Thinking Hurts

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Here in Powerchange HQ we are currently doing some deep thinking. Like many other people, we want to make the world a rewarding and happy place to live in, with you and me able to enjoy the freedoms that are the privilege of responsible people.  We want our deep thinking to pay off, to be worth it, to be useful – to WORK for us all!

It always does, given time. In a world of instant messaging, fast food and 20 Tweets a day, (and that’s without the call of work, family, travelling, and sleep) most of us do not take the time to think, not least because thinking hurts. It hurts in several ways, but hurt it does.  If you want to go deeper, mine a richer seam of thought-gold, or lead others to a stronger place in their thoughts, be prepared. Thinking hurts because of…

Conflict. People who want to think beyond the confines of everyday life will meet unresolved conflict within themselves. No one I have met has a fully resolved life. No one understands everything. There is always a vast scope of opposites that, at least initially, appear at war with each other, and thinkers have the courage to allow them into their lives and give those opposites time to become friends. Conflict is part of our human experience and, like human beings themselves, it is available in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I’ve found that a willingness to engage with these opposites has a maturing effect on my life, bringing depth and strength.

Creativity. In the same way as human thinkers arrive in this world through the pain of childbirth (though the initial creativity itself is generally a most pleasant experience!) so each new idea, each new concept is born out of old ideas that are stretched beyond comfortable limits. It hurts to give birth to new ideas, not least via the reception they initially receive. A new baby, however welcome, disturbs for ever the home into which it arrives. It demands to be paid attention to, it calls out in the middle of the night. It gets its parent up in the early hours so that it may be fed and ‘changed’. (Interesting parallel that, and the feeding and changing seems to be never-ending!)

And thinking hurts because it involves cremation. In the same way that, in many countries, forest fires are now understood to be essential for the regeneration of the very trees they burn up, thinking cremates old ideas so new ones can develop.  Often those new ideas cannot arrive until AFTER the burning. It is not that we have the new thoughts and the old ones then die away. The old ones, even though they are living and active, must die to provide a seedbed for the new.  For a time we are at a loss, but eventually new thought drives its way into the visible world like shoots that are forced up by the life within them into the space left by the razed forest. Without that cremation there will be no new growth.

Thinking hurts because it is compelling. In my experience, just like that human baby, it has a life of its own. New thoughts WILL be born, and we WILL be affected.  Our normal everyday lives WILL be upset.  People WILL think I am slightly odd, or worse! And just like a human child, the mature thought may bear only a very little resemblance to the original idea.

However, I want to encourage you:

Firstly, it’s worth it because of the deep joy and satisfaction in the birth, the cultivation and harbouring of new thinking. There is so much reward in the experiencing and overcoming of that inner conflict, becoming a proud parent  in the mutual creation of a new idea (new ideas come through engaging with something beyond yourself), coming through the fire and feeling the compulsion.

Secondly, it’s worth it as the results of your thinking change the world for the better. Like every worthwhile skill, thinking takes practice.  Our brains get better at it and the plough is able to cut a deeper furrow. Better quality thinking results in deeper insights, greater clarity and more useful practical solutions to the challenges of the world.

Three thousand years ago a poet wrote, “Sorrow endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Or as an old African elder once said, “As surely as the Lord paints the sunsets, the dawn will come.” When it comes to thinking deeply, we can be quietly reassured that thinking may hurt and hurt a lot, but just like the dawn, the answers DO come and if we will endure they are well worth any discomfort.

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  1. Wow, this is great to read, I was begining to think that there was something wrong with me because of the unresolved conflict within me. Yes, the answers will come, it is worth enduring and persevering.

  2. Yes thinking does hurt, ouch. I use to think it was
    perhaps over-indulgent and now I am glad to know that it is a good thing and because out of it can come something positive. I especially like the idea of quality thinking, never thought about that before. I also thought that conflict was something that I should not entertain. I am looking forward to making friends with it and also been able to hold two conflicting thoughts without condemnation. What a gift.
    Has anyone got any stories about how they put their quality thinking into practice?

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