October 1, 2011
Allow Some Mental Space For Hodgepodge Thinking
Understanding the Normalcy of Thinking Confusing or Paradoxical Thoughts
When you can give yourself permission to entertain some confusing or ambivalent thoughts and feelings, you’ll be more comfortable and more ready to clarify them.
- You love your spouse and your kids, and yet sometimes feel like you “hate” them, or at least dislike them.
- You’re very responsible at your work and home, and yet sometimes you want to run away from the whole scene.
- Sometimes you feel rational and clear-headed, and other times you feel completely “off your rocker.”
Humans Want a Neat Mind
So how does it feel to dwell in the “Land of Ambivalence”?! Most everyone has thoughts and feelings that seem contradictory and confusing, at least some of the time. Many people become scared or worried when one of their thoughts, experiences, or opinions doesn’t jive with their usual worldview. Since most people like to figure things out to feel safe and secure, like avoiding accidents, keeping a relationship, getting a job, or having peace of mind, how does one handle what sometimes feels like a mental mess of “hodgepodge” thinking?
Being Smart Allows For Uncertainty
An important part of being smart is not just figuring things out, but allowing mental and psychological space for confusion, doubt, and mystery. “Smart” here means being open, patient, and tolerant. If you have trouble with this, as many do, you may find yourself feeling tense, rigid, and intolerant. Your world will be an unhappy one when you insist that your mind be perfectly clear and that your views be foisted on other people.
Some Common Hodgepodge Confusion
Here are some common experiences of mental and emotional confusion and paradox, along with comments and explanations:
- Love-Hate. You often love your partner or your kids, then sometimes hate (or dislike) them. Since our loved ones can sometimes easily get “under our skin,” there is such a thing as “normal” hate or dislike.
- Responsibility-Escape. Devoted and responsible folks sometimes feel like “running away” from an onslaught of demands and pressure—understandable especially with low self-care and few breaks.
- Nice Thoughts—Mean Thoughts. You’re a kind, sensitive person who sometimes feels jealous, critical, or uncaring. Cheering others on when you feel bad is a practice that matures with personal growth.
- Clear-Confused. Sometimes you’re confident, clear-headed, and healthy. Other times you feel confused, befuddled, and “crazy.” Welcome. You are still a member of the human race.
- Belief-Doubt. You are sometimes confident in your beliefs about your life, your purpose, or your religion. Other times you doubt yourself, your purpose, and your spirituality. Remember that even saints had doubts.
Healthy Hodgepodge Thinking
Much of our confused thinking is not only part of “human nature,” but also emerges from our culture and society. Yet some of the hodgepodge is a sign of health and intelligence. Intelligent people have questions beyond normal learning and indoctrination, entertain various viewpoints, see the “grain of truth” in an opposing view, and accept some confusion as part of their growth. Being overly certain about everything is a sign of small-mindedness that often stems from fear.
Hodgepodge is Mostly Normal, Not Bad
If you feel deeply or continually confused, tense, depressed, or angry, it’s in your best interest to seek some counsel. Otherwise, remember that we humans sometimes experience thoughts and feelings that clash. The conflict will tend to abate as you continue to engage in personal development, but it will never completely disappear. You may as well enjoy the ride, bumps and all.
Try these practical steps to feel more relaxed with some hodgepodge thinking:
1st Give yourself permission to be human by accepting that it’s ok to have confused or ambivalent thoughts and feelings. Thoughtfully write down how this makes perfect sense.
2nd Write up a short list of seemingly contradictory thoughts or feelings that bother you about yourself, others, or the world and life in general.
3rd Write a short specific description of each paired “contradiction” or paradox from step #2. Write an imperfect explanation or theory for each item.