Overthinking and freedom from prison.
G, my psychotherapist, pointed out that it was obvious the inflated emphasis I put on cerebral activities. I had not realised before that there was an alternative. My mind is always crowded with thoughts about something and nothing. These aren’t necessarily productive thoughts such as ideas, but can instead be circular, neurotic, mildly paranoid and self-sabotaging.
Perhaps I seek validation for my overthinking in the books that I read. In the same way I gain comfort from writing neat little accounts of my progress, reading books loosely about self-improvement helps to rationalise, provides solace, and in a sense, to shuts me off from experience with the excuse of ‘yet more research’. But nevertheless, I feel it’s beneficial and interesting to read in order to get the ideas under my belt with which to really live my life.
It is through books and the internet, alongside talking to therapists and reaching out to others that I am slowly developing a sense of the other side that’s out there. This other side isn’t even out there, it’s already here, within me. The opposite to materialism, the opposite to depression, the opposite to enslavement, the opposite to overthinking. So G can say that I use my head a lot more than my feelings, but for me this is a huge step up. It was not that long ago that my feelings were overpoweringly, cripplingly depressive and I was too fragile to contemplate anything like self-improvement with the ultimate and ongoing intention to set myself free from the constraints that are mere figments of my imagination.
There’s a passage in F**k It Therapy that really made me laugh and wake up to what freedom isn’t.
“But most of us have a fantasy about freedom. And that’s why those movies and music work on us, but not because we’re free and on the open road of life. Do you think the true rebels and pioneers are watching Thelma and Louise and listening to The Clash? No, they work on us because we’re still in our chains. Do you know how many white-collar workers there are out there with big motorbikes? Do you know how many Audi drivers listen to Eminem? How many grandfathers are listening to punk? How many media people say ‘cool’? How many of the dudes at school became financial advisers? Don’t knock them. It’s probably me. It’s probably you.” – F**k It Therapy by John C. Parkin.
The book tells you how to identify the prisons that you are unwittingly incarcerated in and then to change them if you want. We are imprisoned by the constant and ultimately fruitless search for meaning when it isn’t there in those places where we seek. A sense of perspective on life is important. The stories we surround ourselves with imprison us. We have an idea about who we were, who we are now and who we’d like to become. The human state is to move from naivete to experience, from playfulness to seriousness, getting older, weaker and wearier all the while. These stories don’t reflect reality; life resists the stories we tell in order to try and fix everything.
So we have the prison of our search for meaning in the wrong places. We have a prison of our stories. We also construct a prison if our aims take over our lives. We construct prisons of thought. A thought-less life is not what’s being advocated, merely the suggestion that eschewing an entirely thought-based approach to life can open you up to amazing things. This speaks to me and is very timely in the light of being ‘diagnosed’ a chronic overthinker. The other prisons we might find ourselves in including fixing ideas to ourselves. These might be religious, materialistic or spiritual beliefs. Hold all ideas lightly, is the f**k it approach. Sure, dip your toe here, dabble there, get a new perspective there. The one possible spiritual truth, Parkin dares to venture, is that we are all connected, maybe even all one. Our perception of separation is an illusion that creates suffering.
My own personal prisons are:
1) my unwillingness to change and push my boundaries. However I have done a lot to confront this issue over the past 12 months. 2) my reliance on thinking… – now that I know about my habit to over think – and have awareness there is an alternative – I will try not to give much attention to those persistent and nagging thoughts. 3) …and the anger and negativity that this leads to. This is the biggest and scariest problem that I have. I am acutely disappointed every time I let myself, my partner and my friends down.