Overthinking means thinking too much, right? But when it’s a problem and when it’s an asset (yes, thinking can be an asset)?
“Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.” – Wikipedia
Based on the definition above, overthinking is a problem when it stops us from deciding something or from doing something. However, we know that overthinking is much more than this. It also appear when we’re thinking about our past and that form of overthinking can keep us up at nights. So these two aspects are the most impactful ones. We either overthink too much about past situations and we feel anxiety and frustration because we know there is nothing we can change, or we overthink about our present and future regarding decisions and actions we need (or not) to make, which also creates anxiety and frustration. The interesting thing is that overthinking is not necessarily the root cause, but more like a way for the root cause to manifest. I’ve listed below some of the main root causes for this part of the overthinking process (you can also look up here at the biological implications Max wrote about overthinking):
- Low level of self-knowledge;
- Low self-esteem;
- Low self-confidence;
- Valuing other people’s opinions more than our own;
- The need to always be right.
Ok, I’ve mentioned that overthinking can be an asset too. In my opinion, it can be an asset when we’re about to jump to conclusions without really knowing all the information. We do this sh*t usually when it’s about something bad so we’re creating an environment in our head that makes us mad, sad, frustrated and so on. And guess what, usually, that is not real. This is where overthinking comes in handy. We can look for other similar situations that are not that bad. If we “force” ourselves to realize that we might be wrong about the conclusion we were about to jump into, we can find other theories that can be as real as the first one. We might find out which one is real and which one isn’t, or we might never find out, but they do exist.
Overthinking is useful when we say we “know” what other people think and feel. In the lack of useful information, this is a false empathy. Instead of trying to understand how others think and feel, we project our own thinking and feeling to another and after that, we claim to know what that person thinks and how that person feels. If we overthink this idea, we might come up with some theories and we might even accept that are aspects of other people’s lives we just don’t know about. And that’s ok, but it’s there whether we accept it or not so we might as well accept it because we’re not omniscient nor mind readers . Can we really be that arrogant to claim that we know how others think? But do we know ourselves enough?
Have you ever thought about overthinking as being useful? What thoughts do you have about this?