HOW TO STOP OVERTHINKING?
How to stop overthinking? Can we even stop overthinking, or think less often or less loudly, a bit like turning off the TV, or turning down the volume?
How can we stop overthinking, at least sometimes, when it is necessary to be calm and lucid? For example, when you need to listen attentively or engage intensely in action?
WHY AND HOW TO STOP OVERTHINKING?
Thought is a wonderful instrument, only, it must be governed, and not left free to come and go as it pleases in a disorderly way:
– The main cause of our difficulties comes from the mind and thought.
– We have also mentioned the serious problem of toxic thoughts.
So there are a number of cases where it would be very helpful to be able to stop thinking. In all others, it is necessary to be aware of one’s thoughts, mastering the process by calming it, channeling it, and eventually being able to direct it…. This is no less than the key to happiness and efficiency!
Affected like everyone else by this mental illness, consisting of never stopping thinking, you are not even aware that “it thinks” all the time in your head, and you cannot stop this ordinary demented process.
So, while you are being spoken to, instead of listening deeply, being quiet and silent inside, you are constantly reacting with your mind :
– you think of a question to ask,
– and you want to understand,
– you make a link with your own experience,
– this person reminds you of someone else,
– this case reminds you of another one, etc…
Thus, you are constantly reacting internally, moving mentally, emotionally, and physically. And during this time, you are only partially present, busy as you are with these dispersing activities, which divert your attention and tire you unnecessarily, without creating value in return.
How then can you manage to stop thinking, to stop the mind in order to offer your entourage and yourself complete availability?
HOW TO STOP OVERTHINKING: IS IT JUST AN ILLUSION?
– Can you, at this very moment, be somewhere else than where you are?
– Can you leave the present moment, to go and make a whole in the next moment or the moment before? Go ahead, we are waiting for you…
– Can you not have the thought that is in your head right now?
No you can’t!
When you ask yourself “how to stop overthinking”; you may eventually choose to redirect your thoughts, deliberately directing the flow of your attention to a specific thing.
But just as you don’t choose that your body was born, or that it will one day die, or the age it is now, you don’t choose that thoughts spontaneously emerge in the field of your attention. It seems as if we can’t stop overthinking. These thoughts come and go by themselves, more or less “mechanically”, by associations, by bounces, by the effects of interactions between various perceptions and phenomena: the environment, relationships with others, memories, vital needs, bodily sensations, emotional reactions, etc…
All of this gives rise to thoughts, which are most often only repetitions of patterns already known, more or less automatic and stereotyped, depending on your memory, without having any direct control over these processes. You believe that you are the one who thinks, but you have no control over these thoughts, you are rather thought of by them.
This flow of thoughts can be calmed, if you stay calm. It can also be completely aroused if you get agitated internally, following all these thoughts, and identifying with their contents. It’s a bit like someone watching TV who would experience all the emotions staged in the programs. This person would express all the emotions of the characters on the screen according to the scenes on which the remote control would stop in a totally random way. That’s pretty much what happens with us because of the thought bounce, which we have very little control over.
Stop identifying yourself with the content of your thoughts
In fact, the more you identify with the content of thoughts, which are moving all the time, the more unstable and insecure you are, and the more you cling to thoughts for reassurance (which is a very bad option!). It’s an “accelerating” process: the more you think, the more you think! (See our article on toxic thoughts).
Conversely, the more centered and rooted you are in your body, the more you experience a direct experience, without the intermediary of thought, the calmer it is (as if you had unplugged the electrical outlet and the TV no longer broadcasts its programs. The room would be: calm and silent).
A friend was just telling me about a motorcycle accident that had thrown him into the air and thanks to which he was suddenly able to experience the experience of time coming to a standstill, of thought being interrupted, to become pure consciousness, of the situation and its dangers, to finally avoid all of them and find himself a little stunned but unharmed, as if by a miracle. In this situation, thought stopped under the violence and urgency of the situation, and thoughtless attention took over. The notion of time (which is only a product of thought) thus vanished as long as thought was absent.
