How to Stop Overthinking Forever
How do you make a jar of muddy water clear?
Do you stir it?
Do you shake it?
Do you add something to it?
No matter which action you take, the water remains muddy.
The only thing you can do is to let the water sit long enough for the mud to settle at the bottom.
In other words, the only thing you can do is … nothing.
The same is true of the human mind.
There’s no way you can think about things to make your mind calm down.
The mind only works in one direction: more thinking.
Whatever thought, problem or strategy you throw at it, the mind will always think about it more.
As such, trying to think your way out of overthinking (or fear, anxiety or stress) is the psychological equivalent of trying to clear muddy water by stirring or shaking it.
All you can really do is leave the mind alone and it will clear all by itself.
Clarity is the mind’s default state.
When we don’t interfere with our mind, it returns to clarity, automatically and effortlessly.
Of course, not interfering is easier said than done.
We often feel that we have to keep stirring the water for fear of something terrible happening.
We tend to want to analyse, fix, or cope with whatever problem we are faced with.
Yet this only makes the problem worse, because all our efforts only result in more thinking, rather than less.
What underpins this behaviour is fear - fear of a negative outcome.
We are so afraid of failing, being rejected or being alone that our mind compulsively tries to analyse, fix or cope with the problem.
Yet it is not the situation or circumstance that causes the overthinking - it is our fear of the negative outcome.
Of course, our fear isn’t real.
It is a fabrication of our mind that we create when we use our incredible creative powers to imagine a negative, scary future.
Yet just as our fear isn’t real (although the experience of it is very real), the negative future isn’t real either.
All that is really happening is that we are creating an imaginary future which makes us uncomfortable and afraid and pushes our mind into overdrive.
So how can we help our mind not get tangled up in its own spiderweb?
In my experience, there are two ways:
The first is to simply sit with the idea of the negative consequence that you fear (being alone, failing, being rejected, going broke, etc) until you become emotionally okay with it.
Most of what we fear is a fear of the unknown. The idea of a particular negative outcome feels so bad or uncomfortable that we do our best to never think about it.
As a result, again, we try to avoid, analyse, solve or cope with the problem.
We don’t want to think about failure or going broke. Yet whatever solution we come up with and whatever action we take, they are grounded in the fear of the negative outcome happening.
As a result, we continue being driven by fear. And we keep overthinking.
Yet if we sit with our fear and explore it until we become okay with it, the fear loses its power over us.
Instead of being yanked forward by fear, we can approach life from a place of freedom, joy, curiosity and love.
This allows our mind to naturally settle because we’ve neutralized the fear that was causing our anxiety and overthinking in the first place.
The second way - and this is what I prefer - is to simply understand the mechanism that creates our experience of reality.
When we see that all fear is just mental energy and not the result of the outside world with its circumstances, events and people, it no longer makes sense to analyse, fix, avoid or cope with it.
When we learn to see that we are only ever living in the feeling of our thinking and not the feeling of our circumstances, our life transforms:
We become free to simply float with the ebb and flow of our mental energy.
When our mind overthinks, we sit back and enjoy the show.
When we feel afraid, we allow that feeling fully without getting caught up in its story.
When we are irritated, we feel the incredible power of the feeling without lashing out at others.
We become more human because we allow more of ourselves.
We can end the tyranny of trying to limit, control and deny ourselves who we really are.
All this is possible when we realize THAT we are thinking, rather than focusing on WHAT we are thinking about.
We can let our mind do what it does without us getting in the middle of it.
We know that no emotion can actually hurt us, no matter how strong or negative.
This allows us to feel all of it, to end the life of trying to avoid, hide from, and attempt to fix feelings of discomfort and fear.
And when we stop trying to control the mind (which we can’t control anyway), we allow it to return to calmness and clarity every time it gets caught up in too much thinking.
Just like a jar of muddy water - when we let it be, calmness and clarity returns, naturally and effortlessly.