Thinkers think, talkers talk, provers prove.

May 5, 2009

Ever met anyone who lives in the world of ideas, theories, and words?  Yet does not spend much time in life living with real people and real circumstances? thinker

Typically people like this “live in their heads”.  They have little practical experience with how the complex ideas and theories they think about and read about actually apply in every day life.  They are theorists.  Academics.  Without the proving ground of real life.

I have a friend who is fixated on particular legal issues.  He is disabled so he spends his days researching these issues and arguing his complex theories on-line with others.  His pattern is read-think-argue.  But seldom live-experience-prove.

One day I got a glimpse of how impractical his life was.  I was giving him a ride  for which he, of course, printed out a map from mapquest and planned the “optimum route”.  This map to me represented his theory or idea of how we should get to our destination and of course not the practical truth of the journey.

Having practical knowledge of the area we were in… as I had driven in the area for many years… I pointed out that his map did not properly show a freeway that had no crossing where he anticipated.  Of course, he argued that the map (theory) said it did.

It actually took showing him to convince him that there was no crossing where he felt there should have been.  His theory was wrong.  It did not bear meaningfully in real life.

Upon closer examination of the map, it did show a thinning of the line over the freeway which proved to be a pedestrian overpass, not a vehicle overpass.

So we altered our route to the next clearly marked vehicle overpass.  Which I happened to know was under construction and suggested to him that I knew this from experience.  However, he was so prone to living by theories, he insisted we try this route shown on the map.  Once again, practical experience proved to show something different than the theory alone.

In both cases, the thoughts, theories, or arguments proved some level of truth.  Yet were incomplete in their practical application as my friend had thought they should be.  His theories were not tested in the real world.

I found as an alcoholic, one of the common thinking patterns was to theorize life in how it “ought to” be.  I lived in a world of impractical expectations and ‘shoulds’.  The problem I found was that I was partially right a lot of the time.  This partial correctness only served to cosign many of my misbelief so I remained stuck.

I find the argument hobbyists on the internet to be the same way.  Big on read and think.  Small on experience and prove.

It was not until the painful results of believing unproven truths hurt me enough to be willing enough to open my mind and accept that life existed beyond the confines of my thinking and theories.

Today I find that all the thinking and talking are incomplete without the living, and doing which result in proving.  Proving what the theories and thoughts actually are and how they apply to life as it is, not how I wish or imagine it to be. 

In learning this kind of open-mindedness, life is far less complicated.  I argue less with my self or anyone else and am happy to let God and life prove what is or isn’t.


  1. Very thought provoking Chaz. It’s very important to be open minded 🙂

    Glad your doing well!


  2. Hey Chaz,

    This is a perennial problem with me, too often THINKing that I am right and never letting the facts get in the way of my half-right theory.

    Fortunately, I am making some progress in this area. I know that I don’t need to read more theory about how life should be; I just need to go out and live by letting life bring what it brings. Too often I still feel safe if I have the idea of how it all should be; and this is a recipe for resentment when things don’t go as expected (or even demanded by me and my pigheadedness).

    Anyhow, I work at it, and try to get better day by day. Thanks for the post.


  3. Man Alive….

    Sounds like some lights are coming on for you.

    I suppose one reason many of us live in our head and ideas is because it is safer and less painful than facing changes and challenges should we step out of the protective fortresses of our thoughts, theories and ideas.

    We could go on and on arguing ideas and concepts because there is no end to the number of ideas and concepts out there.

    Besides which, none of them are tested in the real world so really only the one who argues most vigilantly will tend to prevail.

    Or even if they are not getting anywhere in the argument, there is no deterent to just being stubborn and not quitting. This does not prove anything practical, just that one was more persistent or just plain stubborn.

    Theorists face no real-life consequence to being wrong because they seldom enter real life and deal with real people.

    This applies to alcoholics, argument hobbyists, or anyone who spends more time with information and thoughts than they do with people and real life circumstances.

    Anyway… glad to hear things are getting better day by day.

    Thanks for the reply.



  4. Lores…. always nice to hear from you!



  5. Hi Chaz,

    I felt myself becoming defensive while reading this post, which only means it must have hit a sore spot.

    I don’t know how to live outside my own head. As soon as it got real, I found an excuse to run in the opposite direction.

    I don’t know why I feel the need to think or behave in this manner, but it’s so ingrained in who I am — or who I think I am — that I can’t see what I’m doing at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, but I suppose that’s the need to involve others in my recovery — others who can point these things out to me and help me get through my moments.

