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July 14th, 2018
From a young age I have enjoyed stirring iced tea after pouring a little sugar into it and watching the tiny blizzard whip into a whirlpool.
Then. Stir the other way.
The whole glass would go from an orderly circular rhythm to chaos. And from that chaos a new whirlpool would form in the opposite direction. Often times, I would try to see how fast I could get the direction to change, pressing that chaos into a smaller and smaller length of time.
Whirlpools are the way that I visualize vicious and virtuous cycles. As you move down in a whirlpool you get a tighter faster version of what’s going on. It’s somewhat like a fractal.
Depression often fits the pattern of a vicious cycle. At the top, things can be slow. Maybe even so slow that we do not notice, like the circumstances from many years ago when the trends of depression may have begun, and it all seemed invisible then.
And with time, things can intensify.
Things go down and down, and the very process seems to reinforce itself. Depression can feel like a tightening that is happening all the time. And thinking about it often seems to only hasten this process. . .towards some kind of endless bottom.
After my child eyes had studied that chaotic blizzard of sugar in so many glasses of iced tea, and I had become strong enough to really push quickly and exactly in the opposite direction, I noticed something.
Tiny whirlpools formed immediately when I reversed direction.
All together it looked like chaos. But it was just more complicated. As I stirred counter, lots of little whirlpools formed and joined, until everything in the glass was going in a new direction.
It’s not recommended that you stick a spoon in your ear and try to stir your thoughts in a different direction. And while the analogy is still apt and some people can achieve wholesale reorganization of their person in a way that might be likened to a religious transformation, not everyone has that switch conveniently available.
Perhaps just get one thing rolling in the other direction. Let it ride against whatever whirlpool or vicious cycle consumes your thoughts now. And it will gain momentum. Like two gears. One spinning the other - spinning it an the opposite direction.
Maybe it can be a simple habit. Like going to the gym just for the punching bag. Because every time you look at that punching bag, you picture your depression personified. Caged up like some horcrux in that bag, and you beat the shit out of it bitterly every time. The more you concentrate on how much depression has taken from you, held you back, the harder and longer you punch. And before you know it?
You’ve had a hell of a workout.
You probably feel great. (It’s worthwhile to do some casual research on the links between physical activity and decreased symptoms of depression. Thank you Acetylcholine. And all you other ridiculously named neurotransmitters.)
Just get one thing rolling in the other direction. Let it gain momentum from what’s going wrong.
Then add something else to whirl in the opposite direction.
And then another.
Before you know it the vicious cycle of depression has given way to many small virtuous cycles. And they join, now feeding into each other and everything quickens. Till suddenly. Everything is moving in the right direction.
It doesn’t have to be all at once.
In fact, it’s probably best to keep in mind it can’t be all at once.
Just start with one little thing.