I first became aware of my compulsive thinking when I was almost 35, at the beginning of my mid-life crisis. I was then caught emotionally in a divorce situation, with consequent separation from my family that included my five small children. Part of my reactions, which overally were pretty normal, was repetitive, egocentric, compulsive, needless thinking; mentally explaining to others (who never asked, nor did I tell), rationalizing contingencies, etc. I found it insufferable because I knew I was lying; my thinking invariably served my ego through self-grandizement, occasioning later remorse. It became a compelling addiction for at over a year; an addiction that I concealed, was ashamed of, and tried everything to stop, but always failed. Particularly when I was driving or doing other mindless tasks I would occasionally become aware of my thinking, only to fall back into it.
Since then, in the ensuing 35 years, my addictive, grandizing thinking frequently recurs, but its topic and circumstances change. For example, during a sesshin when my mind should have become quiet, it was instead compulsively thinking through and planning an email explaining Buddhism to a friend. It served my ego-devils since the email would make me look good. My thinking, seemed 99% non-productive if not counterproductive. It is the opposite of being mindful; nevertheless I must have spent forty hours thinking about writing the email later that later took only minutes, and later I revised it in an hour or so to become The Noble Truths, paraphrased. My struggle to be mindful always failed into compulsively thinking, deeply clouding the entire sesshin. My conflicting feelings were intense (e.g., anger and hatred at myself, with guilt, remorse, and repentence alternating with brief periods of my clear determination to be mindful.)
I do not know if this is a serious psychological and emotional addiction problem or simply an "absent-minded professor"-like and "Walter Mitty"-like syndrome that is innocent, obvious and forgivable, since it happens to many of us; "a tempest in a teapot". During my divorce I did see several psychotherapists and psycholologists, and went to a variety of therapy groups; in retrospect they were at best ineffective. My oldest brother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, with similar but much more overt symptoms. On the other hand, for me now, on my many prior occassions, the clouds eventually pass, usually as soon as I am able to take some reasonable action and move on. Other addictions that I don't suffer, such as to alcohol, smoking or sex, seem much more compelling and destructive.
I may again try talk to a therapist, and perhaps a zen teacher, about my addiction. My guess however is that the resolution, if there is to be one during my lifetime, will not be engineered or executed by me; and instead will result from some morsel of grace, perhaps analogous to the morsel of grace that relieved my addition to smoking 30+ years ago.
Way on, to Prospective Obituary.
Back to Isbergs' Homepage