If someone asks you whether you have a present for your brother’s birthday yet, in German, you might say, “Oh, da muss ich mir mal Gedanken machen!” which roughly translates to “I’ll have to think about it.”
But what does it translate to exactly? “Sich Gedanken machen” literally means “to make oneself thoughts.” Given the reflexive nature of the word “sich,” those thoughts are made both by oneself and for oneself. In other words, they’re entirely made up. A manufacture of the mind.
This applies to all thoughts, of course. Not just brilliant ideas and birthday gift ruminations but also the fears we refer to when we use “sich Gedanken machen” as in “to worry,” another common meaning of the phrase. Could it be that whoever worries themselves sick is merely making too many thoughts?
No matter how much it feels like it, thoughts don’t appear out of thin air. Every single one of them is made, and for 100% of your thoughts, you are the maker in question.
Your thoughts can’t live rent-free in your mind. Unless you offer them space after you make them, they won’t continue to exist. Even when you feel as if you’ve provided that space involuntarily, you can still withdraw it. Unmaking thoughts might be your greatest power.
Use that power wisely, but use it. Thoughts aren’t natural disasters. Only when we make them — by ourselves, for ourselves — can they role-play in our heads — and if we’d rather be alone, all we have to do is will them away.