All that you can't leave behind

‘Scuse me sir, is this your psyche?

Of the many, varied, and ludicrous jobs which I have run through in this current incarnation, Aviation Security was a particular eye-opener. Next time you see me, ask me about the Deuce '45 incident, or Marbella-Man, for a quick anecdote.

Tonight though I'm thinking about the questions drummed in to every officer at every terminal across the UK, if not the world, when it comes to searching peoples' bags. Two questions, occasionally followed by a third, to establish the parameters of a normal search - and anything outside the correct response sets off figurative and sometimes literal alarms.

The questions are simple enough:

  1. Did you pack this bag yourself?
  2. Are you carrying anything for anyone else?
  3. (if there's a direct concern) Is there anything in here which might hurt me?

Whatever your reasons for reading this article, I'm sure it isn't to investigate the intricacies of airport security, so I'll bring us to the main thrust: We carry a lot of baggage with us wherever we go, and frequently it's all in our heads.

Dr.Cox is my Spirit Animal

My thoughts have turned to these questions because of a particularly crunchy evening trying to sort out a big crunchy mess. I'm freshly back from the gym at 1.00am, which tells you I have something on my mind. As I showered, I realised that I'd done everything I possibly could, but there was still something inside me pissing me off despite many sit ups, deadlifts, and half an hour on the treadmill. There was no anger that should rightly belong to me, but there was still something in my mind. The questions suddenly took on a new meaning. I'm hoping that my subsequent investigation, the act of challenging my thoughts, and my conclusions, may help you out in a difficult time.

Did I pack my mind myself?

This could veer right off into nature-versus-nurture territory, but let's focus on whether or not I was the sole decider of what went into my mind. Was I letting something get to me that I should've refused lodging in my psyche? Well, yes. There was no reason for my evening to get this far under my skin, and I shouldn't have allowed it to. 

By taking conscious care to only allow ideas which are conducive to the smooth running of a mind to take root, we can cultivate the demeanour we want, and avoid such stressful responses. This is a prime tenet of Stoicism, to remove emotive reaction and embrace positive ethical action, so anything not wanted needs cutting right the hell out.

Am I carrying any thoughts for anyone else?

Once I'd identified that some thoughts just shouldn't be there, I could look at thoughts that should be there. The anger I felt towards the situation was not owing to my own actions, but other parties', so there was no reason to keep hold of it. Believe me, there are proper procedures in place for all of these things to be dealt with, and it isn't up to me to be angry about this stuff.

By being mindful of the actual object of negative thoughts rattling around the psyche, we can identify what action is appropriate, if any, and direct mental resources to either seek resolution or a more useful avenue. Worrying about someone else's problems won't change anything, and being upset over something which is not our issue will only have detrimental effects to all concerned.

Are there any thoughts in here likely to hurt me?

Just like this. Honest.

This is important. There was a point on the treadmill where I was pushing harder and harder to run faster for longer, and coming close to a Heroic RROD - I noticed in time and hit the cooldown button, and walked it off like a (tubby) pro, but it was a bit close.

There is no guarantee that our thoughts can be recognised and processed in time to prevent an involuntary reaction, and especially where we feel frustrated by outside events we will look to take that frustration out with compulsive behaviour. In such cases, it's important to stop and take the time to be mindful of our actions, and see if our gut response could do more to harm us than help in the long term.

Overall, we can never be sure that everything in our psyche is there for the right reasons, owned wholly by us, and there to make us healthy and safe. From compulsive eating, to using sex as a crutch, we all have coping mechanisms which might bring us into conflict with our health, safety, or at the very least the path of our Will/doing the Work.

I hope that this brief period for reflection gives you pause, and you take that time to do a quick mental search. The inside of an airport is listed as a Critical Asset, and the inside of your mind is no less critical. Take care of it, guard it well, and try to travel light!