    So thanks for pointing it out. Much appreciated (again).

  6. Hey Blu…

    Happy the post rattled you a bit.

    Believe me, some of the best growth I have ever gone through was when someone said something that rattled the crap out of me.

    I would often bounce their words around my head for a few days and then finally realize something valuable in the painful experience that would change my life for the better.

    I did not mean to insult or put down those that live mainly in their heads. My point was that it is a complicated and less effective way to live. And also that I have been there and am still recovering from living this way at the dangerous extreme that I once did.

    Since experiencing some growth in this area… mainly painful growth… life has gotten so much better and I feel so much calmer, less anxious, very little depression, and much less argumentative.

    Life is just so much better. And there is lots of growing yet to do.

    And the practical rewards are amazing. Better relationships, better job, more money, better health, and frankly… I laugh a lot.

    Don’t worry about never being able to use your head or be a thinker again. There is lots of thinking left to do. It is just that when we stop living mainy in our heads, and balance our living with more real life and real interacting, our thoughts become less toxic, less self-serving, less self-destructive, less futile, less cluttered, less painful.

    Frankly, I find we think more wisely and effectively.

    These are simpy my experiences of having tried it more than one way. I prefer the way I am thinking now…. and progressing on as time moves on.

    Now that to me was worth the pain of a number of people rattling my old way of thinking. Eh?



    • Thanks for sharing your experiences — I’d like to laugh a lot someday too.

      I find myself only able to handle small bits of “real” things at at time. And I constantly set myself up for failure. Then I’m back to where I started. This is the cycle I’ve been in lately.

      And I’m terrified of giving up control, because every horrible thing that’s happened to me has been beyond my control. I see the flaw in that statement — How can I control things that are beyond my control? — but it’s difficult to change the way I think. Really difficult. It seems automatic to me.

      I’ve always sought a balance in my life — I just didn’t know that it was my own head preventing me from finding it. I think I’ll get there someday, now that I’m more aware of what I’m doing. I’m definitely in a different/better place than where I was a couple of months ago.

      So thanks for posting. Recovery seems plausible for me when I read of your successes and imperfections.

  7. Blu….

    The phrase ‘progress, not perfection’ is one often quoted in reference to doing a little at a time. Do what you can. Nobody is expecting you to change everything about yourself and definitely not overnight.

    You only compete with yourself. To be better than you the day before. There is no race between you or anyone else other than the race you choose to participate in.

    So keep doing what you can. And no more. Which as you point out, is an obvious statement given that we stop where our capabilities stop.

    Often, we fee anxiety when our expectations of self exceed our capabilities. I learned to keep my expectations more realistic with my capabilities. A lot less anxiety and depression.

    Believe me, you are on a pathway to better things. A little at a time and a day at a time.

    One day, wham! You will realize how far you have come.

    “We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us”, is one of the promises that come about in time.

    Keep doing what you are doing.



  8. I was just listening to a recovery broadcast.

    The speaker was talking about the distinction between doing an:

    Intelectual Step 1 and an Experiential Step 1.

    This speaks to my point about thinks, talkers, and doers.

    The times that I talked about the fact that I was powerless over alcohol (step 1) or thought about it only, my sobriety never lasted.

    When I experienced step 1 by having alcohol beat the ever-lovin’ crap out of my life, and then I began to DO step 1 by staying away from alcohol and progressing with DOING my program of recovery, it was then that I began to get stronger in maintaining my sobriety and began to recovery and live in less pain, confusion and chaos.

    A big piece that many intellectual/theorist critics of the 12 steps is that they cannot know what it is like for alcholics of our type to experience what we experience.

    It is all thoughts and theories to them of what “should be”. Based on things they read or hear.

    I had experiential chronic alcoholism and it took doing an experiential step 1 to make finally begin to make changes.

    Why did it seem to have to be this way? Who cares! It just was and I am sober and recovering today whereas before I was not.

    Churches could not help me, their program of recovery could not help me, my doctor could not help me, my shrink, my family, my friends could not help me…. let me re-phrase…. what they did was helpful but it was not sufficient for me to get sober. And it wasnt for lack of trying.

    So theorize on! Think, Read, talk! Create your elaborate theories and theologies Doesnt sound like you all have much better to do anyway.

    Alcoholics of our type are out here doing the doing. Experiencing the experiencing. And thereby getting sober and our lives are improving.



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