A better line of enquiry is what causes "irrational" human suffering.... in the form of mental disorders or mental diseases like agoraphobia, panic disorder, GAD, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive or drug addiction.
All these disorders are irrational, they hijack the rational mind (cortex) and cause the sufferer to behaviour in a limited way, which leads to increasing amounts of mental and emotional abuse.
If you study these disorders, they all seem to form a positive feedback loop (reinforcing loop) of learned behaviour. The rational mind seems to get hijacked by the emotional part of the brain (Amygdala or sub-cortex) .... almost like a short circuit. This is where a lot of extreme and unhelpful emotions can get triggered, such as fits of rage, fits of terror, disgust, envy, guilt, cravings, compulsive patterns etc. The sufferer will often feel like they're losing control of their emotions and rational decision making.
In the case of drug addiction.... here's a studied which discusses this issue http://22.214.171.124/boundary/addictio ... sponse.pdf
It seems addicts who suffer from compulsive or obsessive behaviour, which is detrimental to their well-being, are being hijacked by the sub-cortex part of their brain circuitry. From my own experience, the nature of "unwanted" physical sensations seem to play a big part in why this is occurring.
Most addicts will tell you they take drugs, because it makes them feel good, but unfortunately those positive feelings or sensations are very short lived.... before they feel unpleasant sensations or feelings again. This forces them to re-consume drugs to get the buzz feeling.... Its a reinforcing loop.
Panic, Agoraphobia & GAD work in almost the exact same way. The sufferer is trying to avoid unpleasant feelings or unwanted sensations due to specific triggers. The moment they feel unpleasant sensations they treat it as a threat, and try and avoid the trigger. Once they avoid the trigger, the unpleasant sensations subside. Which causes the same behaviour the next time around.
Have you heard about drug addicts who break the addiction cycle by exposing themselves to the withdrawal symptoms? Unpleasant sensations right? Its call going cold turkey.
Well, the way I see it now. Agoraphobia & Anxiety disorders are no different from drug addiction. Except rather than withdrawal symptoms, you get exposure or confrontational symptoms that arise.
But in either case of a drug addict or a Agoraphobic.... the sufferer treats the disorder by exposing themselves to the unwanted sensations until the compulsion to avoid those unwanted sensations subsides!
Therefore, its not about being present or not thinking. This has nothing to do with this kind of mental suffering or mental disorder. Its about exposing rather than avoiding unpleasant sensations that breaks the pattern of suffering.
Now at this stage you're problem asking yourself how is this relevant to my question? Because I'm someone who suffered immensely for several years, read Tolle's book, made being in the moment, abiding in presence (NOW) my daily practice... and it didn't cure me of my particular suffering. In other words, Abiding in presence didnt have any practical use to me whatsoever! The only practice that worked was exposing myself to things that we're triggering unwanted physical sensation. I don't see my irrational thoughts as being the issue at all. It was my avoidance behaviour due to those irrational fear, that needed to stop, and frankly it's much easier to stop avoiding things than changing your irrational thoughts about it. Because you directly realise the irrationality of those thoughts by exposure.