Dealing with Obtrusive, Repetitive Thoughts

Before we can deal with thoughts, we need to have at least a basic understanding of what they are and where they come from, what they consist of, and what the purpose of thought is. Yet, we rarely if ever examine these questions and simply take thought for granted as something necessary and permanent and a part of our own being.

Western psychology has traditionally relied on a mechanical or even a chemical model of thought, which seems, in their view, to be a by-product of the physical body’s activity. Of course, this does not explain where and how this happens, or why. C.G. Jung explored the “collective unconscious” and posited that there is an external reality from which imagery, and thereby also thought, arises and enters into the individual.

Various ancient Western philosophers believed that there was an ideal world where the ‘idea’ resided and it was from there that the forms and activities of the material world were created.

Practitioners of the occult have noted, in their exploration of inner space, that there is a separate plane of thought, independent of the individual, and it is on this separate plane that thoughts exist in their original form, and from thence impose themselves into the physical world.

The Taiittiriya Upanishad provides the experiential view of the Rishis that there is a “mental sheath” or plane, and then a “knowledge sheath” or plane, which implies a universal and separate existence from which the individual incidents of thought arise and promulgate through individuals.

The Mother takes up this understanding as she explores what to do with persistent, obtrusive thoughts and how to excise them from gaining or holding any control over the individual’s mental process.

The Mother notes: “Thoughts are real entities which usually last until they are realised. Some people are obsessed by their own thoughts. They think of something and the thought returns and goes round and round in their heads as if it were something from outside. But it is their own formations returning again and again and striking the mind that has formed them. That is one aspect of the matter. … Did you ever have the experience of a thought taking the form of words or a sentence in your mind and returning over and over again? But if you are clever enough to take a piece of paper and a pencil and write it down — that is the end of it, it won’t return any more, you have thrown it out of yourself. The thing has had its little satisfaction, it has manifested itself sufficiently and it won’t return. … And there is something more interesting still: if you have a bad thought that annoys and disturbs you, write it down very attentively, very carefully, putting as much consciousness and will as you can. Then take the piece of paper and, with concentration, tear it up with the will that the thought will be torn up in the same way. That is how you will get rid of it.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Obsessive and Compulsive Thoughts, pp. 32-35

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