I’ve been thinking a lot about how I overthink all the time, particularly these last few days in the light of the death of Robin Williams.
Overthinking is not necessarily a bad thing. It helps us remain accountable for our decisions and to think about whether we are making the most of each day.
But overthinking can be exhausting.
The ‘thinkers’ among us, and I don’t define a ‘thinker’ by intelligence, are those of us who are more prone to self-analysis, self-blame and general dissatisfaction as a result of those exhausting thought processes. We expose ourselves to setting the bar too high and then being disappointed, which can ultimately lead to depression.
I wish I was one of those people who have the fortunate disposition to embrace life no matter what shit it slings at them. I envy them. But many of us become bogged down by the nitty-gritty and what we perceive as bad luck – a bit like when you ski over a mud patch. We become ‘victims’ because even though we might believe that we make our own luck very, very deep down, when fate throws those curve balls to test our strength, we can’t dodge the feeling of inadequacy they create.
Being a victim is not an attractive trait and we’re very aware of that. But sometimes the victim’s lair is a hard one to crawl out of.
When that shit rains down on us personally, or we hear about something awful that has happened to someone we love and catch ourselves thinking ‘fuck, that could have been me’, we might have a short-term knee-jerk reaction and make a pathetic effort to try and remain positive for a while, but it usually only lasts until the next dollop of shit hits the fan.
From a global and superficial perspective, we know how lucky we are in the western world. In theory, we have very little reason to be unhappy. It is impossible to compare the poor in the west to the poor in the East, if you measure those riches in terms of money. We are fortunate to have the best health care systems, we take sanitation for granted, we suffer from little disease, have adequate employment and enough money for most of us to be able to feed our families.
Yet, still many of us aren’t happy, are we? Because we know that those riches aren’t the important ones. Rich people get depressed and commit suicide too.
An Indian client of mine told me the other day that his first impression of Sydney is of a lack of vibrancy and ‘colour’; and by ‘colour’ he was not describing different races.
I was surprised. There seems to be plenty of vibrancy and colour when you walk down Oxford St or into The Rocks late on a Saturday night.
But in his opinion, even though Indian society has so much less to offer in terms of monetary reward and benefit, the people have so much more to give. Their ‘colour’ is not superficial, it’s not dependent on things that cost money. The spirit and ‘colour’ of his country comes from its sense of community. A sense of community that offers an inner peace and happiness.
Interestingly, there is very little depression.
The large western cities of the world can be isolating places to live – full of tourists and migrants who are alone and bereft of support from close family. The ‘colour’ of a community emanates from the love and warmth of family and friends and it can be lost when that family is divided. Community is created from spending time with people, knowing and understanding them and having a focus outside of work.
Religion can work to bring a community together too. It’s not all bad. I admit that I’m one of those sceptics that walks by my Christian church each week and watches their happy-clappy group love longingly, and then bitches about religion. Religion has its issues, and we certainly don’t need religion to build a community, but it can be a starting point.
Our children become more self-centred without elders to remind them about manners and respect. I see this problem in my own children. They haven’t had to sit through the rituals of family dinners or been knocked into shape by elderly, less tolerant relatives and so they have a tendency to be self-absorbed, to act ‘entitled’ – anything that doesn’t benefit them directly is too much for them.
We have failed in our responsibility to teach them how to give properly.
On the positive side, they are confident young adults because we have given them the opportunity to explore more of the world, absorb different cultures, the freedom of dual citizenship and access to a lifestyle that is more at one with nature.
But who do they turn to when they are pissed off with us? Who talks to them when we don’t know how to handle them? Communication with their friends is via their phones and social media these days, not at church, not around a raucous, Sunday lunch table with their extended family.
We are creating our own isolation and giving ourselves more time to overthink.
Perhaps that’s where western society has got it wrong. Life’s ‘colour’ shouldn’t cost anything.