Addiction to ThinkingBy Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006
Do you use thinking to avoid feeling? Do you use thinking as a form of control? Learn more about obsessive thinking and what you can do about it.
Randall sought my help because he was stuck being miserable and had no idea how to get out of his misery. In his life he had experienced moments of great joy and sense of oneness with all of life, but those moments were infrequent. He wanted more of those moments but had no idea how to bring them about.
Randall is an extremely intelligent man, but in some ways he was using his own intelligence against himself. The problem was that when Randall did have those brief moments of true connection, he immediately went into his mind to try to figure out how it happened. The moment he went into his mind, he lost the connection that he so desperately desired.
The reason Randall went into his mind was that, as much as he wanted the joy of deep spiritual connection, he wanted something even more than that - control over that connection. Randall's ego wounded self believed that he could control the connection with Spirit with his intellect - if only he could figure it out then he could control it. The last thing Randall wanted to do, which is what is necessary to connect with Spirit, is to surrender his thinking. Randall was deeply addicted to thinking as a way to not feel his inner experience. Thinking was his way of controlling his painful feelings, such as his aloneness, loneliness, and helplessness over others and over his spiritual connection.
Many us of are addicted to thinking. We believe if we can just figure things out we can control others and the outcome of things. We want to control how people feel about us and treat us by saying just the right thing - so we have to think about it over and over to discover the right thing to say. This is called "ruminating." Ruminating is obsessively thinking about something over and over in the hopes of finally coming up with the "right" answer, the right thing to say, the right way to be to have control over others and the outcome of things. Ruminating is also a way to have control over our own painful feelings, which is what addictions are all about.
In my work with Randall, he would immediately go into his head and analyze what was happening in the session the minute feelings came up. Over and over I would bring him out of his head and into his body, into his feelings. His feelings were so terrifying to him that he could only stay with his feelings for a few moments before he was back into his head - explaining, figuring out, intellectualizing. He was so terrified of the soul loneliness and aloneness he felt that he had learned to avoid these feelings with his mind. Yet until Randall was willing to feel his painful feelings, which had been there since childhood, he couldn't stay out of his head. As long as his intent was to control his pain rather than learn from it, he would not be able to move into the spiritual connection he so desired.
The purpose of all of our addictions are to avoid pain, especially the deep soul loneliness that we all feel in this society. The problem is that our disconnection from our feelings - which is our Inner Child - creates aloneness as well. Our feeling self, our Inner Child, is left alone inside with no one to attend to the painful feelings. It is only when our desire is to learn about how we may be causing our own painful feelings that we open to our inner experience. Our desire to learn also opens the door to our spiritual connection, which we cannot feel when our intent is to avoid pain with our various addictions.
It took Randall many months to be willing to feel his painful feelings, but he discovered that when he finally had the courage to feel them, it was not as bad as he thought. In fact, when he was no longer abandoning his Inner Child by going into his addictive thinking, he no longer felt alone within. Connecting with himself allowed him to connect with Spirit more and more of the time. Rather than getting there through thinking and trying to control it, he was getting there by being present in the moment with his inner experience - surrendering to the moment. Randall found that while he could not control others and the outcome of things, he actually did have control over his misery - by choosing the intent to learn rather than protecting against pain. While he couldn't control Spirit, he did have control his own intent, which eventually led to his being able to connect with Spirit.
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When you move into this moment with gratitude and appreciation, you open your heart and invite in the presence of Spirit. This week, practice remembering gratitude and appreciation and notice the aliveness of Spirit within you.
By Dr. Margaret Paul