Ever been spelunking?
It’s not fun.
Before you pull out a Mains family photo album for proof of me in a hard hat and coveralls, you should know, I haven’t technically been. I’m not sure I could do it. I remember shaking out a panic attack when I got stuck behind the couch once as a kid. I did study philosophy for a semester in college and that, I believe, was spelunking of the mind.
The thing with overthinkers is that we are thoughtful, inquisitive, and perceiving–we are sponges soaking up the world around us. But we can easily get lost, asking question after question like one step after another into a dark cave until we find ourselves trapped in the darkness. Our problem is we don’t know how to stop thinking, or when to turn our minds around.
I learned this the hard way during my semester of philosophical studies. When I signed up as a naive twenty-two-year-old, I had no idea I was entering into an addictive world of questions where every morsel of thought could be challenged, analyzed, feasted upon, chewed up and spat out. I plummeted, lacking the ability–the discipline–to keep from slipping too far into a world of what-ifs and wonderings.
Those who tend to overthink like me value the art of thought and we can all agree that few in this world 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–just enough–not too much and not too little. This discipline comes from exploring the cave of thought with healthy questioning, open-mindedness, and perspective while knowing when to stop and how to give the mind over to faith.
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. So, there comes a time when we need to trust the world is as it should be; when we need to be at peace with not having all the answers; when we need to stop thinking.
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, such a blunt command is as intimidating as a laser target to your chest. Instead of simply stopping, start by recognizing the caves you tend to wander in. What or who causes you to think unhealthily too much? Mark the stone walls acknowledging where you are in your mind and ask yourself what is motivating you to walk further into darkness. More often than not, it’s some sort of anxiety, insecurity, or unrelenting appetite for an impossible answer.
After an observing period, explore what practices or mental reminders can help you stop or slow your mind. Maybe a distraction, relevant quote, or activity can be the thing to turn you around so you can be at peace with what you don’t know and productive with what you do.
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 because exploring the caves of your mind is an extraordinary adventure as long as you can find your way out.
Please share thoughts, questions, concerns…anything! Tweet me @DaddingDepressd or comment below!