Underthinking and why you have to stop it

Not overthinking is one of the ever present internet memes. I’m going to have a little bit of a rant about this. Step back now if you aren’t in soap-box mood, because this drives me nuts. I see precious little evidence of overthinking, and a lot of evidence that a lot of people amble carelessly through life doing far less thinking than is a good idea.

We need to think. We need to consider the consequences of our actions and the way our behaviour impacts on others and shapes our own future options. We need to consider our lifestyles, and the choices available to us rather than living in a reactionary way from moment to moment.

Spontaneity can be good, but the person who has no idea of their inclinations, feelings and intentions and no awareness of their unconscious and its impulses, can end up doing some bloody awful things spontaneously.

No past, no future, only the perfect now is probably fine if you’re sitting in a monastery surrounded by other people who are dedicating their lives to peace and enlightenment. If you are living in the world, this whole logic cuts you off from the consequences of your own actions. And sure, that can save us from awkward feelings like guilt, shame, and responsibility, but that’s a really questionable outcome.

Any tool can be used badly. If we use our rational minds to imagine every possible thing that could go wrong, or to over-interpret every tiny thing said to us, then yes, we will drive ourselves and the people around us crazy. Thinking deeply is a tool to deploy with care, and to develop the wisdom to know what to really dig into and what to let go comes from… wait for it… actually thinking about things.

In the meantime, how about we think a bit more about the ways our culture functions. Let’s think about the economic structures and who they are killing, let’s think about how the drive for profit destroys the planet, let’s think about human suffering, and non-human suffering around the world and how we might change that. Let’s think about the consequences of our lifestyle choices.

You’ll be happier if you don’t do this. You’ll be happier if you refuse to look, to know and to consider. You’ll be happier if you can pretend nothing is ever your fault or ever your responsibility. Underthinking is all about the ease of not dealing with the consequences, and the happiness that comes from being oblivious. It’s a happiness that kills. Underthinking is how we get to be the zombie apocalypse. It’s long past time to wake up.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “Underthinking and why you have to stop it

  • Tadhg Jonathan Gardner

    Thanks from sharing that. A timely reminder to us all. I think it’s all about balance or ‘tension’: About being ‘laid back’ and living in the present and letting things happen, which can lead to under-thinking, and thinking and planning ahead and decisively taking action, and to know the difference….and to be aware of the two ways of living.

    In every age, from Hebrew, Druid, Christian and others, the common cry from the sages is: Sleeper,awake!

    But, so many, it seems do run on ‘automatic’ in the name of spirituality, when, sometimes, logic and, indeed the spiritual thng dictates that we say something like, ‘Sorry, but no! That’s as soppy as a box of frogs!’.

    Thanks for sharing that. Well-written and much-need.

  • In The Autumn Of My Life

    Absolutely! I think living in the present moment is important when relaxing and meditating but we also have to live in the real world and consider solutions.

    I think we can have both. What living in the moment should mean is simply not ruminating about the past or worrying about the mundane future of our own six foot of space. For all our sakes it can never mean being uninformed or ignoring what we need to do to bring balance back to the Earth and seek solutions to repair the damage. Many blessings.

  • Eliza Armitage

    Yes, indeed. What I’ve realized is that, in one’s working years, one is trained not to think. Too busy, too stressed, and too often told “you’re not paid to think”–this usually from insecure managers. One ends up with a shattered internal mirror, from not thinking deeply. It’s a challenge I’m working on in blogging: moving from the impulsive, glib, social-media-influenced catchphrase to (ideally) intelligent, thoughtful topics expressed with depth and grace and genuine humour. In other words, reclaiming the habit and capability of thinking. Thanks for this post!

  • Bob Jones

    Great blog well said Nimue

  • goldkissesart

    I so agree! And wish I could say that in a way that is so eloquent…when I try to communicate the same things, I think I end up flaying the skin off in absolute frustration!

  • angharadlois

    Really interesting point. It’s got me reflecting on the relationship between over-thinking/under-thinking and the harmful economic structure and you describe. There’s a kind of over-thinking encouraged by mainstream lifestyles in this country which leads to an equal and opposite under-thinking, if that makes any sense – kind of like how eating too much of the wrong food can leave you under-nourished. The media in particular seems intent on trapping us into never-ending worry (will I keep my job, will my mortgage become unaffordable, will terrorists attack) while distracting us from deeper thinking about underlying issues (why does the economy have such a stranglehold on our lives, why do houses cost so much, how can terrorism be resolved). Real thoughtfulness is rare, but so important. It’s usually one of my favourite things about the people I respect 🙂

  • Leeby Geeby

    Very well said. And I like the way you mentioned the difference between monasteries and the real world. Looks good on paper, doesn’t always pan out. That were clear thinking comes in for sure.

  • Sheila North

    “Any tool can be used badly. If we use our rational minds to imagine every possible thing that could go wrong, or to over-interpret every tiny thing said to us, then yes, we will drive ourselves and the people around us crazy.”

    I do overthink, & when I do too much, it does indeed drive me certifiably crazy. My overthinking however tends to be about myself & my actions, and not about my social/cultural surroundings.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Another term might be short term vs long term thinking. A corporate CEO who, plans to be with a given company for seven years, may not plan for company operations beyond that. What makes a good profit today, might bankrupt you if you do it longer, not covering some costs and replacements for the future.

    Gee there is a nice sport cars someone left the keys it. Lets nick it and go for a joy ride. That person never considers the cost of getting caught, perhaps police car chase and dying in a crash. One of my friends pointed out that few criminals in prison have an ability to think things through, and tend to work on impulse. It is one reason they get caught over and over. Going to prison once, or often, is surely not the sign of a successful criminal but of a damn fool. However it is also never seen as their own fault, but that other person, be it being ratted on, or a policeman showing up at the wrong time, so they never actually learn anything.

    The same short term thinking shows up on the job, it can be the employee, or it can be the boss, or it can be both Whatever the department goes from disaster to disaster and is always under high stress and finger pointing.

    You also see it in government, at all levels. But our politicians making decisions seem to never learn either. We cut the budget here, put the money there in our new favored project, then lower the taxes on the wealthy, so that we don’t have the income to make any of it happen, finally blame the poor, the youth, the elderly, anyone but ourselves.

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