We can often blame rumination or continually mentally analysing things in our life as an achilles heal in our thinking. But part of this habit could go back to our ancient ancestors’ need to keep themselves safe. We are all evolved from our early ancestors who would, even before speech, have to keep themselves safe as they mapped out the days’ chores in their minds. Just as we do now.
However they couldn’t reach for Google Maps to guide them safely out of their village. To get past the large tree on the left a mile down the road that often had dangerous snakes around would mean them going back into their memory banks and visualising all the options. They could always take the other route alongside the river but if they did they would have to make sure the river was safe to cross. And of course they had to be careful not to upset the mother elephant who lived on the left hand side of the bank as they were making their way to the stream.
Like us, they had choices to make, but their choices could mean life or death on their way to collect water or hunt for food. So we can imagine them having to carefully work out in their minds the safest route every time they stepped outside the limits of their village.
Much of our thinking patterns are still to a large degree connected to the primal parts of the brain. This part of the brain has one job to do and that is to keep us alive. All these primal connections are still working from the same survival needs that we are using from all those centuries ago.
So it makes sense that we can get ourselves stuck in a loop trying to make up our minds what order to do things, whether we take the train or the plane plus myriads of options and choices in our daily lives. This overthinking and worry can sometimes make us feel as if we are on a hamster wheel as we continually analyse every small detail that comes to mind. All those centuries ago this was a matter of life or death and sometimes it can feel as if we are still in that same place.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other stress issues are all linked to this natural overthinking process which can get out of hand. Learning how to detach and negotiate our way round a never-ending loop of thoughts and worries will help lift us out of the tension and stress that has been keeping us locked “looking out for danger” 24 hours a day.