Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Overthinking

In one of my posts last week, Anonymous left a comment telling me to cogitate, then decide. This got me thinking about... well... thinking.

I've always been guilty of over-thinking. In fact, I used to pride myself on being a super-rational person who was able to put even the strongest emotions to one side in favour of what my brain told me was the 'right' thing to do. But in the past few months I've changed my mind.

In hindsight, over-thinking always got me into trouble, resulted in mistakes being made and made me shy away from good opportunities. My best decisions have always come from what you might term as being 'gut-feel', 'intuition', listening to that 'inner voice' or, perhaps, simply following my heart.

Over-thinking kills spontaneity and breeds fear. Instead of going out and embracing life, we overthinkers merely spend that time sitting and mulling over all the possible things that could happen if we take this course of action, and the other things that might happen if we take another course of action.

In truth, all we're doing is projecting into what is always going to be an uncertain future; a great big guess 'informed' by prejudice, learned 'truths', cultural norms and all the weighty baggage collected from past experiences (good and bad, undoubtedly skewed in some way).

The result of all this thinking is that we stand still, we become stuck - rooted with one foot in the past and one in the future, leaving a gaping void for the now.

I call it 'Thought Paralysis'.

I'm not urging you to throw caution to the winds and go out to do whatever you feel like doing at any given moment - that's a recipe for anarchy - but what I am saying is that sometimes, in some situations, it might be wise to cogitate on a higher level. What I mean by this is to examine your thoughts to identify their source; don't merely accept them as a given. If, upon closer examination, these thoughts appear to be born out of fear, anger, pride or remorse, then you should probably discard them and start again. The same goes for thoughts that start with the words "I should" or "Everybody else says/ does/ thinks..."

Then take a good, hard look at what your instincts are telling you, marry the two, and go for it.

With a bit of practice the doubt goes and you just know when you've come to the right decision - not because you 'should', or you're scared of what might happen if you choose a certain path, or because your mum will or won't disapprove. It's also wise to remember that sometimes the best outcomes mean choosing the more difficult, riskier and less immediately appealing route.

Yes. I realize I'm making it sound really simple. It's not. It's so much easier just to throw reason and logic at a problem rather than to identify what you truly feel about something (at core). But like most things in life, putting in the required effort usually yields the best rewards. Eventually, anyway.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great, thank you!
Mimi

Anonymous said...

Very well put - very balanced.

Anonymous said...

I've always found that instinct serves me well. In fact, I've seemed to have lived most of my life on instinct, in a funny sort of way.

I suspect (as I think you're implying) that the trick is to temper what you feel with what you know; of course, finding the right balance between the two relies upon a number of things, not least of which is knowing yourself. Not enough people bother to do that bit properly, unfortunately.

Kate S. said...

Thanks Anons.

Yup, and it's about being able to identify the difference between what is a thought and what is an emotional reaction hastily disguised as a thought (i.e. the emotion says "this is scary!" which the brain translates as "I don't want to do that because...(insert 'rational' excuse here)" . Reactions are nasty things designed to derail you and get you into all kinds of trouble. Knowing who you are helps, being able to properly inhabit your own skin (at which point outside opinion or censure may stop and make you think, but it no longer has the power to cause any serious dents in your own sense of self-worth or trigger a negative reaction) is the crucial bit.

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