Trapped in a Thought Bubble?

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you won’t be surprised that my photography often ends up prompting me to write about a subject that has been commanding much of my attention. I have to laugh at how my subconscious works and slaps me, in a good-natured way, to wake up. This often happens with dreams (I sometimes keep a dream journal), but now it’s happening more frequently with my art and photography, as demonstrated by the thought bubble photo above.

A thought bubble is fine, now and then.

Yes, thinking is necessary to living and taking care of oneself. But when it becomes so habitual and so domineering, a person can get trapped in its interpretations of the world. Seeing thus often becomes distorted, and limited.

This is what I have learned about myself. When I took this photo, I thought I was being opportunistically clever. Only later, when I was studying it did I realize it was an indictment of how I’ve moved through much of my life.

Stories about life can be wonderful. They also can become a prison.

I know this only too well from personal experience. I always have loved stories and fables as a way to speak about the unexplainable nature of living. For me, they’re best when held lightly and not used to control and encapsulate life in a nice, tidy package. But, when the stories become an ever-present thought bubble, that’s when they hinder rather than help.

How so?

Well, I’ve found they can end up obscuring life and blocking a fuller appreciation of life as it is unfolding. For instance, my giant thought bubble about moving to Italy, and the life I’d find here, was a doozy. I thought I had it all figured out and I was certain how the adventure would play out. And then, life happened. My thought bubble about Jed’s life in Italy ended up being about 20% accurate. Many times, when my life in Italy veered into an unforeseen direction, I remained petulantly fixed in my thought bubble. A few times I had internal, emotional temper tantrums. Like a lot of people, I simply wanted to have MY way.

Big life changes are not best traveled in a thought bubble.

I now reside in this understanding. It took a couple of years of exhausting myself with incessant thinking and story-telling (aka judgment) before I really started letting go. The thought bubble kept trying to lure me back inside with threats of the uncertainty and danger if I didn’t stay within its protective force field. But, the more I practiced surrender and trust in letting life unfold, and without needing to judge, to label, and to create a story about everything, I felt lighter and freer. Yes, it’s been scary to jettison a lifetime of conditioning and it’s daunting to flex new muscles, but I know, now more than ever, that real living doesn’t happen in a distorted thought bubble.

Not everything requires an explanation or a reason.

I say this because I’ve gotten into so much trouble trying to attach a reason to everything. Playing God is dangerous. I’ve also exhausted myself doing so. If anything, life seems to be reminding me, again and again, that I really don’t and can’t know anything for certain, as hard as I try. And when I hear people attempt to explain the messes and tragedies of the world, I now remain mostly mute. Who really knows anyway?

Sometimes life just IS.

Ahhhh. What a relief to surrender to what is vs. the stories about how I want things to be. It’s too much of an emotional roller-coaster chasing after only what I perceive is good, according to my narrow little thought bubble.

I will continue to create stories through writing, photography and through my art. But, I pray to hold those creations lightly and not to use them to create another thought bubble in which I find myself in yet another prison, cleverly constructed with new decorations.

“Over-thinking ruins you. Ruins the situation, twists things around, makes you worry and just makes everything much worse than it actually is.”






By |2019-01-19T21:42:38+01:00December 13th, 2017|Personal musings|16 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Christina December 17, 2017 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Wow, great post. Reading it had quite an impact on my thought process. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jed December 17, 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Grazie mille, Christina. I so appreciate your encouragement!

  2. Debra December 16, 2017 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Hi, Jed!
    I love “listening” to the flow of your writing style! I have always been of the belief that sometimes the world just is….but most of my family are big fans of thought bubbles. So at times it seems like we are not on the same page at all!! Good to hear there’s a place for me after all!! Take care!

    • Jed December 17, 2017 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Debra, I love that you call out “listening”. That is an important reminder to me and something that has incredible power. When I give myself permission to just listen vs. tearing everything apart with analytical violence, truth is allowed to seep into my being (bypassing the mental fortress). The more we all understand that we fall prey to the many of the same mental traps, the more it helps. At least it does for me! Thanks for writing! Jed

  3. Marion December 15, 2017 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks for another insightful blog.
    I read so much fussing and arguing these days. I see so many who think they know what we should be doing and they eventually decide what I should be doing. Their plans for me are incomplete and self-conflicting and I surmise that I, and most others are doing this to the whole world. It is easy to rush in with a remedy for the current obstacle and, when it does not fix, persevere. I have been finding that stepping back and giving myself a chance to see the bigger nature of the problem can save a lot of gnashing one’s teeth. Sometimes, I find that it was not really a problem.
    I haven’t been too good at that recently. The healthcare program said I am not eligible for assistance because i will make 27 million dollars next year. I overreacted and, after correcting it, my appeals process had to go through afterwards. They finally fixed it four times and the other three want me to select an insurance program. Had I taken it slow and easy(worried over deadlines) It would be completely over.
    To end this, long ago, I altered Let It Be, changing the first line to, “When I find myself inside a bubble….”

