging for not staying at my computer to write. Excuses like, “You’re not in a creative flow right now, you shouldn’t force it”, “You’ve done enough good things today – remember Yoga” and “I really fancy the woman from the Yoga videos.”
It’s hard to clear these distractions from my head, because then I just think harder about the thing I’m distracted by. It’s like when someone says, “don’t think about an elephant,” then ALL I can think about is how much of a prick that person is.
It’s mad – where do all these thoughts come from? They just pop up out of nowhere into your head. You don’t ask for them – they’re like Lewis Capaldi adverts, always in the background, always lurking somewhere, then suddenly taking up all your attention. Chemical reactions happen in your brain and the end result could be that you think you’re a loser, or you think you’re great, or you think about Adriene from Yoga with Adriene and wonder what she’s like in her spare time. What does she get up to? Has she ever dated a fan? I know I’m a bit young for her but maybe she’s flexible when it comes to age as well.
How come I can feel and think these things in the first place? The thinking about thinking was stressing me out, so I started reading about it instead. I typed the word consciousness into Google. Now if you don’t know precisely what that word means, then let me explain: Google is what’s known as a “search engine” and it helps you find what you’re looking for on the internet.
Nah, I’m just kidding. The best definition of consciousness I found was this: something is conscious, if there’s something “that it’s like to be that thing”. So, I’m conscious because there’s something that it’s like to be me i.e. pretty fucking great because I’m a legend with many skills. Nah, I get awful sad and lonesome sometimes. But basically, things that think and feel are conscious. So, I’m conscious; you’re conscious; but a chair isn’t conscious. It’s just a stupid chair and you can sit on it or even spit on it and it won’t care because it doesn’t feel anything. It’s just a dumb chair with no talent or worth.
No one really knows what causes consciousness. Scientists and philosophers have been trying to figure it out for ages, but they’re not sure. The main problem they’ve had historically is that when you think about it for too long you get confused and give up and start looking at Facebook instead, or you open an incognito tab and look at something even worse. Descartes was onto something when he said, “I think, therefore I am,” but he never really built on that because it was all kicking off on Twitter at the time.
It’s weird how no one knows why we have thoughts, yet they’re the cause of so much stress. I have loads of bad thoughts all the time, and so do you probably. I sometimes have a really negative view of myself. That’s a concept that creeps me out – self-consciousness. We’re able to think about ourselves. I can deal with having opinions about other people, even bad ones, who cares, you don’t have to tell them – but having constant bad thoughts about yourself is annoying.
I worry about what I look like a lot. Which is quite shallow, but then society is shallow, isn’t it? We care too much about physical attractiveness. But then why is that bad? Wouldn’t a society that was equally shallow in the reverse way be just as bad. Like imagine if the first thing you saw about someone was how good their personality is. Then would people be like, “Oh she’s a terrible person, but don’t be so superficial. If you actually got to know her, she’s got a cracking pair of breasts.”
But the thing is, you can never be certain what someone thinks of you – and realising that is scary and makes me feel quite lonely. Maybe that’s why we try so hard to find out; maybe that’s why I’m writing this, so when I share it on social media I can get some sort of gauge of what people think of me by how many likes it gets. Validation is like a little sneak peek into someone’s thoughts.
When I try to imagine how other people think, I just place my own consciousness into their bodies. I do it with people I’m attracted to a lot. Sometimes I think I even get close to empathising with them. I’ll be stood in their bodies, in front of the mirror – not naked, nothing weird – and I’ll just be staring at their reflection, realising the burden of being idealised by people when all they can see is every little imperfection. But then I realise my thoughts about how they think are probably more about me than them. Then after that I do picture them getting their baps out to be fair. I’m bloody rotten, me.
But then so would you be if you were me. Because you’d have all my thoughts. That’s why we probably shouldn’t feel so morally superior to people who do terrible things – we don’t have their bad thoughts, and if we did, we’d probably do the same. It’s easy for me to say I wouldn’t be a murderer because I don’t have to live with those impulses to bludgeon someone to death with a blunt object made largely out of Star Wars figurines, the very same figurines that you were teased at school for collecting, and as your childhood bully begs to be spared you scream at him “These figurines aren’t so gay now are they, Ben?!”
I have no idea what thinking about that all the time would be like.
The loneliness of being trapped with our own thoughts is probably life’s biggest challenge. It’s one we’ve all got to deal with, and it’s especially difficult when those thoughts are a constant stream of negativity directed at yourself. Even if those thoughts don’t represent wider-reality, it is the reality that you have to live with.
But then sometimes people do find a way of breaking through that boundary that separates your minds. Halfway through writing this, my housemate Joe came into my room. He works at Iceland and he just got back. At first, I was worried he was gonna put that whole figure of eight pattern in motion again.
“Joe, can you go away for a second, I’m tryna do something.”
“Yeah, sure,” he said. “I just came into give you this.”
He handed me an Easter Egg, but not just any Easter Egg – a Mars Easter Egg. For some context, Joe knows that Mars is my third favourite type of chocolate. I was buzzing. I could’ve kissed him. It was a proper full-sized one as well, with two big Mars bars in there as well as the egg.
It made all the anxious self-consciousness totally evaporate. It made me realise that although we can’t be in someone else’s head or thoughts, we can hold them in our own, and sometimes show that to them, and that even that alone can make them change the way they think about themselves.
And that if someone could do it for me so easily, then maybe I could do it for someone too. Maybe Joe, maybe Adriene from Yoga with Adriene, maybe even you.
Just a thought.
Anyway, that’s about it.
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