The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

September 2011: Circling

Posted on Sep 15, 2011

“We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster’s whim and the purest ideal”

~ Ingrid Bergman

Have you ever caught yourself thinking into ever-narrowing circles? Seems like you are going over and over the same material in your mind? If only you could find that one thread that could unravel the rope and swing you in the right direction? When I find myself in this predicament, I have yet to ‘get somewhere’ with my thinking. Rather the effect seems to be passing over the same path so often, I have dug myself a trench.

Reminds me of oxen tethered to a pole who are moving interminably forward in a circle as they tread grain. However, when we get ourselves worked into circles, the result is not life-preserving nourishment. I find I am drained of energy with even fewer resources to find a resolution to my problem.

So what’s to be done? Well, for one, we have to stop ourselves from going over and over the same material. We can ask ourselves, how is this helping? Usually we will find it’s not. It’s just getting ourselves worked up. So we can tell ourselves to stop it, this is not helping. And we can take a break. Most issues that get us riled up are not the ones that require immediate action. They are longstanding. We’ve been around the block a few times already with them. So take a break from thinking about it. Distract yourself by becoming immersed in something else—a hobby or chore that needs to get done.

Obviously we can’t ignore our problems indefinitely. Well, some of us try, but they usually find a way back into our everyday lives. Sometimes talking to someone else can provide the fresh perspective we’re looking for. On the other hand, our circle of confidants may be so tired of our circling thoughts that they don’t want to hear another word on the subject.

Here are some options. Meditation. Clearing our minds and focusing on something else can provide the calm mental environment the mind needs to come up with a solution. If you are not familiar with this practice, try joining a meditative yoga class or taking individual yoga lessons.

Reading. It is likely that someone else has experienced what you are going through and has written about it. Browse the bookstores or do a subject search at your local library to find resources to read about how others have handled a similar situation.

Dialogue. If your situation involves another person, depending on the circumstance, it may be helpful to ask for their input. There are obvious risks to this option, but if you approach the other person with curiosity rather than confrontation—inviting their input—it may not escalate into a yelling match. You might actually be heard by the other person if you make a gesture to hear their perspective.

What have you attempted to break the cycle of circling thoughts? Anything you’d like to share?

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