Alan Watts: On Overthinking and How to Become More Self Aware

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” ― Alan Watts. Born in 1915, Alan Watts, was an English writer, speaker, and “philosophical entertainer”, a promoter of the Chinese, Japanese, and Indian traditions to the West.

He was quite the interesting character, and in this article, we will talk about a specific idea, which reflects the discontent of our civilization and cover some tips on how to be better and live a happier life. Curious? Then, let’s get into Alan Watts: On Overthinking and How to Become More Self Aware!

Don’t Think Too Much

The following are extracts from an interview with Alan Watts, expressing some deep ideas. I will share the quote and then my opinion and analysis of them.

“A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So, he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusions. By thoughts, I mean specifically, chatter in the skull. Perpetual and compulsive repetition of words, of reckoning and calculating. I’m not saying that thinking is bad.”

Have you ever felt you were not ‘present’? Have you ever felt life was just passing you by? I have, and being aware of it can get scary. Sometimes we are so focused on our thoughts that we cannot differentiate between them and reality. We stop being present, we stop being aware, and we can end up losing ourselves.

“Like everything else, it’s useful in moderation. A good servant but a bad monster. And all so-called civilized peoples have increasingly become crazy and self-destructive because, through excessive thinking, they have lost touch with reality. That’s to say, we confuse signs, words, numbers, symbols, and ideas with the real world.”

When we lose sense of reality, we start living in a “bubble“, in a pseudo-reality, where we are “protected” from (our imaginary) monsters, or that is what we think. My problem with this is the “pseudo” part. Our society lacks critical thinking, we tend to praise and promote theories, which sound nice on paper, but in the practical, real world, just don’t work.

“We are so tied up in our minds, that we’ve lost our senses and don’t realize that the air stinks, water tastes of chlorine, the human landscape looks like a trash heap, and much of our food tastes like plastic. Time to wake up.”

This idea is straightforward. We think and worry all day long, but not about what we should focus on. We should focus on being in sync with nature, to balance ourselves (physically, psychologically, and spiritually). But how?

Become Aware

What Watts proposed to heal ourselves, and become aware is the following.

Focus on the Present

The past is already gone, and the future is not here yet, so, focus on the present, what is around you? How do you feel? What can you see?


Alan was a promoter of these techniques. To meditate is to calm the waters of your mind, to leave it alone. You need practice, otherwise peace and clarity will probably evade you!


We will repeat it a million times – we do not know how to breathe, and this is impacting your body and mind. Learn how to use your nostrils and stomach, you will see and feel the difference.

This article is for you to reflect on these ideas. To read whimsically without purpose is easy, to put into practice what you have learned and be critical about is hard, but it’s a must. I hope you enjoyed the wisdom of Alan Watts, let us know your thoughts below.

Agustin Cardone

Agustin Cardone, from Argentina, currently lives in Ireland, and studies psychology in Mexico. He fell in love with sports when he started playing rugby at 14, soon becoming team captain. He now lifts weights and practices boxing as a way to release stress. He is highly interested in the relationship between body and mind, and is curious about how the brain works and why people do what they do. He would like to help people with addiction, depression, and personality disorders. He believes we all have a story to tell and that we should express it.

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