My brain has been on overdrive the past several days. It’s always an active, hard-to-quiet, multitasking thinking machine, but this level has been boosted several notches faster since therapy. I’m not clinically manic by any means, but my thought processes are intensive and constant. In addition to the highly varied, multi-streamed channels always contending in my mind, which range from practical and current events, needs, and feelings to random and specific (how did Native Americans make beads, where is the nearest site of geothermal electricity generation, etc.), I’m also thinking about my thinking, termed metacognition, I believe. There are a lot of past memories and feeling and current perceptions and emotions to consider and I’m becoming more aware of how I actually think about these types of things and how this matches up to how I’d like to. I normally can handle, and even prefer, a lot of input into my brain as well. I like to listen to a book or show while writing, or do mental math while talking and cooking simultaneously, etc. My mind hates quiet because the less external stimuli entering the brain on its input channels, the more internal “noise” (thinking and ruminating) ramps up to compensate. Many times, the recruited internal channels are thoughts I like to repress, such as bad memories, ideas about my inadequacy or shortcomings, or anxieties about my safety or something in the world in general. These “undesirable” mental processes can be drowned out with tangible, real-world noise (like podcasts, books, TV shows that I’m not watching but just serve as a soundtrack), which has become a necessary coping mechanism I exercise daily, even when I sleep. The silence is mentally too loud for me. In a perfect example of irony, I need constant sound to experience enough quiet to relax, let alone function.
Ever since my epiphany in therapy the other day, this strategy has been deliberately tabled. At first, my brain felt so completely exhausted from trying to defend my locked trauma memories from getting pried open that I didn’t even notice that I didn’t turn on some source of external noise when I got home. I was essentially stunned with a mild mental tranquilizer dart and I just lay in silence trying to regain physical and cognitive stamina to resume the activities of my day. I needed the silence to rebound and couldn’t handle any additional audible input channels. Then, I intentionally wanted to limit the normal noise stimulation so that I could allow my mind the space it needed to think about the things it needed to consider, regardless of these items desirability.
Today, in addition to all that mind work, my brain is also heavily invested in metacognition. It’s a new channel for me and as uncomfortable as that is, in my quest to work on myself and understand my feelings and thoughts, I’m giving my brain the opportunity to ruminate in the absence of externally-generated background buzz. It seems self-defeating to purposely silence my mind’s innate desire to think about how it is working; it may lead to useful discoveries and data that can be translated into practical changes. So, my environment may be unusually quiet over the next few days, but my mind is louder and busier than ever. For now, I’m pardoning this normally unacceptable condition as I hope to uncover findings I can harness to think and feel better in the long-term.