I have been scared of the thought police for a long time. The notion’s not as fantastical as it sounds. It’s just a little more internal.

In Orwell’s fabulous 1984, the thought police are out there. In my experience, they’re in your head. We know what we should and shouldn’t think. We’re well versed in checking our thoughts and the cautionary ‘I know I shouldn’t think this but’ type of apologies; accustomed to self policing what we do and don’t say to ourselves.

It’s probably okay in moderation. It’s probably part of our development into moral and ethical beings; of learning where the boundaries are.

I just tend to take things to extremes – and it’s taken me a while to appreciate that your imagination’s a very different landscape to the one out there.

I had been checking my thoughts like I checked my behaviour and my emotions. Reining them in; casting a critical eye; editing them out; setting a few strict ground rules. It went back to a childhood paranoia – a literal take on the “I know what you’re thinking” chastisement; a strange recollection of those awkward and uncanny moments when someone hits those things that you shouldn’t really be thinking bang on the head, and you end up feeling like they’re reading your mind.

They’re not.

And controlling your mind is far more dangerous than letting it run riot. The line only needs to come in at the thought to action stage.

Because, when you rule your thoughts with an iron hand, the suppression runs deep. It’s not just about keeping your feelings in check or controlling your emotions; it’s about cutting off the blood supply to the very thing that makes humans human – the ability to think and feel and explore and grow.

And doing this can make you ill.

It can make the thoughts come out in ways that it’s not good for them to come out in (bulimia). It can make the control and punishment mechanisms more severe (anorexia). Can leave you feeling empty and lost and disconnected (depression). Can feed into that self critical little voice, arm those negative thoughts –

- and stop you experiencing one of the most wonderful things we have.


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