Brains, Trains and Destination Happy

I have been reading a book that addresses the concept of “letting go.” This is not a new idea. Lots of people have written on this subject because we human beings have a heck of a time getting out of our heads, of stopping audio and sometime video tapes from running and re-running in our minds to our detriment, even when we know they are not serving us. We cannot seem to, without conscious and deliberate effort, get out of the way of our mind trains......the often self-sabotaging trains of thought......which threaten to flatten us or leave us emotionally injured as they drag us behind for minutes, hours or days, or as they leave the station of our mind......only certain to return on another run triggered by our outer world.

Can we stop the mind trains that don’t serve us; the ones that take us to destinations we no longer care to visit? If so, how do we do it? If we cannot stop these trains from running, can we derail them, sending them off in another direction, sparing us from the crush of their impact?

Awareness seems to be key. We have to know something about ourselves and our mental trains. The more we know about them, the better we can strategize about how to avoid them running us over or otherwise causing us harm.

Several months ago, I saw a news story about real life trains, the ones that carry people and cargo. The reporter researched the story because he wondered why so many people got run over by trains. The number of people hit or killed by trains is shocking. Didn’t these people hear the trains coming? The reporter set out to find out what the story was; why people seemed to be unable to avoid the oncoming, often fatal blows.

As it turns out, trains, especially electric trains, don't make much noise. You really don’t hear them choo-chooing in the distance, like The Little Engine That Could. High-speed trains are traveling at 160-320 feet per second. You can hear them as they pass, but not from miles away. At most, their sound can be heard just seconds in advance.....certainly not in time to get out of their way if your back is turned, you are somehow caught on the tracks or frozen at the sight of a train a few seconds from your face. This is a well-known among those who work in the railroad industry. If a high-speed train is involved, you cannot rely on your hearing. You must have a clear view of more than 6/10 of a mile in both directions!

This seems to be the way it is with our mental trains. They appear out of the blue, at lightning speed, generally with no warning whatsoever. There we are, in our mental track, when BAM, a potentially life-derailing mental train is headed straight for us, threatening to crush us, or drag us along with it for quite some time until we can wrestle ourselves free. That is the way it is when we are not aware of ourselves, when we don’t know what our trains are, when we don’t make an effort to know when they run (what sends them out of our mental station, at high speed, straight for us), and when we make no effort to take some preventative measures. Even when we heighten our awareness, I believe many of our mental trains will still run, albeit less often and hopefully with significantly less speed or potential to harm. Therefore, we need to come up with derailment strategies......strategies to derail our mental trains, in addition to what to do when the train derails us from the tracks to our best life.

Awareness is our key. We each need to know what our mental trains of thought are that tend to derail us from living a happy and productive life. Pay attention and take notes, if you have to. We need to become familiar with our switchboard, learning what triggers our those particular trains to run audio and/or video tapes in our head. Notice what precipitated your mental train from running, see if you can identify patterns or an underlying theme. We need to experiment with what we can do to jump out of their way, to send them off on another track, leaving us unscathed at least that go-around. Will choosing to think of something else work? Will singing a song or jumping on a treadmill do it? Does it work to firmly say, “Stop,” to yourself, giving yourself some tough love and setting boundaries about where you won’t go (much like stopping yourself from eating a cookie when you are attempting to lose weight). Or, the best thing of all would be to see them for what they are, vehicles to a mental destination that has been visited far too many times for it to be of any interest any more, and choose to not take that ride. If, by chance you inadvertently find yourself on a train headed in the wrong direction, I highly recommend jumping off. I promise, it won’t hurt!

We all need a bag of tools to help decelerate or disempower our high-speed, electric mental train when we realize it caught us or it has been dragging us behind it for some time. These are things we all need to be exploring for ourselves, although thought-partners, coaches, therapists can help facilitate that work. No one else can do this work for us.....but sometimes we need someone else get us on the right track.

Happy traveling!


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