Dear Therapist..."How Do I Stop Overthinking Everything?"
I obsess over choices and am an over thinker. Do you have tips for handling this?
This is a superpower and a weakness. It’s worth noting the particular ways your thinking helps you make decisions and hinders you. Bolstering internal boundaries can facilitate but also contain how you make choices.
Here are some patterns to watch for:
1. Does your choice matter?
Overthinking can exaggerate a sense of consequentialism. How significant is your decision? Think about your thinking. Where do your thoughts land? If you’re undiscerning in what you obsessively ponder, you can easily agonise over decisions that aren’t actually significant. So ask yourself this question when you are second-guessing or fixating over a choice: do you care?
2. You care desperately but your choice isn’t as powerful as you think
Harsh but often true, we can overestimate our personal sway by thinking we are mega involved in a situation and our choices will make or break major world events. Face the limits of power, whatever you decide.
3. What’s your underlying belief?
Do you believe that thinking about a choice obsessively will bring clarity? Protect you from making mistakes? Forecast whatever will be? Recognise the magical thinking that’s embedded in your beliefs. We can be astonishingly self-aggrandising as well as self-doubting in our overthinking states. We can be almost superstitious about thoughts, thinking that we will solve life, or ruin everything.
4. Is your choice urgent or pressing?
We can become seduced by a sense of urgency — thinking obsessively can seem essential and protective when it’s neither. If you distract yourself with small scale urgencies, you may be missing the bigger picture. Too busy herding the cows to build a fence. If you’re clever, you may be tormenting yourself with analysis paralysis, and introspection can go too far. Be silly and playful and insist on a recess from your own mind, just for a minute.
5. Embrace your quirks, even if you also try to self-improve
Change is paradoxical— accepting yourself is part of growth, so be interested in what interests you. Overthinking can be a beautiful part of a passionate life. Appreciate the gold.
Charlotte Fox Weber is the author of What We Want - one of Welldoing's books of 2022 (see the full list here)