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In today’s video, I’m going to talk about how remembering that I’m “crazy” helps me stay sane.
Watch the video below for a counterintuitive approach for overcoming intrusive jealous thoughts.
Zachary Stockill: Today, I want to talk about a practice that I’ve been cultivating and practicing for many years for overcoming intrusive jealous thoughts, one of the best tools I have found to keep intrusive thoughts at bay, to maintain perspective on my thoughts, and to live a better life. To let situations go and maintain this practice for so many years, every day, has been one of the best things that I’ve done for myself as a former retroactive jealousy sufferer to keep retroactive jealousy at bay.
What I’m talking about is observing your thoughts as an outsider.
Philosophers over the centuries have been talking about this for a very long time, in many Eastern traditions, particularly Buddhism. Maintaining awareness of your thoughts, like an “outside observer” of those thoughts, rather than attaching your identity to a thought that doesn’t reflect reality, and isn’t actually serving you. Kind of like a detached outside observer observing paintings on a wall. Not identifying with any of those images, or thoughts, in particular, and deliberately picking and choosing which of those thoughts to engage with, and which ones to simply let go. And over time, observing your thoughts in this way will help you realize that you’re a little crazy. In fact, we’re all a little crazy–and that’s ok.
I’m a huge advocate for meditation. Any kind of meditation practice is the easiest way to get good at this in a short period of time. Meditation is not always easy. Many of you have probably tried meditation in the past, and some of you may have hated it and had bad experiences. My suggestion would be to “get back up on that horse,” give it another try. Give it some time to work for you. As I always say about meditation, I believe the key to meditation is consistency over quantity. In other words, it’s much better to spend five minutes a day, once a day, every day meditating, than to spend an hour meditating once a week. But if you’re not interested in meditation, that’s okay. I understand. I’m not going to berate you for it.
When I talk about remembering that I’m crazy, and how that helps me stay sane, I’m going to give you a perfect example.
So I was sitting in the barber’s chair not long ago, getting some work done, and I was using it as a bit of meditative practice. I’m here in Indonesia, and my barber doesn’t speak English. I don’t speak Bahasa, so we don’t really communicate. It’s literally just me sitting in a chair like that for about an hour. It’s a great time to meditate. I was sitting in this chair, and I was meditating and I was feeling good, calm, peaceful and all of a sudden, I had some “crazy” thoughts.
I started thinking about how it would feel and how I would react if someone broke into this random Balinese barbershop, started attacking people, maybe started attacking me, started asking for money, and started shooting people. I was playing this out in my head, almost like a movie, like “How would I respond in that situation? Where’s the backdoor? Where can I escape? And, where could I help others? Would I be brave enough to stand up to this guy and take a bullet for these people in this barbershop? Or, would I be a coward and cower away from the situation?” and on and on and on.
And I realized that that’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past 10-20 minutes. My meditation practice is totally gone for the afternoon, or at least for that time in the barber’s chair. And instead of meditating and thinking thoughts that I want to think, I was lost in this absolutely insane fantasy about what would happen or how I would respond if someone broke into my barbershop and started shooting up the place.
Once I realized that I was creating this bizarre film in my head, I started laughing to myself. I started chuckling, and I realized how “crazy” I can be on a daily basis.
So why am I sharing this with you today, this random barbershop story? Because if you get good at observing your thoughts, eventually you’ll have that perspective about yourself. Usually, if I’m having a thought that isn’t serving me, or I’m lost in negative thoughts that don’t mean anything, I’m usually pretty good at recognizing that fairly early on in that particular thought process. It doesn’t take long before I realize, “Zach, this is an absolutely crazy thought, this is not worth your time, let’s focus on something else.”
It’s also a good idea to laugh at yourself sometimes. You can laugh at some of the absolutely insane thoughts that you might have every day. Practice this the next couple of days, weeks, or just try this as an experiment for the day. And again, if you get good at meditation, this becomes much easier.
You don’t have to be a meditator, necessarily, to reap some of the rewards of “observing” your thoughts. Instead, just start paying attention to how crazy you are on a daily basis.
I’m not even talking about in the context of retroactive jealousy. I mean, in everyday life, we all have all kinds of crazy thoughts every single day, because we’re humans in the 21st century. We’re humans in the modern world. We’re bombarded with information constantly, day in and day out. There are all kinds of people trying to get our attention.
All-day long, we’re bombarded by information, so no wonder we might have a million crazy thoughts a day.
Remembering you’re crazy will help you stay sane because you start remembering that you can’t always trust your thoughts. If you’re having intrusive thoughts about your partner’s past, or you have some questions about your partner’s past as it relates to perhaps their values or their morals, in those moments, hopefully, you can maintain perspective and you can deliberately choose which thoughts are serving you and which are not. Which thoughts are worth exploring, and which are not.
Remembering you are crazy will absolutely help you stay sane.
Laugh at yourself, cultivate this ability as well, even in the context of retroactive jealousy. Because, even in the context of thinking about your partner’s past, I guarantee there’s at least some occasion, which a little bit of self-parody, laughing yourself a bit, can be helpful in defusing the imagined power of this intrusive thought in your brain.
When you laugh at something, you’re telling your brain that “this is not a threat. I don’t have to fear this thing. I don’t have to fear this thought.” You’re laughing at something, you’re defusing your brain’s perception of the threat. Because so much of retroactive jealousy is our lizard brain, our hindbrain perceiving threats. People keep on asking me: “Why can’t I stop thinking about x? Why can’t I stop thinking about y?” This is a big reason why I keep coming back to this response: “What is the fear? Deep down, what are you afraid of?”
How will you help yourself have the best possible chance to be overcoming intrusive jealous thoughts?
Every time you have an unwanted intrusive thought, there is likely some underlying fear there, and the more you can call that fear out and expose it for what it is, the less fearful it becomes.
So start laughing at some of this stuff more often. Do this more often because eventually over time, your brain will start to get the message that “this is not a threat. This is not something that needs to be taken seriously. I have the answers I need about my partner’s past. I have the answers I need about retroactive jealousy.”
Whatever the case may be, start laughing at yourself in these situations because it will help to start to defuse your brain’s threat response. In this way, remembering you’re “crazy” will help you stay sane.