One of the most liberating discoveries I ever had was that thinking has an insidious snowball effect. Thoughts trigger other thoughts, and if your initial thought carries even a hint of insecurity or worry, subsequent thoughts can explore it and magnify it until you’re profoundly agitated. You can end up pulling your hair out and dreading the rest of your life, just from idle thinking.
~ David Cain
The snowball effect is probably my biggest problem. Small things—now that I think about it, it’s always small set-backs—kick off these long trains of thinking.
Have you ever heard a freight train start to move? It’s called “stretching out” because every rail car adds a few inches of slop… space in the couplers, etc. If you’re at the front, you hear the engine throttle up, and this crashing sound starts at the engine and moves away along the train.
If you’re not at the front, if you’re just somewhere randomly along the train, what you hear is this eerie, rolling-crashing invisible monster that comes tearing along at high speed and goes past you, but nothing is moving. Yet.
This reminds me of my trains of thought. They start with the first nudge of negative thought which sets this terrible monster running along the train. At first, nothing appears to be moving. But slowly that nightmare train begins to move, and if it gets up to speed it can take me days to recover from the ensuing disaster.