The Good, the Bad, and the WTF of Thoughts

One of my youngest sons, Donovan, told me today, “You and Dad should get a heart-shaped coffin when you die. That way, you can hold hands forever.”

“That’s a very sweet idea”, I smiled at him, thinking to myself Of course, we plan to be cremated, so I don’t know how that’d work out. 

When suddenly his twin brother, Davis pointed out, “Unless the two of you don’t die at the same time. That’d just be gross.”

This is how my twins, aged ten, seem to work in tandem. One thinks the happy thought, then the other throws logic into the mix. It isn’t always Davis who throws the wrench; sometimes that’s Donovan’s pleasure. That said, I’ve always assumed the weird thoughts my kidlens have are probably encouraged by my DNA. I have a frisky but risky personality, what the American Psychological Association refers to as a Sensory Seeker personality. It has something to do with chemicals. You know, science.

Yep, these are my boys.

My sugar and spice. (photo: The Master’s Touch Photography)

I’ve always been intrigued by Disparity of Thought. If that’s even a thing. To look at me, a homemaker and mother of seven, and oh yes, your friendly neighborhood Avon Lady,  you’re more likely to think along the lines of sparklies and huggles, not ghouls and schadenfreude. The truth is that I love exploring the great dichotomy of Life. You know, the whole saint vs. sinner, yin/yang, virtue/vice, and so on.  And, I’m even more deeply fascinated by the concept of good vs. bad thoughts.

“We, all who live, have
A life that is lived
And another life that is thought,
And the only life we have
It’s the one that is divided
In right or wrong.”
Fernando Pessoa

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of my all-time favorite short stories. While the Big Wigs of Literature argue over whether or not author Stevenson intended to create a character with a clinically “split personality” (dissociative identity disorder) or simply pen an examination of the duality of all humankind, I tend to lean towards the latter.

John Malkovich

John Malkovich as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Mary Reilly/TriStar Pictures)

As a practicing Christian*, I believe firmly in the conflict between living in a fallen (read: sinful) state of being (despite that fact of being formed in the image and likeness of a Perfect Creator), while striving to live a more perfect and holy life. And, if that thought doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what would. Even St. Paul admitted the paradox in Romans, chapter seven, “For what I do, I do not recognize as my own action. What I desire to do is not what I do, but what I am averse to is what I do.”** And, I would add this paradox applies to undesirable thoughts as well. Noted psychiatrist Carl Jung pioneered the exploration of one’s Shadow Self, the “dark” side of self.

 

Facing your Shadow Self

Facing your Shadow Self is an essential part of human understanding, according to Jung.

One trembles to think of that mysterious thing in the soul, which… in spite of the individual’s own innocent self, will still dream horrid dreams, and mutter unmentionable thoughts.         — Herman Melville

I love the month of October because Halloween. As far as I’m concerned, Halloween is an entire creep-festival season, not just one night of pure, unadulterated, bloodcurdling bliss. I know I’m not alone in this desire to “flirt with the dark side” because Americans spend an estimated 6-8 billion (with a B!) dollars annually on all things Halloween. And horror movies and thrillers trend with the highest ROI (return on investment) on average in the film industry. Wow!

But flirting with dark thoughts, what is that all about? Do only bad people think bad thoughts or revel in the misfortune of others? Apparently not. Many years ago, I had a good, sweet friend confide in me that she fantasized about killing her ex. She went into deep detail about exactly how she would do it and likely get away with the murder, too. When I asked her if she planned to go through with it, she was genuinely aghast and even hurt that I asked. “Of course not! How could you think that!?” Erm … hellooo? Of course, it was just a fantasy. A bizarre, screwy, bone-chilling fantasy, but it provided a genuine catharsis for her pain and allowed her to move forward.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it. According to evolutionary psychologist David Buss, “Even mild-mannered folk have occasional fleeting reveries about shoving a stranger off the subway platform…”

 

____________________

*I identify myself as a “practicing Christian” because I’m still not very good at it yet.

**I love St. Paul and his fallen-self, but he is the original “The Devil made me do it” sin-weenie. Case in point: “Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (emphasis mine) And dontcha know that Carl Jung would have a field day with this one.

For a really worthy article on the topic of bad thoughts, see Wicked Thoughts at Psychology Today.

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