A couple of recent conversations prompted this post. Both revolved around, basically, overthinking. We tend to make things so complicated and difficult when in reality they aren’t – they’re quite simple. But there is a difference between simple and easy, just as there is a difference between attention and awareness.
Most people have not read Albert Einstein’s book on relativity. I have (duh, and here’s a link to it: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Realtivity_the_Special_and_General_Theor/HnpjKHdCJToC?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover) but don’t jump to the conclusion that I understood it. Of course not… But, I was able to see how Einstein created a remarkable understanding from something incredibly simple. E=mc2 is so utterly simple but it is the result of many many pages of complex mathematics. He starts with a simple separation of reference points (simplified for my purposes) of K and K prime (K’) and then goes into all the math to make his points, ending with E=mc2.
Knowing there is a simple solution to the problem, must we go through all the machinations to arrive at it? I don’t think so. Just accept it as it is, at face value.
Victor Frankl said “In between a stimulus and response there is a space. That space is the freedom to choose our response…” This space must be traversed, but I believe that it is not always necessary to go through it; oftentimes we can simply acknowledge it and the suck that lies there and simply jump over. There is no need to pass through the space!
Consider this: The Wise Mind is elevated and unconcerned. It is aware of the noise of worry but does not attend to it, recognizing that to do so adds no value to the peace of the present moment.
So, how to get there… Always the trick isn’t it. In DBT there is a skill called Building Mastery. It’s not just about learning to play the piano or become a chess master, it is about incrementally building awareness of what is and being able to recall this state of mind (also know as Radical Acceptance) at will. I had mentioned my experience at the top of Loveland Pass a couple of years ago, where I felt so incredibly good and paid attention to not just the feeling but what created it. And I can recall that state of mind whenever I want. You can do the same, but start slowly. Find a way to create enjoyment out of even a mundane task, learning to pay attention to only what you are doing in the moment (One Mindfully) and notice that the distractions of intrusive thoughts are set aside. This is building mastery. The noise diminishes and even quiets completely.
Once you have done this some recognize that the same can be applied in any situation or state of mind. There is no need to stay mired in the muck and noise of your childish emotional mind.
I have to admit though, this isn’t some magical panacea. In fact, today my angst and ennui are close to the surface. I don’t have a lot to do today, my energy levels are pretty low, and I didn’t do a very good job decorating my daughter’s birthday cake. I used to be expert but now my hands shake, I don’t have the ingredients or equipment to “do it up” and so I accurately judge it as inadequate. However, it will taste very very good! Both are true, but what do I want to pay attention to? Recognizing the validity of both allows for a choice. I focus on that which is wanted (and true!) and the emotional judgment has nothing to grab hold of. It works, however imperfectly.
This is not complicated. It is simple but of course not easy, although “easy” is a matter of degree and a function of our judgment of what ought to be (rather than an acceptance of what is.) It just takes practice and a willingness to allow the reality of unwanted and unhelpful thoughts and emotions to exist but not pay attention to them.
With practice of the simple easy is achieved.