I got to thinking about thinking this week. Sounds a bit funny to put it that way, I know, but while I enjoy thinking, I have often wondered if extensive thinking can be detrimental to one’s emotional health, especially “over thinking”.
I’ve heard it admitted, “I know that I over think things. It is both a blessing and a curse.”
In my opinion, thinking is very good. We teach our children to be critical thinkers, asking questions to clarify understanding and to judge the reasonableness and reliability of ideas, issues, or elements which they are presented with. We should think about decisions before we make them, we should thoughtfully consider the positives and negatives to situations we find ourselves in, and we should definitely think before we speak. Being able to think clearly and concisely is certainly a blessing. Having said that, there’s a big BUT coming…
BUT… thinking too much or ‘over thinking’ can become a dangerous habit.
Thinking becomes dangerous when all one does is think, making no changes or taking no actions other than to ‘think’ that things should be different, or better, or more fair. When all one does is think and lament about how things should change without taking the actions to change them then thinking becomes a curse. One thinks they are doing something because they are thinking about things, when in reality nothing is being done about the situation or issue other than to think about it! Over thinking is the perfect rationale for laziness. Thinking is not actually doing: they are two separate things.
Over thinking can also create problems which were never there in the first place. For example, when our thinking gets stuck on one particular issue or concern, we may find the need to question someone on something which was said or done in the past. The person may no longer be able to recall the exact words, time, or situation in which it was said or done, or the details may not be correct leading to further misinterpretation and misinformation being given. The person being questioned may even wonder why the over thinker is bringing the issue up in the first place, leading to questions and ‘thinkings’ of his or her own. Over thinking may affect our relationships and friendships if we are not willing to let some things go.
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So how do we end up as over thinkers? Some thoughts to ponder:
Are we too sensitive? Do we question everything which is said to us or done toward us?
Do we over analyze things which we should be able to let go? Do we second guess things which are said to us? Do we second guess ourselves?
Are we too narcissistic, self-focused on everything being directly about or as affecting us? Or do we think too much and focus on others, being too dependent on what others say, think, feel, or imply toward or about us?
Have we become too reliant on social media and technology by allowing interactions through them to validate our thoughts on who we are? Do we allow the opinions or actions of others to affect us and our thinking too much?
Are we too idle, leaving too much time on our hands to think, think, think?
Could it be that we are too critical? Do we search for the contradictory, the annoying, or the ‘wrong’ instead of taking things at face value and seeing (and appreciating) the good in them? Do we think that there is always something incorrect, inaccurate, unfair, etc. that we need to point out?
Not everything which comes into our lives needs to be applied immediately, exactly, or intently into our subconscious and thought about in depth. Thinking is wonderful when it is done critically and intelligently with the understanding that we can let things go if it does not apply to us or is no longer needed to remain in our thoughts. We can think about things, yes, but if we allow ourselves to ‘stew’ about them and to over analyze them we may be causing ourselves unnecessary stress and allowing our own resentment to build. Over thinking can also lead to mental exhaustion and for us to possibly even flirt with elements of paranoia. We may become accustomed to assuming that others are “out to get us” if we continue to over think each and every interaction we have with others.
If we over think and over analyze we may be missing out the greater joys in life like appreciating kind words from a stranger, a smile from a loved one, or even a thank you from a friend for the simple things that they are. Sometimes things just are what they are with no hidden meanings, no hidden agendas, and no extra thinking necessary.