The Trap of Overthinking

We all create scenarios in our heads, don’t we? Similarly, we all have our own thoughts. Of course, thoughts come and go, while these scenarios are usually linked to our psyche, perhaps with our experiences in the womb, our genes, our environment, etc. Reasoning is a bit more complex and usually harder to change, while thoughts simply come and go, thousands of them. In order to gain a positive mindset, we will have to make an effort to reverse our negative thinking process. This is precisely because we possess that negativity. When a negative thought comes to us, as St. Paisius explains it beautifully, we should turn the wheel in the opposite direction. In other words, when a negative thought about someone comes to us, we should immediately look back at ourselves. This is why common sense is necessary to cultivate a positive mindset. “How could I judge and accuse someone when I am worse than them?” Or, for example, if I see something bad, I will think, “If I were in that person’s place, how would I act?” Or let’s take this wonderful example from the Elder.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was considered immoral; she was too ostentatious and heavily made up. Everyone, of course, judged her and called her derogatory names, while a certain monk wept. “Why are you crying?” “I think to myself, if this woman puts so much effort into her outer beauty, how will I, as a monk, justify myself if I don’t put in at least as much effort for my Christ?” In that very moment and on the spot, free from condemnation, he turned to himself. He showed good sense, spoke a kind word for that woman or anyone else who could be mentioned and therefore could be prayed for.

If we can’t turn our thoughts back, we will definitely end up in psychiatry. This is a symptom of our time, and of course, we here in the monastery are not immune to it. For example, I stand here by the door and talk to someone, while someone else stands by the church about 150 meters away. Of course, when we talk to someone, we unconsciously smile or look around. “No, you were looking at me!” From that moment on, everything falls apart. Even a little scary. And you should be scared because if that’s how you see things, “you’re not fair to yourself,” as our Elder usually said. He didn’t say, “You’re harming yourself,” but “You’re not fair to yourself.” And then we’ll be alone, crying and complaining about it. But who would want to approach someone they are too afraid to even speak to, because that person will immediately start judging him or someone else? That’s really exhausting. We are all tired. We need gentle, comforting words and hugs. If we continue to judge and criticize…

The other day, I received a message about a person who went to church and had their phone ring. This could happen to any of us. The man was obviously embarrassed because he couldn’t turn off his phone immediately. The priest scolded him, as did the people who were praying there. He left the church with his wife, who also scolded him for his foolishness. He left feeling upset and that same night, as I was told, he went to a bar. His phone rang again. Actually, no. He ordered a drink because he was feeling tense and nervous. He dropped the drink. The employee approached him and said, “It’s okay, sir!” and immediately cleaned up the spill. The bar owner approached him and said, “Don’t worry, sir,” and gave him a new drink. Another man approached him, tapped him on the back, and said, “It’s alright, buddy. Everything’s fine.” After experiencing these two completely different incidents in one day, he no longer wanted to enter the church. The message ended with, “Tell me, who is responsible for this situation? Are we responsible for what happened or not?” We often just say, “Well, that person is just like that.” But do we even know why they are like that? Are we even aware that we have the power to change those negative prejudices they have? You know, this is also a trap. Because we only care about ourselves, we only think about our inner struggles. But have we even taken the time to help someone change their negative prejudices?