Why Dark Thoughts Seem So Bad (But Aren't)

Jordan Brown

What would happen if you let loose your darkest, most personal thoughts?

What would that do to the world? To your world?

It's an interesting thought experiment, and most people don't want to even consider something like this.

But, it turns out, not doing so means missing out on much that life has to offer.

Imagining Dark Thoughts - Two Considerations

How do you feel when you imagine sharing your darkest, most personal thoughts?

Does it fill you with dread?

Does it make you worry about something that hasn't even happened yet?

If it does, you're not alone.

Imagining dark possibilities is where the brain goes to in times of stress--but also in times of ease.

But is this way that the world works in reality?

Or is it something that is a gross exaggeration of the truth?

Turns out--it's a little bit of both.

Dark Thoughts - Reality

Reality is what you see and hear.

It's the sensory experiences that combine to determine your perception of the world. And the word, "perception" is the key to it all.

Perception is a murky tunnel opening up onto the greenest pastures you've ever experienced. It's a shifting orb of light and darkness.

Is reality perception, or is perception reality? That's the conundrum right there, after all.

And it's what makes this all so challenging. At first.

Reality is the feeling you get of being immersed in the world. It's a warm blanket pulled from a freezing lake. A table supporting objects that is itself being supported by something else.

This kind of duality / blending phenomenon exists everywhere in the world.

You're broken until you feel whole again. Your life is over until it isn't. A friend is one way in one situation and the complete opposite in another.

Sometimes we intentionally seek out this balance.

Other times--and I think this is more common--the balance of life is thrust upon us.

We experience great failure to know stunning success.

We lose the good hand that we're dealt and then come to realize we didn't need that hand all along.

There's just one problem.

What I just described is an internal kind of knowing, but it's not everything.

There's something else we're up against. Something that's holding us back.

Dark Thoughts - Exaggeration of Reality

Reality is exaggerated when it's blended with our thoughts and emotions.

No longer fully tangible, reality becomes a mixture of the vapor of our thoughts and feelings.

When you try to think about how you feel sharing the darkest thoughts of your lives, you are blending your current feelings with what could be, with the great unknown.

Reality is so fixed and so solid, but the great unknown remains out there, yet to be discovered.

Because you have not done it yet, have not been there yet, you think the worst thoughts when asked to consider darkness.

This has been my experience my entire life.

The worst is out there in its awfulness, something never to be entertained, let alone embraced. It can't happen, although my fear always suggests otherwise.

Because fear takes the worst of what was and tries to project it onto what could be--except the element of the unknown amplifies the entire feeling.

The exaggeration of reality skews towards the worst possible scenario because the mind needs a new goal to reach, something that has not yet been done. This keep it active and always reaching for something new.

The problem with this approach is that it's a step removed from reality. It's not actually real.

Imagining the worst is always one ante higher than the worst.

Because the worst has already passed and has been integrated back into the whole.

The new worst lies outside you, tied up in ethereal feelings and thoughts.

Next Steps - What Does It All Mean For You and Your Thoughts?

So what can you actually do with this information?

How can you embrace reality while also acknowledging its amorphous outer edges?

Don't think so much.

Try to go there now, the space between the labels.

For me, it's knowing that I can share the darkest secrets about myself because I have done it before. I've risked failure and shame to find hope and redemption.

Knowing that I have been through the worst sets me up to get through the worst again.

Everything in life is relative. The worst is the worst until it no longer is.

You have been in that moment before. You've known what it feels like to break down and fall. And that's why it's tempting to set your mind on to what comes next.

But the only way forward, and I mean the only way, is the internal knowing way.

It's not a rumination on dark thoughts. Because it's not a rumination at all, at least not in the mental sense.

It's funny, really. Rumination takes on an entirely different meaning in the physical sense.

So ruminate in space. Settle into what you know and what you have known. Your body knows where its been--and it knows where it's going.

Be there for the ride.