    • Jed December 17, 2017 at 3:57 pm - Reply

      Hello, my friend. Thank you for sharing so openly of your experience and your thoughts. I totally agree when you write about other people being dead certain (my words) that they have the remedy for any problem (other people included) based on their experience and their reality––in other words, according to their thought bubble. Dangerous stuff, and I’d venture to say that the lion’s share of the problems on this earth can be traced back to this.
      Just this past week (interestingly, just after I’d posted the article) I found myself in a whopper of a thought bubble, all pertaining to a rather large online purchase for camera equipment. As many online companies operate these days, there’s no ability to reach a real human being in customer service, and much is done through email––and therefore, often times things get lost or missed in translation. Short story is that I was charged a hefty sum and afterwards they told me they couldn’t process my order unless I provided personal information that I wasn’t comfortable sharing in order to PROVE I was who I said I was. I canceled the order and promptly found myself sucked into a worry bubble. I was certain I’d been scammed and wouldn’t get my money back. But, a still, small voice reminded me I was being given a real-life opportunity to “walk the talk”. As hard as it was, I finally let go, after doing all I could with the credit card company. I had to wait and get out of the thought bubble that was telling me I needed to keep obsessing about it in order to get it fixed (I call that “picking at the wound”). I didn’t go “there”. And, guess what? It was resolved when I woke up this morning and checked my email.
      Marion, that’s a long way of saying that I can relate to your experience with healthcare assistance.
      Let’s all keep supporting one another in finding a way out of the prison of our thought bubbles.
      Thanks for staying in touch! Jed

  4. Kevin December 14, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Jed, I seriously dig your writing style and love to hear about your take on life. It’s so weird how I feel I’m on a similar path (with regard to where my thoughts land) but find that my thoughts aren’t nearly so well organized and usually about 10 steps behind. I think my bubble is a bit murky! 🙂 What’s more than clear, and revealed each time you write, is that you are an awesome person.

    • Jed December 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Buongiorno Kevin, I so appreciate your continued words of support. It’s comforting to know that we share similar paths and to have confirmation that I’m not the only person lost, at times, in my thought bubble. I, too easily, veer into beating myself up with I fall asleep at the wheel, metaphorically. But, I’m learning that awareness is everything! Keep the faith! Jed

  5. Kathy Guenther December 13, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Jed. We admire your strength to accomplish your goals.

    • Jed December 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Kathy!

  6. Tom December 13, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Nice Jed – thanks

    • Jed December 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      Tom, as always, I so appreciate your support! Miss you!

  7. Kathy Guenther December 13, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Hey, Jed, I want to ask, what has been your biggest disappointment since moving to Italy?

    • Jed December 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      Hi Kathy, This question is easier to answer if I speak to the thing that has been hardest. No big disappointments come to mind. I underestimated the profound impact of being so far away from my networks of amazing friends in the States. That’s balanced by the many new friendships that have blossomed here. Still, I miss my friends and family in the States. I’m learning to be more creative and more vigilant at alternative ways of staying in touch. I use FaceTime and Skype a lot, and I do make a few trips back to soak up as much good in-person juju as possible.
      Many people underestimate the impact of leaving so many friend and family behind and often end up seeking out other expats and forming a sheltered community vs. throwing themselves into the Italian language and the Italian way of life. That is what opens doors, in my experience for really rich friendships. If I had made so many wonderful Italian friends, I’d probably remain in a bereft state of not being to see and be with all my old buds!

  8. Jo Febish December 13, 2017 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    So true! When life doesn’t turn out according to our plan for ourselves that is an “outside the bubble” experience. Great blog and photography!

    • Jed December 13, 2017 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Jo! Learning to live in the uncertainty of “outside the bubble”!

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