The suffering of intelligence
I remember an old friend of mine, one of those a little on the good side, few thoughts on his mind and a lot of good humor, to whom I kindly said, between the serious and the facetious, “lucky you that you don’t understand a c … zo”. It was my rather rude way of narrowing down what I thought of him in one sentence: a person who took life very lightly, never asking too many questions or too many problems. A perfect mind in his way of him that, precisely by virtue of his naive nature, would never have encountered distorting phenomena such as anxiety or depression. And so it was.
What I didn’t know is that what I had summed up in a sentence that, at a certain point had become more of a mockery than anything else, had a solid scientific basis. In fact, it seems that people with the highest IQ are those most prone to experiencing mood disorders during their life. This is a result of a survey by the University of California which found that, on a large sample, mood disorders have a 25% higher incidence on people with high IQ (above 132).
In short, my intuition was correct.
But why are the people with the greatest intellect who, absurdly, should also be able to read life in the most correct way, actually those most likely to get sick with anxiety and depression? The response that psychiatrists and psychologists give is linked to their greater sensitivity and to the oversized responses they give to events. In other words, those who are smarter on the one hand pay much more attention to what is happening around them than the others, and on the other they think about it much more, with a strong dose of thoughts and elaborations that can lead to obsession. From there then arise the aforementioned phenomena of anxiety and depression.
Intelligence can therefore be a double-edged sword especially when we are unable to channel it into useful creative or productive activities. When this does not happen, what happens is that we end up using it for mental loops in which there is a well-defined beginning but the end is never found, because a thought is never completely closed and another ten are generated from it.
To take advantage of one’s intelligence (who has it), without becoming slaves to it and without risking it backfiring, meditation can be very useful. In fact, through the meditative exercise the individual learns to focus on the present time by understanding a fundamental point that is that we are not our thoughts. We have therefore believed that we were the total architects of what our mind generates, but this is not the case. Some thoughts are created and manipulated by us, but others, many (especially those related to fears) develop in our mind in a completely spontaneous way, and the only way to ensure that they do not become a source of psychological suffering is to learn to deviate. from them, recognize them, accept and understand that they exist, but without clinging to them. When we learn to “watch” our thoughts, without clinging to them like an incapable jockey clings to an out of control horse, when we can do this, we discover how those thoughts, those fears that crowded our mind up to a second before, at some point they go away on their own. They disappear.
It sounds like an easy exercise but it’s not. It takes practice. And the smart ones find it harder to achieve tangible results because, by nature, they would be inclined to over-process those thoughts. They don’t know how to let it go. The intelligent lives on thought, it feeds on it, but it is a sometimes toxic nourishment to which we must learn to give the right importance because, like all double-edged blades, thoughts can be useful for understanding today’s world and creating that of tomorrow, but they can also hurt us when they control us, and not us who control them. Sneaky.