It never ceases to amaze me how crazy the human mind can be.
In many ways, we’re still monkeys—except sometimes, a little more chaotic.
You know those moments where we get triggered by something from our past and completely lose touch with reality?
We’ll be going on a date, for example, and we’ll descend into extreme nervousness an hour beforehand out of some latent fear inside of us that’s brought about by the situation.
It makes no sense, because there’s nothing to truly be afraid of. We’ll either get along with the person or not; either way it’s not a problem. Yet, the mind convinces us that if this (probably meaningless) date doesn’t go well, it’s a sign that we’ll always be alone, or we’re not good enough, or the sky will fall—you name it.
This is what I call “a mind attack.”
When a potentially stressful or scary situation comes up, our thoughts often convince us that there is something deeply wrong and viciously attack us in our own head.
An extreme version of this would be a panic attack, but many of us experience mini panic attacks in our lives all the time.
What’s happening in these moments is feelings from our past, unprocessed emotions or traumatic experiences—that we haven’t fully dealt with—completely derail the train of our own consciousness. We are no longer awake. It is as though this repressed energy inside comes to take us over, like some kind of demon or alien life form, and once successful, it becomes incredibly difficult to come back into ourselves.
Eckhart Tolle calls this the “pain-body.”
This is the negative imprint of the past on our psyche—the stuff that stayed inside of us.
I call these traumas the “stains on our soul,” the traces of old suffering that continue to linger in our minds and disallow us from stepping fully into the present moment.
When the “pain-body” is triggered by an event, we plunge into these unhealthy patterns of mind that we probably used originally to cope with that pain: anxiety, neediness, anger, sadness, and so on.
We all have our own ways of coping with our pain, and none of them are pretty.
The root word for emotion, emovere, literally means an agitation or something that stirs us up. When an emotion stays in our body for too long, it becomes profoundly damaging to us.
Emotions are like waves; we are meant to ride them out. When an emotion becomes trapped in the body, out of the failure to fully experience it the first time around, it completely overwhelms us when it rears its ugly head and we’re taken over by it. It’s like we’re being possessed by something, and honestly, that’s not far from the truth. We become an instrument of our own trauma, and we can’t free ourselves unless we get in touch with the pain-body directly.
Next time we’re having a moment like this, let’s try to see if we can shift our attention to the body.
When we are aware of the body, we are most connected with the present moment. When we’re in tune with the present moment, these mind attacks can’t happen because they’re fragments of the past—but that’s a lot easier said than done. The mind is looking for a problem, so when we try to make ourselves present, it’ll start obsessing about how we’re not present and freak us out over it.
An idea is not super helpful when the mind attacks. The mind is made up of thoughts and ideas, so just calling upon another idea to help us will not do the trick.
We’re trying to get beneath the mind by bringing our awareness to the body.
Just watch what’s happening: the heart is beating fast, we feel uncomfortable, and we’re crawling out of our skin.
Stay with all that. Simply pay attention to this experience. Close your eyes and take a few breaths.
It’s okay to panic. It’s okay when we’re triggered. Love it. Love what’s happening. Laugh at it. Accept it. Recognize that this is all normal. There’s nothing wrong with us. It’s okay to feel this way.
The biggest trap we can get into is “I shouldn’t be this way,” but there’s no should and shouldn’t. We are this way, and the only reason is because we didn’t feel what we needed to, way back when.
Let’s make up for it now.
Let’s feel the f*ck out of this sh*t.
This is where we are, in the midst of a mind attack—let’s just see if we can be with it as much as possible.
Remember, although we are feeling this intensely in the present, this is all coming from the past. There is nothing actually wrong in the present. It’ll all be fine. We’re already going to die—that’s a f*cking guarantee. No problem we face in our lives can be more dire than the reality of our own mortality, so let’s stop making small things feel like big things.
Maybe you’ll fumble your speech, or maybe your date will think you’re weird. Fine. There’s always more chances. It’s the mind that lives in scarcity, that feels “there’s never enough,” and it’s the body that lives in abundance, that “there’s always more than enough.” We can only improve ourselves by being present to our experience. That’s where self-knowledge comes from.
So, when the mind attacks, bring awareness to the body—the immediacy of our felt experience.
Nothing is that scary, it just seems that way because we’ve been putting off feeling this stuff for so long. Let’s just delve into it and see what happens.
It’s not your personal problem, this is a universal problem of the collective human psyche. We freak out. We get crazy. We beat ourselves up in our head. It’s all okay. Stay with the feeling, and watch how it passes through us—as we return to the present moment and come back to ourselves.
Accept it. Feel it. Watch it.
And all of our pain will be washed away by the great tides of our own spirit.