Thought loops can be brought under control by removing any negative emotions associated with them and then choosing something else to think in their place. Once the new thinking becomes a habit, the loop is broken. Positive thought loops can be utilized by training the mind to focus on the big picture as well as fine detail.
Our brains run in a constant cycle in which our thoughts in any moment come about from everything we’re experiencing in that moment.
There is a processing delay inside the human brain while signals travel through the many layers. Information flows in all directions throughout the system.
Our experience in any given moment includes our sensory inputs from sight, sound, touch, and a whole host of other senses. And it also includes the thoughts that we’ve just had.
What Is A Thought Loop?
A thought loop is a natural process in which someone constantly rethinks the same thoughts over and over again. Certain kinds of positive thought loops may keep us on task, while negative thought loops can be debilitating and prevent us from achieving success.
When the end-points of a thought process are linked to the beginning of the process, we may end up thinking in cycles.
It’s important to appreciate that thought loops are not bad in and of themselves. They allow us to reinforce our memories, stabilize our thinking patterns, and iteratively solve problems.
Overall being able to remember things, having mental stability, and solving problems are good things.
And as with all good things, there is such a thing as too much.
They help to keep us on task, and they can also keep us stuck.
Negative Thought Loops
Negative thought loops occur when we find ourselves thinking constantly about the same bad things over and over again. When we have too many thoughts like this, they may be unhelpful and lead to anxiety and worse.
It’s important to be aware that even negative thought loops can be good since they help to keep us safe and allow us to work through problems.
The issue arises when those loops do not change.
Positive Thought Loops
Positive thought loops occur when we find ourselves placing our attention on positive things about ourselves or the environment around us. This is usually a good thing since it keeps us feeling positive and helps us to stay on task and get things done.
Why Do We Keep Thinking The Same Things?
Thought loops are a direct consequence of the associative properties of the human mind. It is much easier for us to recall things that are close to our current state, so it becomes more common for us to do that. When a thought is important enough to us, such as when there is a strong negative emotion attached, we can end up trapped in a loop.
Our brains work largely by associating stuff with other stuff.
When data is fed into a neural network, a representation of that data is formed inside the network.
Since the human brain is a vast neural network, it effectively takes whatever we perceive and builds a model of it.
This happens at all scales.
Chunking Inside The Human Mind
Chunking is a process in which representations of things we perceive are created inside our mind.
Tiny particles next to each other are associated. When we put enough of these particles together, we end up with objects.
Small grains of rock and clay can be put together to form bricks.
Just like happens out in the real world.
We layer multiple bricks together and end up with a wall.
These are bigger particles and have their own representation inside our mind that is associated with the bricks, the idea of a brick, generalizations around all of that, and much more.
We put walls together and end up with a building or structure.
Inside our minds, everything is associated with everything else.
We refer to these mental representations of things as chunks.
And they’re not only created for physical objects out in the real world, but for everything we can perceive.
We form chunks for objects, ideas, emotions, and states at all scales.
Chunks are also established for the associations and relationships between other chunks.
If you think about it, this makes total sense.
We know that the key on our laptop keyboard is a part of the laptop, but also an individual entity in its own right.
It has a specific location within the structure of the laptop.
This process happens for literally everything we ever perceive. It happens constantly, and it happens at all scales.
How Things Become Associated Inside The Human Mind
Things become associated inside the human mind when they happen near to each other in space or in time. This may happen when we perceive two or more things out in the real world at the same time. It may also happen when we think thoughts while experiencing reality.
This has some interesting consequences.
We see a shape in the clouds that reminds us of a friend while we’re out walking on the beach, and our memories of that friend are called to our mind.
Associations form between the friend and the beach and clouds.
Even though our friend wasn’t there.
Because of quirks of how memory works, we can end up believing that our friend was walking on the beach with us. We can even end up in a state where we vividly recall them being there.
The only thing that is required for things to become associated inside our mind is that we perceive them near each other.
How To Create A Thought Loop
We can intentionally create a thought loop inside our mind by deliberately and repeatedly thinking of something we thought a few moments ago.
When we do this enough, the end of our thought process becomes attached to the beginning inside our mind. And we end up creating a loop.
If we make the thoughts important enough, for example by adding a strong emotion, it’s easy to become trapped inside those loops.
