Taming our overactive mind

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

TO have an active mind is, of course, a good thing. It facilitates many things: our thinking, our judging, assessing and reasoning. It fosters insights and intuition, allowing us to see and read more than what our eyes and other senses can perceive. It mitigates the effort to adapt to people and to the different situations in our lives. It enhances a proper reaction to events. Indeed, to be gifted with an active mind is a great blessing.

It is when the mind becomes overactive that we will have a problem. And it can be a big problem, as in, people getting into mental or psychological disorders, obsessions, phobias and other overreactions to certain stimuli. And the problem does not stop with the person only. It affects the family and society in general.

An overactive mind usually does not know how to rest even if the body is already dead tired and is literally pleading for sleep. It seems that it goes on its own, unmindful of the conditions of the other parts of the body.

When it gets engaged with something interesting or intriguing, it tends to exaggerate things. It hardly knows restraint and moderation in its operations. It does not know when to stop. It goes into a kind of perpetual self-overstimulation.

The sense of order is overturned, and the proper priorities in life are dismissed. Even the most elementary physical hygiene is neglected. You can just imagine what happens with regard to his duties to his spiritual life of prayer and his relation with God and others.

Sad to say, many now are the cases of people with this kind of condition. There can be many factors to explain the phenomenon. Babies now are fed with super enriched milk and food, heavily packed with energy hormones. There are now more kids reported to have what is called ADHD—attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Children are exposed to so many things—gadgets, Internet, etc.—such that very early on in their life, they would not know the values of discipline, order, focus, direction, so important in life. They now are more prone to the dictates of their instincts and feelings, rather than to right reason. Said another way, their mind is driven more by their instincts and emotions alone. The capacity to think properly is weakened if not lost.

As to how to address this problem, there can be no other definitive way than to refer things always to God. Yes, some drugs can help, some exercise both physical and mental also can, some psychological therapy can offer certain relief.

But the definitive cure will always be when one goes or returns to God and follow his will, commandments and example as shown by Christ, the God who became man. It’s in his spiritual life that the disorder has to be remedied and cured. It’s in his genuine relation with God that the problem can be definitively solved. And it need not require a miracle, although a miracle can always be asked and is always welcome.

With prayer and being with God, one gets to know how to discipline his thoughts and direct them along with the ways of charity and truth, always supported by an array of virtues—humility, prudence, temperance, etc.

With God, one realizes the importance of self-denial and a healthy sense of abandonment in the hands of God which is not an excuse for not exerting one’s due effort in any enterprise. He would have a clear picture of what he can do, and what he cannot, what are his strengths and assets, and what are his limitations and weaknesses, and behave according to those parameters.

It would be good that one exerts a strong will-power to say no to certain temptations and occasions that can trigger an over-active mind. Of course, it would be highly advisable that one has recourse to a good spiritual director who can guide him in today’s tricky world of the new developments.