What Was I Thinking?

insomnia-causes-1024x951My friend Mary Lore likes to say that we are not our brains. She believes our brains (in the form of our Knower/Judger) run our lives too often. Patterns have repeated so often in the past that we’ve decided that’s just the way things are. “When this happens, then this is the response, and when that happens, that is the response.” Our “rules of life,” if you will. Our brains, which can only react, take over, and we can’t respond in new ways that might be more beneficial for us. So how do we overcome this?

I have some amazing conversations with myself…and I have some that are just loops I can’t seem to get out of.

I live a very diverse and (to me) interesting life. I have coaching clients, companies that rely on me to bring clarity, a hobby I’ve enjoyed for 46 years and am still extremely active in, a club I belong to and help manage, family members who live right here and others who are scattered around the globe, and grandchildren. I have a wife who wants to travel since I’m supposed to be “semiretired,” and I run, attempt to play golf, and love my St. Louis Cardinals.

So what am I thinking…?

I suspect no one knew what attention deficit disorder (ADD) was in 1951 when I first entered Harding Township Public School. I also suspect that, had they known, I might have been a poster child.

My brain is going constantly. Some psychologists call it “monkey brain.” When working on a project, I can be totally focused with no “brain” interruptions. When I relax, like when I’m engaging in some easy-chair baseball viewing or trying to go to sleep, my brain likes to rehash past occurrences and prepare for upcoming challenges on all the aforementioned fronts. It’s a challenge to quiet my “monkey brain.”

This morning while in my spinning class, I noticed that my ADD patterns were engaged. I was thinking about:

  • A meeting I was at yesterday
  • A client’s marketing program
  • Mom’s 93rd birthday party
  • The general state of rally in the U.S.
  • What to do about a replacement car
  • Scheduling one-on-ones with coaching clients
  • My daughter, who just deployed to Afghanistan
  • And maybe a couple of other things, sorta in the background

The thoughts were all bubbling around like ingredients in a smoothie, yet maintaining their own identity and logical track.

What I noticed was that my thought process on most of these subjects was K/J in format; it was a parallel process of gap analyses about what I had to do or needed to do to feel comfortable about each of these things going on in my life. In other words, most of my self-talk was critical…generated by my fully engaged monkey brain.

On the spinning bike, having all this rattling around isn’t a problem. It may even be entertaining.

But when I’m trying to get to sleep, it’s a problem. So why does it happen?

In the grand scheme of things—life, health, happiness—I am totally blessed. I have no third-world life issues that threaten my existence. So guess what? My brain finds these relatively trivial things to concentrate on. (If you’re a client, I’m not suggesting our work is trivial!)

And then I think about Mary Lore’s belief that I am not my brain.

My brain is a tool I can use. So how come it just seems to take over my world at inopportune times?

Because I let it. Period.

So that’s it, brain. Pay attention. I’m meditating. I’m concentrating on my breathing. I’m doing 4-7-8 breathing (look it up!). When I don’t want to enjoy my ADD thought processes, when it doesn’t serve me, then I will manage my own brain instead of it managing me.

I’ve actually been fairly successful at this. I get a good seven-plus hours of sleep every night. And every one of them starts off with a debate with my brain about who’s going to control that period of time before I lose consciousness.

Does this happen to you? What do you do to quiet your monkey brain?



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