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As evolved humans, we think. Sometimes we overthink as well.  And, therein lie the traps.

Our forest dwelling ancestors may not have thought so much. They possibly led simpler lives, largely driven by emotions & impulse, seldom pausing to think (forget over thinking), as they went about hunting & gathering in the wild.

Today, we take pride in our rational thought. We think often. We like to think hard. We believe our ability to reason will help us do well. 

And sometimes, at least some of us, tend to over think. The dangers of over thinking are many.

Andre Kukla, in his interesting book ‘Mental Traps – The Overthinkers Guide to a Happier Life’, points out the common dangers we face. He defines ‘Mental Traps’ as habitual modes of thinking that disturb our ease, take up enormous amounts of our time, and deplete our energy, without accomplishing anything of value for us or for anyone else in return.

Most of us are prey to such modes of thinking. The book identifies common mental traps, labelling them, like persistence, amplification, fixation & so on. It’s useful to be aware of such traps, label & list them to make it easy for us to spot them, and be on constant vigil against falling for them. Almost all of us fall for these traps every day, in all kinds of activities, mundane & esoteric. They make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to pursue what we really value and want to accomplish.

The book is rich with examples for each of the traps, taken from our daily lives. Needless to say, the above traps are encountered largely by people who tend to over think. Sometimes, more than one trap act together, causing the overthinker to constantly wade through a field of landmines.

What’s the way out?

The author suggests we adopt two policies, throughout our lives

  1. Attentiveness – commit ourselves totally to paying careful attention to whatever we’re doing. This will help make us aware of any of the above mental traps we may be heading into.
  2. Practice Thought-watching – allocate some time, periodically, to just sit quietly and watch our thoughts.

Now, both the above ideas are easier said than practiced. A thoughtful life has its downsides and is not easy, but neither is an impulsive life. How to strike a balance? We should know our demons first, before we can wrestle with them.

Thinking is hard. Overthinking more so.