The second thought is more of a memory. I was visiting my mother while on summer break from college. My sister and her son, who was four at the time, came up so that we could all enjoy a weekend together.
Now, my sister and I are both card-carrying and award-winning night-owls so, after she had put her son to bed and we said our good-nights to mom, we settled in for one of our, now infamous, late-night chats.
About an hour into our conversational marathon, my nephew walked into the room. Rubbing his bleary eyes, he explained that he couldn't sleep because there were scary monsters under his bed. Not doubting his word for a moment, we got up, checked, and then reassured him that there were, in fact, no monsters under his bed.
But, with a degree of cuteness that Disney animators can only dream of, he sheepishly responded, “But... I think that there are.”
I share all this because recently, I've noticed some pretty scary monsters under my own bed. (Metaphorically of course; no self-respecting monster would be caught dead under my bed!)
I know they're not real. But I think that they are. If you allow for circular logic, I even have proof – their influence on my life.
Reason, the tight-wearing Super-Hero against all non-existent foes, can usually help me see these monsters a little more clearly for what they really are – a bunch of memories of past hurts, pre-judgments of current circumstances, and worries about the future. In other words, they're nothing more than products of my own making that exist entirely in my head (the very worst place for them to be).
But reason is no match for the power of emotional attachments – even for absurd and completely imaginary ideas. Reason tells me to resist and fight. But invisible head monsters love that! It's the sneaky way they get me to donate all of my energy, and the influential resources of my focused attention, to their cause.
So, I've been revisiting this interaction between my sister and her son from that summer long ago and taking some motherly advice.
She quickly recognized that there was no amount of proof that would help her son sleep. At that moment, some deeply embedded auto-program had temporarily taken control and all other systems were offline. So she decided to go a different route.
Since she couldn't help him dismiss and delete the troubling thoughts, she simply attached a file to them that, like a computer virus, would disarm and dismantle them from within. She asked him “What color are the monsters?” When he told us that the monsters were green, she let out a huge sigh of relief and said, “Oh good! Green monsters are the fun, silly kind. They might try to tickle your feet, but that's the only thing they know how to do.” And that was that.
Indulging the invisible monsters in their “what if” head games of pain, worry and fear might seem a little silly. But it's really no sillier than letting them use all of that creative imagination exclusively against me.