Emotions move us through life, or stop us in our tracks, but, when trapped, only thinking, and learning from our mistakes, can lead us out of a deadly maze. Start with a reasonable idea, test it out, if it doesn’t help, think about what was wrong with the first idea. Make it better, test it again.
This is how we learn, by profiting from our failures, and to many it feels much harder than just slugging our way through an emotional challenge. There is no guarantee that you’ll be able to think your way out of a given problem, but thinking about a difficulty as deeply and fairly as you can, understanding your predicament as clearly as you can, drawing on past experience, only helps. If nothing else, actively thinking restores a feeling of agency and hope as you work to extricate yourself from something that makes you feel awful. Hope is no small thing. Without it, you are finished.
The hardest part is listening to the perspectives of people close to you when they go against everything your adrenaline and cortisol are telling you is true. The difficulty of sitting long enough to let something you don’t want to hear sink in, make an impression, inform your thoughts, means that many people don’t do it. You must do it, sometimes, if your goal is to become a wiser, better person, or to live without clenched fists.
There are traps you cannot think your way out of, but even a trap you can spring is impossible to escape while all you can think about is the agony of your ankle in the metal jaws of the trap that is keeping you stuck until the hunter arrives to administer the coup de grace. One day we all find ourselves powerless against some variation of that scene, but not yet.