Stop Overthinking. Overthinking causes so much stress and anxiety. This post offers inspiration from Alan Watts to help understand that controlling our emotional reaction to our thoughts and having a good outlook can set us free.
Alan Watts was a man who brought his interpretations of eastern philosophies, especially zen, to the west. One of my favourite stories of his is “The Chinese farmer.”
Here is the story, paraphrased below
The Chinese Farmer
Once upon a time in ancient China, there was a farmer. This farmer’s horse ran away and his neighbours came round to commiserate. They said they were “sorry to hear the bad news that your horse has run away”. The Chinese farmer replied “Maybe”.
Soon after, when the horse came back, he didn’t come alone he brought 7 wild horses with him. When the neighbours came back that night, they were celebrating his good fortune. “How lucky you are to have 8 horses now!” Again, he replied “Maybe”.
The next day one of his sons had an accident while trying to break in one of the new horses, he fell and broke his leg.” The neighbours chorused with “That’s too bad”. And you can guess the farmers reply was “Maybe”.
The following day the army came, looking for conscripts. The farmer’s son wasn’t taken because of his broken leg. The neighbours celebrated “Isn’t that great!”
Again, the farmer replied “Maybe”.
It’s easy to see how the “neighbours” might be the farmer’s initial thoughts and what a rollercoaster ride he would have been on. We don’t know what the consequences of something that seems like bad luck might be. It could benefit us in the long run. Everything is connected. Maybe we get used to labelling things as good luck or bad fortune as we go along. “But maybe everything is just the way it is supposed to be” Alan Watts. His thinking was that the results of anything creates ripples in the universe so we can’t know their effects for certain. He believed we can only control our emotional response to any event and valued keeping a good outlook.
This could be seen as similar to “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” But Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a prisoner of his own thinking and wishes he did not know so much.
Alan watts had something to say about over thinking “A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about but thoughts. So, he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions. By thoughts I mean …perpetual and compulsive repetition of words”.
Hypnotherapy works to address overthinking but breaking the pattern of repetitive thinking. With reduced stress and anxiety, we find it easier to control our emotional reactions to unhelpful thoughts. Just like training, the more you practice it the easier it becomes.
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