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White Chestnut:
Mental Overload

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The White Chestnut condition illustrates one of the ways in which our minds aren't like those of animals. I doubt that a dog would lie awake, thinking over and over again, "if only I hadn't dug up the rose bushes" or a cat agonize, "I wonder if I wasted my time sleeping so much today."

The act of mentally going over something again and again seems to be a uniquely human one, and many humans become so accustomed to their constant mental dialogues that they assume this is a normal way for a mind to operate.

Though they think it's normal they don't think it's pleasant. It is both physically and mentally exhausting to review the same thoughts repeatedly; one begins to feel like those unfortunate rodents condemned to spend their lives inside exercise wheels. On a physical level headaches, facial tension, and jaw-grinding may manifest. Insomnia - particularly since much of this mental rumination takes place at night, when one is supposedly trying to relax - may also be a result of the White Chestnut state.

There are many theories as the the origins of this condition. My own is that the mind is actually trying to solve the problem, but going about it in an unsuccessful way. For example, someone may worry about needing more money. She may lie awake at night tormented by this worry. She reviews a list of her many bills, and has no idea how she's going to pay them all. As her mind loops around the bills and her worries seem to get bigger and bigger.

She's focusing on the problem, not on the solution. She's asking herself, "How did I get into this mess?" and "Why don't I have any money?" The answers to these questions are bound to disturb her even further; hence, she becomes ever more enmeshed in the cycle of her thoughts.

If she were able to calm her mind and open both its rational and intuitive dimensions she would ask, "What can I do about this?" "How can I solve this problem?" The answers would give her a direction, a way out of the loop, and once she started acting she'd be too busy to entertain the repeating dead-end questions.

The key here is that freeing oneself from the loop means taking action; it means stepping out of the safety zone - and painful as the vicious cycle of repeated questions is it's also safe and familiar. The loop itself may seem to function as protection more than as prison.

Those who wish to be free of their repetitive thoughts, though, will find relief with White Chestnut. In taking this Bach Flower Essence one learns how to let unwanted thoughts drift by without attaching to them. (This also makes it an excellent Essence for those who have trouble meditating.)

In the positive White Chestnut state the mind learns to be quiet, and to know that by focusing its attention on answers that they will come.

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