Addicted to Thinking

Excerpts from "Addicted to Thinking: A Thought Addict's Recovery Program"

by Benjamin Schwarcz, MFT and Recovering Thought Addict

There is a plague that has held the world hostage for at least several thousand years. It has grown in size and severity from generation to generation like a virus, ever-mutating and gaining strength as time rolls on. It is a hidden addiction – far more hidden than any other addiction known to humankind. In fact it is so well hidden that few people even recognize it exists. Barely a soul among us escapes it's grasp. Many, many lives have been lost as a result of this addiction, and unfathomable misery is left in it's wake. It has given rise to terrible wars, unspeakable acts of greed, violence and destruction on the planet. It affects both rich and poor alike, and affects men and women in equal measure. There is one segment of the population that is spared this insidious disease, at least for a short time, and that is the newly born (that is to say, infants). Most are spared this soul-crushing illness for at least a few years. Some make it to about age five, while others may last a little longer. Those indoctrinated into the public school system sadly fair the worst, often pressured to adopt the addictive thought habits of their parents at pre-school age, or even sooner. Even those in the best of environments, and surrounded by loving and responsible adults, cannot escape the legacy of addiction that permeates their families, communities and nations.

This addiction binds us to one of the most subtle substances, (thought), and therefor it is very elusive. While commonly recognized addictions are often easy to spot – alcohol and drug addictions being the most obvious, followed by the less apparent food addictions and the often hidden sex and pornography addictions, this addiction is essentially invisible. Thought Addiction hides right out in the open, and thus we easily fail to recognize it's existence. In fact, like the social acceptance of alcohol, or the cultural emphasis on food, “thinkers” are often rewarded and strongly encouraged to engage in their addiction. The peer pressure can be immense among certain circles and classes – among them, linguists, journalists, scientists, lawyers, psychologists, philosophers and many others who pride themselves on their intellectual prowess, and their depth of knowledge. Yet it exists just as strongly among the working class in which the deeply ingrained thought-habit often has such a strangle hold, that the idea of living without thinking – even for a few minutes – is, well, unthinkable!

As you read this, you may actually find this amusing, and you may be wondering if this is some sort of joke. But I assure you, the joke is on all of us. For what we give up in exchange for a thinking mind that churns out thoughts like a well-oiled machine, is so precious, and so vast, that we can scarcely conceive of it. The sorrows and happiness of the mind are a mere dream in contrast to the infinite bliss that we all long for, yet cannot find. We know not where to look for real happiness. So we surrender again and again to the mind's endless production of new thoughts and with them, new desires, which we seek to fulfill in the outer world, desperately hoping to attain lasting peace and joy. But what a cruel trickster the intellect is – for it is powerful in it's effects. No drug can intoxicate us so completely as the intellect. Thought is the most powerful hallucinogen known to humanity. Not only does it produce the most fantastic inner visions, but it projects these visions outwardly as well,f and we cannot tell the inner from the outer world. The “outer” world takes on such vivid detail, that in our thought-drunken state we mistake it for reality and we interact with it as if it were completely solid, ever-lasting and even dangerous. We fear it and we love it. We feel vulnerable in this dream world, and yet we see it as the object of our desires and the fulfillment of our endless cravings. But in the end, it only leads to misery, illness and death. Nobody escapes. This is a progressive illness. Unless you are on a path of recovery, you will not overcome this mother of all addictions.

As with any other addiction, those who adopt an ego-bound position, a false confidence, superiority complex or cocky attitude about overcoming the temptations of their addiction, fall the hardest.

Accepting the fact that you are Addicted to Thinking

The first step you must take in overcoming this addiction it to recognize you have a problem. Any amount of denial will make it impossible to succeed in liberating yourself from the habit of thinking.

Most people will fail at this first step. Why? Because most people are not ready to give up the thinking habit. The most common reasons are based on distorted and self-defeating beliefs, such as the following:

  • “It is not possible to exist without thinking.”
  • “I would be incapacitated and useless if I didn't think.”
  • “I like thinking too much. I couldn't be happy if I gave up thinking.”
  • “I function better when I think.” (not unlike, “I drive better when I drink.”)
  • “I'd have nothing to say or talk about if I didn't think.”
  • “I'd lose my job if I didn't think.”
  • “I'd lose my friends if I didn't think. All my friends are thinkers.”
  • “There would be nothing to do if I didn't think. I'd be bored.”
  • “I wouldn't know anything. I'd be stupid if I wasn't thinking.”

The fact is, all of these fears are irrational and based on a distorted understanding of how the mind works. Stay tuned, for
Part 2: Understanding the Nature of Thought.