Our brains are essentially machines that enhance our chances of survival.
They do this by causing us to preferentially do things that are known to be safe and good for us, and by causing us to avoid things that are bad for us.
This is where positive and negative emotions come in.
And it’s even worse.
Negative emotions have a lot more impact on us than positive ones.
Beyond the emotions, we also have a task completion system that constantly reminds us to get back to any task we’ve not yet finished.
When we attempt to interrupt a thought loop in the middle, the loop itself can become an incomplete task.
Where it gets really trippy is when we realize that it’s a loop. Every point inside it is the middle.
So if we want to keep on doing something indefinitely, the easy way to do that is to build a thought loop.
How To Stop Negative Thought Loops
To overcome negative thought loops, remove any associated negative emotion, then future pace your choice of alternative thought patterns. Negative emotions may be removed by repeated application of a larger positive emotion. Future pacing things we’d prefer to think about reminds us to think those preferred thoughts throughout the future.
The only way to break out of a thought loop is to redirect some part of it to somewhere else.
This can be achieved by either evolving the loop over time, or by intentionally attaching something to some part of the loop.
We can also do things inside our mind to hide away such loops and make them more difficult to access. When negative emotions are involved, it’s important to neutralize those emotions first.
Negative emotions may be neutralized by creating and applying a larger positive emotion.
Create And Anchor A Positive Emotion
The way we generate a positive emotion is by first clearing the mind, then remembering something positive. Go deep inside the details, and make that positive emotion as strong as possible.
Then, when the positive emotion is nearing its peak, allow a symbol to form inside the mind and know that symbol and that emotion go together.
Allow the symbol to glow as brightly as you can.
Feel the full intensity of the emotion.
Then return to a neutral state, wait a few moments, and call up the symbol inside the mind.
When we’ve done this enough, the act of recalling the symbol will also cause the positive emotion.
Our emotional states are deeply linked to our physical posture, so we can also drive them by changing the way we hold ourselves.
To see this in action, try standing in the way that someone might stand when they feel totally confident. And notice what happens.
How To Weaken Negative Emotions
Negative emotions may be weakened by experiencing a positive emotion at the same time.
Once we’ve built our positive symbol, we can use it should we find ourselves inside that negative loop again.
Simply call up the symbol inside your mind and allow it to fill you completely.
Each time we do this, the positive and negative states will both be weakened, so it’s important to then go back and rebuild the positive symbol.
And then repeat.
Over time the negative emotion will usually dissipate.
Logic should almost never be used to overcome negative emotions, because they’re not driven by logic. It is rarely helpful to try to figure out why.
Approach Strong Negative Emotions From A Distance
Sometimes negative emotions will be so strong that we need to dissociate the mind from what’s going on in order to work with them and make changes.
There are lots of ways we can do this.
When we’re working with others, we can use clean language to mine them for metaphors and to help them to restructure those metaphors.
We can also have them imagine they’re sitting in a theater watching themselves on a screen. Or we can take them into a room inside their mind and have them talk to different parts.
I find that for most cases, all that is required is creating a symbolic reality and then moving the symbols around.
In this case, symbols can be anything at all.
You might hypnotically transport your subject to another world and have them move around rocks. There might be levers in a control room. Or it could be that you move some trees out of the way of a giant snowball.
One of the really nice things about working with symbols is that you can even use them on yourself.
The amount of dissociation required depends on the size and negativity of the emotion.
Disrupt The Thought Loop
Once we’ve removed the negative emotions, quite often that will be enough to cause a negative thought loop to collapse.
For those cases when it isn’t, we can further break the loop by attaching something else to it.
Either we take apart the components of the loop and ask what else could be true.
Or we intentionally and repeatedly build a habit by thinking about something different at a specific part of the thought loop.
We can use our positive symbol or posture to reinforce this change.
Choose a part of the loop you’d like to disrupt, choose a new thought to attach to that part, know that your positive symbol can link them together, and then call up your symbol at that part of the loop.
This is done intentionally at a time when we’re in control.
When we cycle through this process enough times, we begin to automatically switch to that new thought when we experience that part of the loop.
This entire process can be used on someone else, and you can use it on yourself.
I find that it works best for me when I hypnotize myself, spin up a hypnotic reality, and then move around whatever I find inside the reality until it’s just right.