The circular trap of life as meaningless when we downplay our thoughts

I was questioned by my client one day that if we accept our thoughts as it is but not as facts, there seems to be no meaning in our lives anymore.  His argument is based on the discussion of him having a thought, “I need to stay in the present moment and not worrying about the future.”  He mentioned that this thought sometimes make him confused that he should not plan for his future.  He also could not fit this into the “thoughts may not reflect reality” category as he could not figure out whether this thought is true or not.  It is common for people to be trapped in this circular argument when contemplating about the validity of ones’ thoughts.  For instance, for the saying, “Thoughts may not reflect reality”, it is also a thought, is it true?  People may feel confused for this and think life may be meaningless if our language does not help us navigate well in life.

To solve this conundrum, it is important for us to understand that thoughts in our mind may not be able to capture the complexity of our lives and our environment.  Things are in a continuum and we may need to think in a less dichotomous way.  For example, thoughts about ethical behaviors may also not as black-and-white as it may seem.  The thought that, “we need to be honest to our close ones”, seems right most of the time.  In some circumstances, we may need to tell lies to our close ones for compassionate reasons.  For instance, we may need to lie to our grandmother about the sudden death as her youngest son for a while when she was severely ill. 

In fact, it is more important for us to have a thorough understanding of our values and our nature, in order to decide how to choose to act in our lives.  Our thoughts in this sense are our references, they may be or may not be true.  They may be or may not be suitable for our decision making.  For instance, for the thought, “I need to stay in the present moment and not worrying about the future”, it really depends on the context and our values.  If we are in the middle of having a meal with our family members and we value our relationship with our family members, we may want to stay in the present moment to enjoy the food and to engage in meaningful conversations.  If we are facing a crisis in our business, we need to worry and make better plans to survive.  In this sense, we can still be at present moment while planning, but we need to worry about our future more.

It is not that we need to have an extreme tendency to be detached from all of our thoughts in order to be mentally healthy.  It is more important that we enhance our self awareness and self understanding enough so that we know which of our thoughts we need to detach.  In fact, sometimes we need to be detached from a thought, but we need to accept the thoughts in other situations.  We need to ground ourselves through understanding our own values and choose our actions accordingly.  Thoughts are a possible reflection of the reality, it is important sometimes and not as important in other times.

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