In my latest book Redesign Your Mind I invite you to more mindfully and consciously take charge of your mind by using certain visualizations to help you redesign and redecorate “the room that is your mind.” You use these visualizations when you visit that room—but you can also use them when you really need to leave that room.
We are often obliged to stay in our mindroom for protracted periods of time, maybe because we’re trying to solve a personal problem or maybe because we’re creating something that demands intense, prolonged attention. That is all as it should be. But we must be careful not to overstay our welcome there.
Many people spend too much time in their mindroom, worrying, obsessing, fretting, or just sitting there thinking about nothing in particular. That isn’t healthy or useful. What’s needed? An exit door and an exit strategy! Your mind had better have a clearly-marked exit door and you had better know how and when to use it.
Let’s put that in right now. Go to your mindroom, find the right spot to add an exit door, and add it. And clearly mark it! You want the sign over your exit door to brightly glow in the dark, just as the exit signs on airplanes do.
If you’ve ever found yourself buttonholed by someone who can’t stop speaking, whose pressurized speech races on and on and who won’t broach any interruption, you know that nothing at all can interfere with that person’s agenda, whether that’s convincing you that Martians abducted him, vaccinations ought to be made illegal, or that our youth today are self-indulgent and worthless.
It won’t help to exclaim, “Stop, enough!” It won’t help to present some counter-argument. It won’t help to roll your eyes or make some “please stop!” gesture with your upraised palm. Your interlocutor is on a mission that has nothing to do with you, a mission to spill out the words that his mind is driving along with a whip.
Were you to exclaim “Stop!” he might actually stop for a split second, give you look of amazed incredulity, as if to say, “What, you don’t think that Martians are everywhere?”, and return immediately to his theme. Shake your head if you like; that won’t phase him. To free yourself of his manic monologue, you must leave. There is absolutely nothing else to do. You must say, “Oh, I see Mary across the room and I haven’t chatted with Mary in the longest time! It was SO nice chatting with you.” Then you bolt. Or maybe you skip any politeness, turn your back, and just flee.
Your own mind can fail you in exactly that way. It can get on some bandwagon, usually under the pressure of some unacknowledged threat, for instance that life is feeling meaningless and you don’t want to notice that terrible shortfall, and jibber on about some theme that suddenly seems important beyond belief.
Maybe it’s about how the walls are not quite the right shade of white and really must be repainted this instant (“Navajo white, they should be Navajo white!”), how it’s imperative that you set off for South America on that vision quest that you’ve delayed thirty years, or how you really must tell your boss off in no uncertain terms this very morning. There your mind goes!
Such monologues are very hard to interrupt. There appears to be no “you” available at such tense times to say, “Bob, it’s not about the walls” or “Calm down, this is not the year to run off to South America” or “Hold on, better to ask for a raise than to spit in his face.”
What can you do when your mind is going on like that? Leave the monologue. That’s the thing to do! Use the exit door you’ve installed and leave. Say to yourself, to the “you” trapped listening to yourself go on and on, “I’m leaving now.” Get up, turn your back on that manic monologue, get a firm grip on the doorknob, get your exit door opened, and stride into some sunny, blissful silence.
Once outside, as you walk in silence through a quiet garden in the direction of a café and some tea and biscotti, you might dare to ask yourself, “What was that all about?” You were that manic speaker; your mind produced that feverish monologue; so, no doubt, there is something to learn about why you felt compelled to go on that way. In the blissful silence of that garden walk, dare to quietly ask that poignant question: “What was that all about?”
These pressurized monologues arise all the time. Maybe you call them your obsessional thinking or your manic times or maybe you don’t have a name for them. Maybe they are just a part of you that you suppose you can’t do much about. But there is something you can do, if you would like to gain some freedom from pressure-driven monologues. You can create an exit door—maybe with a nice bit of red neon above the door that reads “Exit”—and leave whenever it would be wise for you to get out of there.