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I remember sitting in Abnormal Psych class, back in my undergrad days. This was a class of breakthroughs, for every student involved. The professor, who had worked for years in the field, would describe the characteristics and experiences that would lead to a particular disorder. During the lecture, we all made connections to ourselves, and somebody would inevitably be near tears by the time the professor, said, “And so it goes.”
Was there anything wrong with any of us? No. We were overthinking, overanalyzing.
Our brains love to work, and love to make connections. And in doing so, they often complicate the simplest aspects of our lives, and lead us to suffer needlessly.
I’ve found that spending time in the house, with nothing else to do, tends to lead me toward overthinking. My brain will make me absolutely miserable, if I don’t take measures to prevent it.
Here are some of the ways that many of us overthink:
1. Diagnosing ourselves.
All right, so we usually don’t actually diagnose ourselves with psychological disorders, but sitting alone, it is very easy to start picking apart and trying to fix ourselves. It’s good for us to always strive to be the best we can be, but we need to begin from the assumption that we are improving on what is already good. When we're overthinking, we “find” deficiencies all over, and try to fix them. We can end up apologizing for the most ridiculous things, and basically driving ourselves nuts.
2. Overanalyzing the reactions of others.
After we're done with ourselves, we may start picking apart our interactions with friends and co-workers. Did we say something wrong? Are we giving them the wrong impression? Are we annoying them? Are we too open? Too aloof? This kind of thinking leads to second guessing everything, and keeps us from being authentic around others. People tend to like other people by default, so our assumptions are probably incorrect anyway.
3. Diminishing experiences with meaning.
We like to give meaning to everything. What does the sunset mean? In our lifetime, we may see some powerful images, in our minds, and our minds like to try and assign meaning to them, and use them to figure out what we need to do. Meaning and words can really diminish experiences and feelings. Some things just are. And we need to enjoy them.
4. Exaggerating experiences with meaning.
The flip side of #3 holds true as well. If something unpleasant happens, our minds may try and figure out what it means. Is it because we did something wrong? Good things just happen, and bad things just happen. When we don’t assign meaning to them, we’re able to weather the storms much better.
5. Barking up the wrong tree.
We don’t like to say “I don’t know.” So, when we;re faced with a challenge, our minds may search for an explanation, even if it isn’t the correct one. It’s harder to realize when we're heading down this road, and we may need to be told by someone else that we're doing this. When we're in the middle of trying to make an answer fit a problem, we may have to stop ourselves and make sure we are not approaching it from the wrong angle.
For help in breaking your patterns of overthinking and redefining assumptions that you may hold about yourself, consider a low-cost e-mail, chat, or Skype session. Positive changes are only a click away!