Yup, thinking can get you in trouble.

Often when thinking we are worried about something or trying to figure out something we do not understand.

We can go around in circles and expend a lot of energy without getting anywhere.

We can improve our thinking if we understand better how to use our brains.

How We Use Our Brains When Thinking

Usually, we use our brains in response to a threat – when we see or notice something that is different, is moving, or something we have to be afraid of. Our brains are most often simply a part of our defenses.

When we are worried about something, when we are trying to resolve issues related to the past, when we are anticipating the future, we are using our brains defensively.

We usually respond to the perceived threat by seeking information from our own brain’s database of experience, researching outside of ourselves – accessing other’s brains, or by using our imagination.

Can We Use Our Brains Better?

None of this is bad or wrong.

Every morning I put out food for the feral cats that live nearby.  Over time, they have come for food enough times that the grass has developed some pathways, that they now seek as a way to reach the food.

Our brains are like that too. When our lives are mostly a succession of threats that we are handling, our brains develop pathways and then other brain potentials are neglected. We then stunt our growth and are unable to develop our brain’s creativity.

Why? Because creativity is mostly constructive rather than reactive.  When we are reacting we are surrendering our creativity more often than not. (Of course we can approach threats in a creative way.)

Why Is Creativity Different?

The simplest way to describe the difference between creativity and threat response is to consider how each uses our imagination.

The imagination is a powerful aspect of our brain functioning. How well it functions and how well it is able to support our well-being is important. If our imagination has been directed toward fear, that is a pathway in our brain that will automatically arise when we are contemplating a task – especially a new one. When our imagination has habitually been directed to imagining something positive, that is where it will naturally go.

These are both brain habits which means that our natural tendency may not reflect reality or it may. It is important to be aware of your brain’s conditioned tendency so that you can question it and make the best choices for yourself.

So the next time you do something, try to notice the direction your brain takes.  Repeat the exercise and if you can journal about it.  You may notice a pattern that has caused you some difficulty and which by being aware of it, you can change.

Sometimes it is wise to be afraid and other times it is wiser to be optimistic.  It is even better when we can feel confident that we are able to respond appropriately to whatever is going on with us or our lives.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. wren on October 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    I found this article very helpful. Was the intended link for the word “exercise” for article on physical exercise?

    • Maria on October 10, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Thanks, Wren.

      I did not see the link on exercise that you deferred to. This article, however, is not about physical exercise.

      All the best,

  2. Sharon on February 9, 2015 at 6:41 am

    This sounds so incredibly important to me right now but I am having a hard time understanding it. Can you explain how we can be more creative without repressing our reactive nature? Maybe some kind of example would help me visualize what you mean. Thanks so much <3

    • Maria Hill on February 9, 2015 at 7:04 am

      Hi Sharon,

      We all react and I think it helps to accept it as you have. I think you can treat your reactive nature as an innocent but aware child that does not necessarily know where the best answers in a situation come from and then allow space for something else to happen.

      So let’s say I happen to bump into a nasty relative and I receive some snarky remark. None of us likes being mistreated and we have inner – and sometimes outer – responses to it. Obviously there are many shades of gray here. I think our bodies naturally recoil from harm and our minds will try to come up with an answer or an explanation.

      Most of the time we are really seeking harmony with our world and the people in it. We are seeking an energetic reconciliation. So we go around in circles trying to understand and figure out what is going on. There is a huge amount of human energy expended this way and frankly trying to understand is something I have spent a lot of time on.

      So some approaches we can take are:

      1. 1. not trying to understand and accepting things as they are
      2. 2. letting someone be who they are and let them deal with the consequences of their behavior rather than try to be the one to make it “OK”
      3. 3. send it to the universe and ask for inspiration
      4. 4. let go of our memories and desires and try to allow a fresh moment to be.

      Life is precious and we all want it to be wonderful but we are all often disappointed. So we can accept our desires and pain and at the same time create a space where something new can happen something fresh. Each moment contains the known and unknown. By seeking to bring something fresh to a situation we allow the energies to be rearranged and that can be freeing for ourselves and others. I hope this helps.

      All the best,

    • Sharon on February 11, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      This was immensely helpful. Thank you so much!!!

  3. Claire G on February 10, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    I can testify that thinking, and over-thinking especially, are destructive and dangerous. I heard a friend say that according to Buddah, the mind goes against the soul. The more I get to listen to and know my soul’s desires, the more relaxed I feel about decisions. Thanks for publishing Maria.