Are You A Thought-oholic?

 

A thought-aholic is someone who displays an addictive relationship with thinking.  In other words, they continue thinking despite the fact that their thoughts are producing the very problems they are trying to think their way out of!  Their minds are out of control.   The results of this are not very much unlike the consequence of someone who’s drinking alcohol is out of control.  Soon, their lives spin out of control. 

Adverse childhood experiences contribute enormously to though-holism.  Our minds get trapped in the frightening thought-loops that link back to traumatic experiences we may not even clearly recall.  Whatever your childhood, though, thought-holism can be a significant problem in your life.

The relationship between mental chaos and chaos in our outer circumstances becomes obvious to those who rigorously practice awareness of their thinking.  This awareness reveals that:

  1. Their thoughts are almost entirely out of their control, being habitual, compulsive and most often negative and nunconscious.
  2. They live in their thoughts the way they live in their dreams, meaning that they emotionally respond to what they are thinking as if it is happening in reality.
  3. Their life-currents match-up with their habitual thought-currents, meaning that they find again and again things happening in their outer life that they first thought about.

 

You are a thought-aholic to the extent that your thinking controls you, rather than you being in control of your thinking.  To that extent you experience thought-induced pain, and your life spins increasingly out of your control.  At times you find your worst nightmares coming true and it seems that the entirely universe is working against you.  People in your life seem to have all the power when it comes whether you experience hurt or help from them.  You carry around a steady stream of uncomfortable anxiety that often crescendos into feelings of extreme anger, unhappiness and terror.  The inner pain grows so intense at times that you want to die.

The tragic irony here is that what we are turning to for relief is actually the source of our problem. Why do you engage in so much thinking? You are trying to figure out what you need to do to avoid the problems you are thinking about.  But thinking about your problems is creating and perpetuating your problems!

Just as the alcoholic reaches for a drink to solve his or her problems (like the classic country western singer Gary Stewart's line: "I'm drinking double because she's acting single") despite the fact that this strategy only makes things worse, the thought-aholic reaches for a thought to get him or her out of a mess of some kind.  The same process applies to the liberation of both addictions: going on the wagon, so to speak.

As you practice the discipline of not reaching for a thought to save you from your dilemma you gradually weaken the pull of habitual thought upon you.  Your will and ability to NOT think grows stronger, empowering you to remain thought-free for longer and longer periods of time.  On the other hand, each time that you allow yourself to indulge in the flow of habitual, automatic thought, you weaken your power over your mind and increase your mind’s power over you.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with thinking, just as there is nothing intrinsically wrong with drinking.  As long as you can apply careful discrimination of what you think, when you think, you are in the driver’s seat.  You can use the power of thought constructively and beneficially.  But if you get caught up in thinking that causes you to feel anxious, unhappy, angry, hurt, betrayed, overpowered, out-done, abandoned, unloveable, inadequate, inferior or unworthy your thinking is running and ruining your life.  If your thinking portrays you in circumstances that you don’t want to be in, your thinking is keeping you in those circumstances.  If you are so lost in thought that you lose  awareness of where you are and what is happening here and now, you are doing the equivalent of driving your car with your eyes closed.  If you are so caught up in thought that you don’t realize how your words and actions are hurting you and those you love, your thinking is destructive.

The ability to choose your thoughts depends upon your strength to NOT think at will.  You need to evaluate the worthiness of a thought that you dwell in.  You need to choose your thoughts rather than allow your thoughts to choose you.  This strength and ability is hard to win, but it is winnable.

It begins with the relentless practice of mindfulness – that is, being mindful or aware of what your mind is doing in the present moment.  Combine with this the deliberate practice of living without habitual thinking for longer and longer periods during the day.  Each time your mind turns on, turn it off.  Do this over and over and over again. 

Then comes the practice of recognizing when deliberately choosing to think becomes counterproductive and destructive.  If you try to figure out a way out of, say, a business problem, and you begin feeling stressed out, anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated or any other form of unhappiness, you need to refuse to go on thinking.  This is like drinking wine at a party and noticing that you are beginning to become belligerent, beginning to lose control over what you say and how you impact the people around you.  It’s time to stop drinking.  Similarly, when this happens under the influence of a thought, it’s time to stop thinking.

We need to practice the courage and self-discipline to refrain from thinking about our problems when thinking causes us to wax negative.  It is then time to let go of your problems, to live thought-free, until you once again feel free of your problem.  When you are feeling emotionally balanced and harmonious, you can engage your thought again.  You can open your mind to solutions instead of worrying about your problems. And you will find that by just letting go of your problems mentally when your thoughts about them begin to feel burdensome, you allow them to solve themselves.  We discover again and again through this kind of practice that holding onto our problems mentally keeps those problems in our life. 

Withdrawing attention from habitual thinking is far from easy, but it can and must be done if we are to protect ourselves from the madness and chaos of the world around us.  Life is challenging enough without creating more challenge through an unconscious, undisciplined mind.  In fact, life becomes quite glorious when we cease tormenting ourselves with dark and dismal thinking.

When you feel angry at someone because of what he or she did to you, you are making yourself angry with your thought of what happened.  You are causing yourself to continue living in that painful experience of the past.

When you feel worried about what is going to happen to you in your future, you are giving yourself that future experience now!

Most people don’t realize that thinking is a choice.  They believe that they must think thoughts that disturb them in order to face life as it is and to be realistic and practical.  And yet, when they are living in habitual, compulsive, emotionally disturbing thought they are absent from their present life-experience; they are living in a kind of dream, rather than being realistic; they are creating more of what they do not want rather than being practical.

Make the decision to take conscious control over the amazing power of your mind.  Practice being more keenly aware of what you are thinking, when you are thinking, all day long.  When a thought brings you down, let it go.  Focus attention on your present moment experience in a state of alert, thoughtless awareness.  Break free of thought-aholism. 

It requires the support of skillful coaching to help us to recognize just how much thought is controlling our lives and robbing us of happiness, harmonious relationships and even health.  I’ve been providing this sort of coaching for attaining higher levels of self-awareness and mastery over the mind for 4 decades. Contact through my website at www.boblancer.com to set up a time for a complimentary phone consultation (or Skype for overseas).  Discover how perfect your life really is when you stop thinking yourself into those problems that just don’t seem to ever go away.

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Thank you, Clayton. Meditation is really essential for gaining freedom from the habit-mind's tyranny. The sort I am referring to involves quietly watching the mind and then shifting attention onto the physical experience of breathing when you notice that habitual thought has taken attention away.  Combined with this is the continual state of meditation in which the mind is vigilantly and diligently observed to practice conscious feeling without habitual thinking.  My own work with trauma is addressed in my two websites: www.lovethemethod.com and www.exitabuse.com.  I'm happy to continue this conversation.  

Outstanding blog by Bob Lancer.....Like Bob,  I have many years of experience of caring for others.   I wonder if meditation or contemplation would be a therapeutic tool for those who are compulsive thinkers?   I have found these spiritual practices to be very therapeutic.  They have been practiced for hundreds  of years.  I just finished reading a book by James Finley on Christian Medication that was most insightful.

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