Inside the Thought Machine: Page 16

How long can a machine run at full throttle without rest? I’ve seen a movie where they talk about being placed in a blender that never stops and the thought was argued because the machine can only run for so long. Come to think of it, in our last discussion about the thought machine I mentioned my time as a stationary engineer in a central plant. We ran large chilled water systems here. And we had more than one. Why? Because in case one shuts down. But also, it’s better to alternate machines to keep the run-times down. It’s also better to run two machines at 50% than one machine at 100%.
So, the question remains. How long can an engine move at its fastest speed? How long can the gas pedal be pushed to the pins until the engine blows? Or better yet, how long can a person last without backing off the throttle? 

In the case of flight or fight mode, we are not built to be on high alert at all times. We are built to survive and use our survival tactics to keep us safe. Our minds are designed to always seek comfort and safety.
But when anxiety is high, or when we’re always moving, when we’re always on the run and when we’re always working and the candle’s burned at both ends and when we’re running into ourselves at the door without rest, non-stop, how do we maintain our personal health. 

Now, this is a twofold question because there are both mental and physical needs for personal healthcare. We have to take care of our body. We have to eat right. Stay in shape, which is easier for some and more challenging for others. We have to get some exercise in. We have to get some sleep. Otherwise, the body is at risk. On the other hand, we have to take care of our emotional and mental fitness as well. We have to look for something that balances the world. We need something to offer us a moment of passivity.  Otherwise, what’s the risk?

There are times when life refuses to stop. There are times when there is too much to do and the clock is not on our side. Then again, there are times when our thoughts are connected to an incident or resentment and we’re mad. Or better yet, we’re pissed off! Full-tilt and full-throttle pissed off.
So, what do we do?
We can’t kick the dog. We can’t kick the cat. You can’t take this out on other people, at least, not really. It’s not right to take our frustrations out on others. Is it?
It’s certainly not fair.
Then again, life isn’t always fair and neither are people. 

As a person in the working world, I have witnessed people who’ve worked their life away. They missed their kid’s soccer games. They’ve missed recitals. In fact, I am the son of a man who worked day and night. My Old Man was out of the house before the sunrise. He was home late. Oftentimes, The Old Man ate reheated food at the dinner table by himself because the rest of us had already eaten. This was a usual pattern in our life.

There are only a handful of memories from my youth where my Old Man took off or went on vacation. Even still, work was always on his mind, which made this difficult for my Father to relax or enjoy the moment. 

On his deathbed, my Father explained that everything he’d done in his life was to provide for us. He knew that he made mistakes. He knew that things were going to be left unsaid but still, The Old Man explained that he did what he could. 

And I agree. He did.
My Father did all that he knew.
My education from this has taught me a great deal. I learned that my Father did what he learned to do, which he believed was the way to be a Father.
My education from this has shown me that while love is a strong motivator, lessons learned are important because this allows us to facilitate change, which means my lessons have taught me that I can improve from this and create something better.

The mind is always working. And when I say working, I do not mean work in the same sense as my Old Man was working. At the same time, the mind is always working to provide the same as The Old Man was looking to provide for us. The Old Man was looking to provide comfort. He wanted us to have everything we needed like a roof over our head, clothes on our backs and food in our bellies. And we had that. We had that and more but sometimes The Old Man overlooked this.
And so do we.

The mind is also looking to provide. The mind wants to provide comfort and peace and safety. Yet, in the threat that peace and comfort are at risk, the mind becomes anxious. Fear takes place. Emotion happens, which in turn triggers a chemical system that starts the thought machine. This is fine because machines are built to do work. That’s what our thought machine does: It works.

Then again, no machine is built to run at a continuously full-speed for long periods of time. The mind needs rest. Otherwise, we miss things. (Or risk things.)
Otherwise, we give in to the arguments in our head. We risk losing time to the narratives, the ideas and the irrational assumptions. We need a way to stop the wheels from spinning in the machine or, eventually, we break down.

In the simplest way to explain this, imagine walking down the hallway and suddenly, someone shouts “BOO!” and scares you. The initial spark charges a rush in our system. However, once the mind sees this is only a practical joke, the body calms down but the machine needs a second to recoil before all systems are normal again. Imagine that feeling of sudden shock. Now, imagine that never goes away. The body is not built for this.

I agree there are people who can function this way. I am sure there are people who are moving at an infinite speed. But is this good? I suppose the answer depends upon the individual.

From what I’ve learned, this is a basic explanation on how the mind works. There are moments throughout the day when we receive unsettling news. There are times when we assume people’s thoughts. There are times when we assume people’s intentions and as a result, we run a systems check. We start to prepare for the argument or the letdown. Whether the incident is real or the threat is only imaginary, the mind does not understand the difference between thought, opinion, fantasy or reality.
The assumptions are enough to spin the wheels in our thought machine. As a result, our speeds pick up. We start to contemplate. We overthink and overanalyze. We overwork our systems to the point where our throttles are at full-speed. And then what?
We explode?
We yell? We rant or we rave?

How is any of this beneficial? 

After years of seeing my Old Man work the way he did and after a childhood hope that I would someday follow in his footsteps, I came to a personal level of awareness. I gave an honest look at who my Father was.
Was he happy? The answer: Sometimes
Was he pleasant to be around? The honest answer: Sometimes, but other times, no. He was angry. He was frustrated. I saw him yell at the television. I saw him yell at the newspaper, at a piece of lawn equipment for a good portion of a weekend, at me, at my brother and I’ve even heard The Old Man yell at himself on occasion. 

Is this what I want to be like?
Or is this what my Father would want me to be like?
The answer here is no. 

Case in point. I had to learn to work smarter. Not harder. I had to learn when to lay off the throttles. I had to learn that there are people in my life who simply want to hear from me, which I know and I honor but sometimes, life has a way of taking us away from ourselves. We lose sight of things. We miss moments like calling the people we care about because our mind is all over the place.

Work smarter. Not harder.
Take time.
Smell the roses when you can.
Oh, and if and whenever possible, find the right music to listen to.
Trust me. This works.

One thought on “Inside the Thought Machine: Page 16

  1. Sadly most of our culture is trapped at a mental level. We do not descend to enter the body and make sense of exactly why we had to be so driven. Its down to that generation.. If your ancestors were nearly decimated by the Nazis it makes sense of why your Old Man could never stop.. but you are not him and we all do not need to be living and working and mentalizing all the time in this way.. Its unsustainable and nature in the end will not allow it..

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