If one had to have a potentially fatal accident every time to calm one’s mind, life would be very tiring and probably quite short! Fortunately, there is a way to stop thinking, without the need for external circumstances. Or, if you can’t stop thinking completely, stop being totally overwhelmed by incanalized thoughts.
HOW TO STOP OVERTHING: THINKING TOO MUCH IS A COMMON MENTAL ILLNESS
Affected like everyone else by this mental illness, consisting of never stopping thinking, you are no longer even aware that “it thinks” all the time in your head, you believe it is “you”, and you cannot stop this ordinary demented process. When the client talks to you, you silently react with your mind all the time: you think of a question to ask, you try to understand, you make a link with your own experience, this person makes you think of another, this case reminds you of another, etc… And you don’t stop reacting internally, you move, mentally, emotionally, and physically. And in spite of yourself during this time, you are only partially present, busy as you are with these dispersing activities.
How then can you manage to slow down the compulsive runaway thinking?
Slowing down thinking
Limiting the incessant agitation, to simply be there, present in all your being (up to the awareness of the global sensation that comes out of your body), is a necessary condition for an authentic relationship and a good listening. In the absence of this inner calm, you may have good intentions, you may be of good will, but the impact of your coaching will be much weaker than when you are fully yourself, centered in the present moment, simply attentive and available, without parasitic thoughts.
You cannot think not to think
However, you cannot “think” not to think, because that would be just one more thought. On the other hand you can stop feeding the activity of thinking, simply by being attentive. You cannot “stop yourself from thinking”, but you can deliberately invest your attention in listening, observing. For example, experience for a few moments, right away, the experience of being attentive to your breathing, there will certainly be a space of at least a few seconds without thinking, but where you remain consciously attentive. You will only know this afterwards, because as soon as you characterize this state of Presence without thinking, you emit one and you leave this state. The absence of thought does not mean the absence of You. On the contrary! You are conscious only when you are not thinking, when you are thinking, your attention is diverted, you are somehow “less conscious”?
Stop telling oneself stories
The first thing to do is to stop believing in stories that are told in thoughts. Stop defining yourself, according to the fluctuations of thought. Stop asking events to provide us with a mirror of who we are.
Another client confided to me recently that he was realizing that all his investment in work had finally had the goal of being able to define himself through his accomplishments. As if something external could define what we are inside. We, the connoisseur are necessarily larger than the objects of knowledge, since they are smaller than knowledge itself. And this knowledge is what we are.
Finally, we cannot be defined by situations or realizations, but on the other hand it is the situations that are imprinted with what we are!
The process of believing that work defines us is false, it is the result of a wrong thought, which takes us on a journey of discovery… until we discover that there is nothing to expect from external situations, and that we cannot be found there. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work or act, but that we shouldn’t do it in the hope of defining or finding ourselves. These are the stories we tell ourselves to justify our exile in our minds and thoughts.
Stopping the mind and its incessant agitations
Stopping the mind and its incessant agitations, to simply be there, present in your whole being (until the awareness of the global sensation that comes out of your body), is a necessary condition for an authentic relationship and a good listening. In the absence of this inner calm, you may have good intentions, you may be of good will, but the impact of your action will be much weaker than when you are fully yourself, centered in the present moment, simply attentive and available, without parasitic thoughts.
You cannot, however, “think” not to think, for that would be just one more thought. On the other hand, you can stop feeding the activity of thinking, simply by being attentive.
You cannot “stop yourself from thinking”, but you can deliberately invest your attention in listening and observing. For example, for a few moments, right away, experience being attentive to your breathing, there will certainly be a space of at least a few seconds without thinking, but during which you remain conscious and attentive. You will only know this afterwards, because as soon as you characterize this state of Presence without thinking, you emit one and you leave this state. The absence of thought does not mean the absence of You. On the contrary! You are only truly conscious and truly yourself when you are not thinking. On the contrary, when you think, your attention is diverted, you are somehow “less conscious”… (see on this subject: “the imposture of the personality”).
