The mind is an interesting device. It has what amounts to a non-physical component. At least it appears non-physical to us. That component is thoughts. That thoughts seem non-physical to the person doing the thinking is probably because the brain operates in a manner that can only be describe as a holographic. Thoughts may appear to be electrical impulses when measured, but to us they seem like ideas, hunches, inspirations and even words. Many, in fact most of us, think in words most of the time. This is because we are born with natural language ability and language is picked up early in childhood. As far as I know, there is no absolute rule that we must think in words. And when you think, words actually slow down the thinking process. It’s probably more accurate to say that our minds often think in symbols and words are just a certain type of symbol. For example, the word “god” means one thing and the word “dog”, the same letters in a different arrangement, means something else.
This is why repeating words over and over again can cause them to loose their meaning. They are, after all, only symbols. It is our minds that give meaning to these symbols.
When processing information automatically, our mind sometimes ignores the difference between a symbol and reality. Advertisers take advantage of this all the time. For example, the sexy woman lounging against the new car actually has nothing to do with it and doesn’t come as an option, and the guy wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope, who sells you cough syrup on TV, is an actor not a doctor.
Confusion between symbol and reality is very common and is pretty harmless, except in the voting booth. It may sometimes be a part of some larger problem, such as chronic depression. A person who suffers from chronic depression often has negative thoughts such as, “I’m worthless” or “I’m a fool.” Such a thought may only be a collection of symbols, but it seems very real. This is especially true if the thought is “confirmed” by outside circumstance, such as a marriage breakup.
Thoughts can often get locked in and repeat as if on a loop. They become chronic and the person can’t get rid of them.
One way to grab hold of chronic thoughts is to take analytical control of them by repetition.
As a clinical psychologist, I recommend you to try this experiment. Repeat your name over and over again and you will find that it loses its meaning after a while. The same is true for any other word. Repetition breaks down the meaning with which a symbol has been “charged.” Meaning always has an emotional component that holds the symbol in place. Repetition “discharges” that emotion and the symbol becomes just that, a symbol.
Repetition raises the thought from a symbolic/emotional level to an analytical level where it can be viewed dispassionately. After a while, the thought will get recharged, primarily because the person doing the thinking will habitually recharge it. But, automatic thoughts can be handled, at least temporarily, by bringing them up to the conscious and analytical level by repetition.