I have a confession to make. I am a recovering addict. I am recovering from an addiction that affects millions of people every day. I was an addict and you are probably an addict now and don’t even realise it. What was my addiction? Thinking.
If you are as bad as was, your thinking started when you read the title of this article. You couldn’t just read it, you had to think about what I meant by it before you even started to read the blog. I did this on purpose. Let me show you what I mean.
What am I thinking?
You may have started with this one. You were trying to decide what I could possibly write about with this title. You may have even thought of a few ideas within a few seconds and were then curious to see whether you were right or not. To addicts, this comes naturally. Everything that we see, hear or even read makes us think about hidden meanings, to make us read between the lines and figure out what is going on. Sometimes we spend so long thinking about these things that we miss out on what is going on right in front of us. We could be mid conversation and get distracted and start thinking about something else. We may walk/drive the wrong way. With me, I would be walking somewhere and then find that I had somehow started heading to work instead because I had forgotten where I was going. I was on an unconscious auto-pilot. What makes this worse is that when something does finally regain your attention you cannot remember what you were thinking about.
Do you always know what you are thinking? You find yourself always thinking. Thinking about what happened in the past – whether they were good or bad and what will happen next. You also think about the future – we dream about things turning out great or taking a turn for the worse. Unfortunately, this is not where we stop. We then go on to creating scenarios of how things are going to change and then go on to work out what we are going to do in these different situations. Next thing you know you have practically mapped out what will happen for quite a distance into the future. There is a guarantee with setting up all these scenarios in your head. It isn’t that you will be ready for anything that life has to throw at you. It is that only one, at most, will actually happen and all the time and energy you have put into the rest has gone to waste.
What am I thinking?
This is what you were doing when you first read the title. You started thinking about what I was thinking. You didn’t have to think about the meanings behind it did you? You just couldn’t help yourself because you are addicted to thinking. Just like I was. Many of us are raised to think about others before ourselves. We are raised with questions like ” what would you feel like if someone did that to you”, “treat others how you would like to be treated”, “what would … do in this /that situation?”or even ” you need to walk a mile in another person’s shoes before you can judge them.” These lead us to face a situation/scenario and then think about future events based on what we do next, our feelings about it, and other people’s feelings about it. We are also asked to think about other people and how they would react in the same situation and even reasons behind why they would react that way in the first place. Oh my! No wonder we think so much. We have been taught to not only think about ourselves but others too and after years of this thinking we just can’t stop.
What am I thinking?
This way of reading the title is when you read the title as a question you ask yourself. You may find yourself doing something and then ask this very question. There is even a chance that someone else will see you doing something odd and ask the question for you, normally they ask it after you have finished what you were doing. Like I said earlier there is a good chance that you won’t even be able to answer the question. All you know is that your mind was somewhere else, you “zoned out” for a while. This affects thinking addicts more than others. Our brains can handle concentrated thought for short periods and then need a rest to process the information they have just encountered. Sleep is the time when this usually happens, it may even present itself as dreams. This is one major reason why we need enough sleep. In the past life was simple, we humans lived in small groups, we had a limited number of people/places/things to remember. Now we have almost unlimited access to information in the forms of the internet, huge libraries and huge numbers of people/places/things in cities. We have too much for any one person to bear so why fo we try to do it all ourselves? That is a question for another day. Our lives now seem to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and our sleep patterns have suffered. Sleep studies have been done to see what happens when we don’t get enough sleep. After a while, the brain needs to process the information it has experienced. So what does it do? It tries a few things, first – it slows down and you feel exhausted and unable to take in as much information as before, you may experience blurred vision and headaches as you strain to see properly. If this doesn’t work enough it will start to shut down parts of the brain that are not being used as much, you may become very tired or find you need to sit down and “veg out” for a while. If this doesn’t work the brain will actually force you to take “micro-sleeps”, this is where you actually black out for a few seconds at a time you think that you are awake but seem to be losing time. This is when your body may act only on the subconscious level and you then get the question this blog is about. ” What were you thinking?” Actually, you weren’t thinking at all. The last stage is full sleep whether you like it or not.
You may get the same effect by thinking too much. One tactic to deal with too much information is to filter out all the stuff that isn’t important and focus on one thing at a time. When we see a room full of people our brains take in everyone and everything that is going on. You then try to look for people you know and focus only on the ones you recognise and if you find someone interesting looking back you stop and only focus on them. Everyone else is still there but you have filtered them all out. Our brains do this and use the subconscious to deal with the rest. If you get distracted by something interesting or dwell on the future or events in the past you may end up filtering out the present moment and missing out. If this sounds like you then you can take action. As soon as you find yourself filtering out the present moment, ask yourself the question “what am I thinking?”. Then ask yourself another question, “do I need to think about this now? or even at all?”
What can I do to stop my addiction?
Here is a list of things that I have found to help
meditation – let the brain rest and it may reveal things that you had forgotten about
take notes – if you think about something that is important write it down so you can think about it at a better time. I carry around a small notebook and a pen for this. By doing this your brain no longer has to circulate this important thought around your head and can let it go.
forget it – if the thought has no relevance at all, acknowledge it and then forget it.
live in the present – stop thinking about the past (it’s gone and there’s nothing you can do about it) Stop thinking about the future ( you have no way of knowing what is going to happen in the future so why guess and worry about it?) Spend your time thinking about what you are doing now and doing your best, you will be able to deal with the issues you have to deal with and may even find that you get a lot more done.
Like with any addiction, epecially one you have had for years, will be hard to let go of. It will take a lot of willpower. But remember the tactics and you will get through it.