Stop thinking and get to work
Parasitic thoughts deprive us of direct access to reality: we only see it through a filter, that of our thought-emotions that stick labels on situations and experiences (good-bad, I like-I don’t like, etc.).
We cannot be fully present when we are stuck in our heads, caught up in chatter and mental agitation, which disperse attention. Thoughts are largely an obstacle to relationships and deep listening. We no longer simply hear what is said, but what we think about what is said. Because of this, authentic relationships become impossible because instead of simply being in the presence of ourselves and others, we are caught up in our projections and beliefs, which take us away from the present moment.
HOW TO STOP OVERTHINKING: TECHNIQUES
To stop thinking and plunge into the experience of deep listening, there is a simple technique, consisting of mentally taking two other points of support than the content your interlocutor is sharing with you:
– one inside your body (in a physical sensation for example)
– an element of the outside environment (such as the room’s décor, or an object you see in it)
– and of course the content of what the person speaking to you is saying.
When your attention is thus divided between the inside and outside of yourself, you are forced to let go of your head and stop thinking. Your field of consciousness opens in a global and circular way:
– at the same time as you hear what is being said to you,
– you perceive yourself feeling the resonance within you of what is being said.
So you always perceive three elements (and not just two):
– the external thing,
– its echo inside,
– and “yourself” conscious of these two things…
From then on, you naturally access this global spherical consciousness (which we have already talked about the 2 levels of consciousness in coaching). This does not mean that your mind is totally disconnected, nor that your thoughts have totally ceased, but their number is diminished, their intensity passes into the background, and YOU are simply attentive, without getting involved in these thoughts which, if they emerge, do so automatically, without you paying attention to them since they are totally invested in the present of listening and relationship.
What is true for a coach in his work can be true for anyone in any other activity.
EXAMPLES OF ACTIVITIES THAT HELP STOP THINKING
– My sister paints, she tells me that she doesn’t think, that she forgets everything, completely invested in the exercise of her art, when she starts to paint.
– Another will do some DIY or gardening to “wash” her head and “forget her problems”.
– Musicians and music lovers don’t think when they play or listen to music intensely.
– In fact, any activity done with heart (such as cleaning, cooking, washing dishes or vacuuming) absorbs us completely. In the passion of living, there is no more space for thoughts to arise, or at least they no longer have the power to hypnotize and fascinate us, diverting us from our overall awareness of ourselves…
This form of presence to oneself and others, without the distraction of thoughts, is a way of being fully effective. It does not tire, for two reasons:
1- because there is no dispersion of energy, as it is concentrated on the present moment
2- because we recharge as we use energy. Indeed, being rooted in the present moment, rooted in body sensations, all attention takes its source in the primordial energy of life that we are. We are therefore recharged naturally and effortlessly, according to what is required to face the situation and respond to it perfectly.
HOW TO STOP OVERTHINKING? REALIZE THAT THINKING IS NOT A PROBLEM, IT IS A NATURAL PROCESS
It is the excess of thoughts that ends up causing problems, such as insomnia (when you wish it would stop and let the body fall asleep and rest) or when the thought is cut off from the heart, and because of this the decisions made lack finesse and nuance (violence always comes from a lack of empathy, when the head is cut off from the heart).
So it is not so much a question of stopping thinking as of moving its center of gravity downwards, instead of leaving it perched in the head.
I would like to end this article with the festive image of a bottle of champagne:
– it is normal that there are bubbles rising from the bottom of the bottle. In the same way, it is normal that there are thoughts in the field of consciousness.
– On the other hand, if we shake the bottle too hard, the cork may explode, just as our head gets too hot if we are mentally agitated too much with our worries (unquiet: means not quiet, not calm, agitation).
Thank you for reading this “how to stop overthinking” article. You might want to read Eckhart Tolle‘s books if you are interested in this topic.
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