Ever been spelunking? Have you ventured into a dark cave, going deeper and deeper into an ambiguous abyss?
It’s not fun.
Ok, before you pull out my family photo album for proof of me in spelunking gear, you should know, I haven’t technically been. Honestly, I’m not sure I could face that fear. As a kid, I remember shaking out a panic attack when I got stuck behind the couch. I did, however, study philosophy for a semester in college and that, I believe, was spelunking of the mind.
The thing with overthinkers is that we are naturally very thoughtful, inquisitive, and perceiving. We are sponges soaking up the world around us. Often, though, we get lost in our heads, having asked question after question like one step after another into a dark cave until we find ourselves lost, trapped, in its depths. The issue is we don’t know when to stop thinking.
I learned this the hard way during my semester of philosophical studies. I had no idea that I was entering an addictive world of questions where everything could be challenged, analyzed, chewed up and spat out. It was as if I was born with feet that sweat baby oil but never realized it until I tried walking down a steep slip’n’slide. I promptly plummeted, lacking the ability–the discipline–to stop my mind from wandering too far in the world of what-ifs and wonderings.
Those who tend to overthink, like myself, value the art of thought, and few aspire to be under-thinkers. But if overthinking can get us into trouble and underthinking is simply unproductive, then there must be a discipline of thinking responsibly, not too much and not too little. This discipline comes from exploring thought with questions, open mindedness, and perspective while knowing when to stop and how to give the mind over to faith. Everybody puts their faith in something eventually.
The fact is, we can never understand the world perfectly. We can never read other people’s minds or tell the future no matter how much thought we put into it. There comes a time when we need to stop, and trust that the world is as it should be. There comes a time when we need to be at peace with not figuring it all out. There comes a time when we need to stop thinking.
So, here’s my advice to you: stop. Stop!
Just kidding, I know it’s not that easy. Maybe for some super-humans it is, but for most overthinkers, a blunt command is as intimidating as spotting a laser target on your chest. Instead of just stopping, start by trying to recognize the caves you tend to wander in. Mark the stone walls acknowledging where you are in your mind and what is motivating you to walk further into darkness. After an observing period, explore what practices or mental reminders can help you stop or slow down your mind. Maybe a healthy distraction, relevant quote, or productive action can be the thing to turn you around.
There are many wonderful attributes of a contemplative, thoughtful person. But just like anything, thinking is best used in moderation. Learn how to embrace your mind without wholly trusting on it. Learn how to let go. Learn how to think responsibly. Exploring the caves of your mind is an extraordinary adventure as long as you ensure you can always find your way out.
Please share thoughts, questions, concerns…anything! Tweet me @DaddingDepressd or comment below!