That’s the first step right, admitting you have problem? It’s not really a problem so much as one of my most tragic personality flaws that I assumed would go away as I got older but has just changed in its appearance now that I’m safely in my twenties. Most all of my family and friends have always known this about me and are use to my frequent phone calls and texts mulling over a conversation or situation until they finally can’t take it anymore and just tell me to shut up and stop over thinking it. It use to hurt my feelings when people would snap at me to stop over thinking, I mean I can’t help that I’m constantly trying to understand peoples feeling and motivations while simultaneously trying to understand and articulating my own. It doesn’t bother me that much anymore when people point it out, in fact I appreciate those who do as it bring me back down to the reality that sometimes people mean exactly what they said, nothing more to it.
Yet, the misconceptions about over thinkers always bothered me. Over thinking, in my opinion, isn’t a trait so much as a result of two feelings meeting – lack of confidence met with a sudden rush of instinctual self-doubt, which means I tend to stop over thinking when my levels of self doubt wane or my confidence rises again, simple as that. Of course, people argue that everyone feels those two emotions concurrently from time to time but not everyone is an over thinker and I would tend to agree because some people aren’t thinkers at all. However, if you’re a sleeping, eating, breathing, average human being you’ve been taught to occasionally think critically about things, situations and feelings going on around you and sometimes that leads to over thinking.
If you’re wondering what that means for people like me when we’re presented with conflict or love interest I can tell you it’s hell. Nothing torments and over thinker more than a situation they can’t read, like arguments or flirting. Anything that can be up for interpretation is like gasoline for us and if not diluted with other things to preoccupy our minds can overwhelm us easily even if we don’t have any strong feeling or emotions tied to the situation.
But, just like any personality flaw you learn to deal with it and do your best to adjust your behavior accordingly. For me that means limiting my conversations with people if I’m feeling especially down on myself or unsure of how to articulate my own thoughts. It also means only being completely honest with people I know are patient and understand and can quietly listen to me while I process whats going on. Here’s a small list of Do’s & Don’t my best friends have developed over the years that have helped me to be less of an over thinker and might help you or the over thinker in your life too!
DO encourage them. Getting their confidence back up is the easiest way to shut down a long thought process and keep it from getting out of hand.
DON’T let them back track their thoughts. Over thinkers will talk themselves out of anything. It’s a defense mechanism. Lowering expectations helps to ease the self doubt and is an easy way out for thinkers like me.
DO remind them that not everything needs interpretations. People like me overthink because they’re trying to match their feelings with what’s being said and those are sometimes at odds. Not all words = feelings.
DON’T say “stop thinking about it.” For obvious reasons you don’t want someone to feel bad or guilty about having something on their mind, it’s not their fault. Allow a safe space for them to talk about it but if they start talking in circles gentle guide them to a conclusion rather than just shutting it down.
DO say things like “sleep on it”. I’m always worse thinker when I’m tired.
DON’T let them use their own personal connotations to determine a literally translation. Every over thinker has trigger words. For example, I tend to over think things when people use the word “sure” because to me “sure” connotes passiveness. I know, in my mind, that “sure” is just an affirmative word that means yes, but my feeling around what I think it means when I’m lacking confidence and feel self doubt can cloud my judgment.
DO reinforce what you said. Especially if your the subject of the over thinking. Again, it comes back to the lack of confidence that what you said and what you meant are two separate things. It seems childish but reinforcing what you said again helps an over thinker to hear it for what it is, just a bunch of words.
DON’T bullshit them. That’s just mean spirited and probably how they became an neurotic over thinker to begin with.
DO (this again is for the subject of the over thinking) be extremely direct and explain your thinking. Statements like “I think….” and “I feel…” take the guessing game away from over thinkers and puts the power right back in your hands. If you tell them exactly what’s going on they have no choice but to take it at face value. Not to mention it might help you to better articulate your own thought process better too.
Some days I get frustrated with over thinking everything, I’m a confident person and don’t normally doubt myself so why does this happen to me? However, with the right tools and patience I’ve leaned to deal with it and focus some of that energy in other things, like writing! I am also lucky to have great people in my life who know that I’m not crazy just because I spend more time pouring over the meaning of things more so than others, it’s just something else they love about me and that I’ve learned to love about myself. 🙂