We think too much

The average North American is as addicted as any junkie shooting up in a back alley. And, unlike the junkie, we lie about our dependence.

We live in an obsessive, addictive society, probably because we have more money and time than older societies. When the prime concern is surviving, no one worries about keeping up with the neighbours.

While we don’t lurk in shadows furtively exchanging dollars for dope, we’re just as addicted to food that isn’t good for us, to television, video games, the Internet, status, possessions, comfort, to our neuroses. We can’t get through the day without our coffee, tea or pop, and often, legal drugs.

We’re addicted to our wounds, which, next to the weather, is a favourite topic of conversation, as if our scars link us with the other walking wounded. If we don’t see the addictive patterns in ourselves, we can figure it out by listening to other people talk about their illnesses, frustration, fears and anxieties. That’s what we do, even if we don’t realize it.

We feign interest if people talk about their accomplishments and how great their kids are, but we perk up when they tell us how miserable they are and how poorly behaved their kids are. Then, we feel comfortable, then we relate.

We’re hooked on working, neglecting spouses and children, arguing that we missed a birthday or a football game because we were working so we could pay the mortgage, buy gifts for the birthday and pay for the football equipment.

But our worst addictions are our negative thoughts and behaviours as if we simply can’t see a world where what we truly want can manifest into form. If we’re afraid of flying, we worry that the plane will crash, if our child is late getting back with the car, we have visions of carnage on the highway. We obsess about the things we don’t want, instead of what we do want. 

We believe we are flawed, that we are weak, that we are unworthy, that we are the victim of the thoughts that run though our mind, that we are our mind.

Thinking is a wonderful tool, a program to plan and figure things out, but we never stop using it even when we don’t need to. If we use a pickax to dig a hole, we don’t carry it with us when the work is done.

Our compulsive thoughts are like a river in spring flood. Occasionally — when the cat throws up on the new carpet or our child overheats the credit card— we obsess about one particular topic, but the thoughts are still raging — mental reruns we’ve seen a thousand times.

We talk to ourselves constantly, yet feel superior, or maybe just grateful, when we see people — in the street, in old folks homes, in the hospital — mumbling and muttering to themselves or talking to people we can’t see.

We do the same thing for almost every moment of our waking day; but we do it silently. We explain, justify, complain, sometimes without even listening to ourselves, like a television playing when there’s no one home.

Compulsive thinking is an addiction because we can’t turn it off, even if we wanted to; it’s too strong or too seductive, too comfortable. We’ve been addicted our whole life — and often don’t realize it.

We’re like Job, who said, “that which I feared has come upon me.” But his problems were visited upon him by heaven while we create our own mental pestilence. No one is doing this to us. We create the pain; the panic; and the paucity. We go down every mental rabbit hole we see, chasing every thought, like Alice on speed.

 “Thinking has become a disease. Disease happens when things get out of balance,” Eckhart Tolle writes In The Power of Now. “The compulsive thinker, which means almost everyone, lives in a state of apparent separateness, in an insanely complex world of continuous problems and conflict, a world that reflects the ever-increasing fragmentation of the mind.”

Our behaviour is just as addictive, which is not surprising since action follows thought. We seek approval; we gossip, manipulate, react, and rush about mindlessly, like Don Quixote galloping off in all directions at once, when the knots in our stomach and the screams in our mind compel us to do something, anything.

We’re addicted when the substance or method makes us feel good, secure, even though it might make us feel guilty later. If we try to stop, we can’t, but we always have an excuse why we don’t.

If we weren’t addicted, we could stop everything that is not necessary to living harmoniously, that is destructive. We would eat only when the body needs it and not because it’s coffee-and-muffin time, or because we’re angry or stressed and we need the comfort that carbohydrates bring. We wouldn’t react mindlessly when someone bashes in our front fender while cutting in front of us on the bridge.

We could turn off the mind chatter, if only for a few minutes — when we’re brushing our teeth, getting dressed, stopped at a red light. We wouldn’t need our thinking fix.

The first big step is recognizing we are addicted, that we need the rush, comfort or security that comes from the addictive behaviour.

“We have a choice to either jump into the abyss of illusion and ignorance or soar into the experience of reality and enlightenment,” Deepak Chopra writes in Everyday Immortality.

Rumi, the Sufi mystic, put it more poetically: “Why do you stay in prison when the door is open wide?” 

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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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