Thinking About Thinking

In my vocation (engineering) and my avocation (writing), thinking is a highly prized ability.   On the spiritual side of my life, it gets mixed reviews.   There are people who believe thinking gets in the way of grasping the 12 Steps.   I’ve been told I think too much and said it about myself.   I have a friend who says, I know I’m in trouble when I start thinking.  I wonder, Didn’t you have to think to come to that conclusion?  Others say, My best thinking got me here and My head is a dangerous place to be alone.  Yet in Al-Anon literature, I can find the single word slogan … Think.

I found an interesting website, 164 and More, that lists the 43 occurrences of the word thinking in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.   It mentions wrong thinking, twisted thinking, negative thinking and wishful thinking.   It talks about clear thinking, positive thinking and straight thinking.  It mentions finding a new way of thinking and asking God to direct our thinking.   It says thinking can be bad, not that it is bad.  Whew.  Because the way I see it, it’s almost impossible not to think.  Why do you think meditation can be so hard?

I’ve been reading Richard Carlson’s book, you can be HAPPY no matter what.  You probably know Carlson from is best known book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff).  His premise is that every feeling is preceded by a thought, so that by understanding our thinking process, we can feel happy more often.  He says we confuse our thoughts with reality, while they are only our perception of reality.   How many times have you found that the actions of a friend that seemed directed against you actually had nothing to do with you, yet you felt sad or betrayed?   He talks about how our thought systems, built over a lifetime of experience color our perception of reality.  By understanding that we are the thinkers of our own thoughts … and that they are not, in fact, reality … he suggests that we can not take each thought so seriously, deciding which to focus or act on.    That makes a lot of sense to me.

He makes one leap that I won’t follow, saying that all events are neutral … we make them positive or negative with our thoughts.   It’s the same leap he made when he said, It’s All Small Stuff.   Maybe in the cosmic sense, everything is neutral but I don’t want to be that detached.  When I lose a dear friend or tragedy strikes in the world, it’s not neutral, not in any sense that a compassionate human can swallow.   Beyond that, Carlson’s book provides an interesting approach for an over-thinker to deal with his thoughts without giving them up.

What do you think?

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5 Comments on “Thinking About Thinking”

  1. cherperz Says:

    No doubt about it…I am an over-thinker. I recognize that my thoughts are coming from a biased place. My place…the place that has my life’s experiences, perceptions, joys, heartaches and all the things that play into how I view things. With that being said, I hate those types of books that tell me that every feeling is within my control. “On any given day it is your choice to be happy or sad” is such Bu******

    I might go so far as to say, any given day you can choose to pick yourself up if you get knocked down by an event, situation, comment…whatever, but I dare say, you might be sad or depressed while you strive to move forward.

    I have every version of Richard Carlson’s books and my thought is that he figured out a great way to make some cash writing while peddlling euphoric nonsense. Perhaps, I could write a book “You Can Be Pissed Off at the Big Stuff” (and everyone has some big stuff). Bud, I will have you co-write some of it with me. How about it???

    • oldereyes Says:

      I have a bit of a different take, as they say. He does what many self-help authors do, take a notion that makes a lot of sense then stretch it into a book (or books – think Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus). He also takes it to an extreme … as in all events are neutral. I do believe that if we take what’s going on in our heads less seriously, we can be happier, though.


  2. I’m thinking too much to think about thinking.

    I can’t help but think. It’s who I am, it’s how I’m wired. Does it get me in trouble? Yup. Do I think all the time, constantly, unrelentingly? No… it usually goes in spurts. I get my teeth into something and think myself into insanity about it until I get myself so worn out that I have to let it go or I’ll snap. It’s exhausting. But it’s funny you mention mediation. I had a massage yesterday – the only time I really try to clear my head (and it’s been three months since I had a massage). As I lay on the table I tried to remember the concept of meditation I read: it’s not about NOT thinking – it’s about letting a thought come, and then letting it go rather than obsessing or analyzing or ruminating. That helped.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I’ve heard it described as letting the thoughts go by like word’s on a screen. I’ve always needed something like a mantra to attach myself to, otherwise, there are too many thoughts to ignore. I’m better off getting immersed in painting or music.


  3. I am also an over-thinker of everything. And I find at times when I am really upset – it’s because I’ve spent too much time obsessing and projecting worst case scenarios and usually over things of which I have no control over.


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