Overthinking Overthinking

I think a lot. I’ve often wished I could escape my own head for even a little bit because my brain rarely stops whirring. Until recently, I didn’t necessarily realize how much I overthink things, or how my thinking might be not be the norm.

Most of my overthinking resides in my relationships with people. Did I say or do the wrong thing? What will this person think of me if I do this? Should I tell this person about some random thought I had that doesn’t really affect anything whatsoever, but in the name of honesty and transparency, I should definitely mention it, right?

I constantly play what-if games. What if I had said this differently? What if I hadn’t done that? Where could I be if I’d handled this tiny interaction differently? Should I have said yes to my friend? Should I have said no?

That person at the mall held the door open for me the other day, and I didn’t say thank you; I wonder if they told people about how rude I was. I wonder if people are talking about me because of my tone or body language. I wonder if I made a good impression with that customer.

I’ll play out conversations in my head before they happen; even if I don’t plan on actually having them. If I say this, I hope the person says this, so I can say this, then if they respond, I can bring up something they did in the past and hopefully they will apologize or acknowledge they were in the wrong. Or maybe I think about my own apology and how it will be received. Often times, my pretend conversations are confrontational because I want someone to fight. I’ve learned not to follow through on these urges; sadly, it takes a lot of effort to either stay quiet or be nice.

I’ve heard, “Don’t overthink it” quite a bit this year. Being called on it has made me cognizant of how detrimental the habit is for my psyche and mental health. It might be why I sometimes have mild insomnia. Insomnia comes with my illness, and maybe overthinking does as well.

Thankfully, I have people with whom I can process some of my thoughts. They ground me and remind me overthinking might not be required or beneficial. Hopefully, I can develop some inherent awareness for when I’m doing it.

There is a Bob Newhart skit (I’m not sure if it’s from the Bob Newhart show or not) whereby a lady comes in and tells Bob Newhart—presumably a psychologist or psychiatrist—that she has a debilitating fear of being buried alive.

Bob Newhart says he needs to tell her something. I think she pulls out a pen and paper to write it down, thinking he’s going to spout wisdom and helpfulness. She’s finally ready to jot it down, and he says, “Stop it!”

She is stunned. Over and over again for the rest of the video, Bob Newhart simply says, “Stop it!” She tries to argue that it isn’t that simple. She can’t just get over the thoughts of being buried alive. Still, he says, “Stop it!”

Maybe I need to develop a Bob Newhart in my head. The problem is, overthinking is such a habit—my modus operandi—I cannot detect when I’m doing it. I usually think the amount of thought I put into something is normal and healthy. I need external input to know when I’m doing it; at least for now.

I waste a lot of energy imagining different scenarios and replaying past interactions. Even though I overthink everything, I’ll often act impulsively on things. I think it’s because people don’t follow my script, which throws me off and sometimes angers me. I bet if I just let things play out naturally, I wouldn’t have as much anxiety.

I have friends who deal with anxiety, and I often tell them not to borrow trouble. Don’t worry about things out of your control. I don’t really take my own advice, though, which is human nature…or maybe I’m just a horrible hypocrite.

I have two dogs. They only care about getting food, running with me, and playing with each other and humans. It’s clear they don’t put much thought into what they do. They are instinctive…as are all animals, of course. Maybe I should take a lesson from them…or maybe this is a horrible analogy…it probably doesn’t matter as long as it makes sense to me, but maybe people will think I’m stupid.

That’s another aspect of my overthinking. I care too much about what other people think, particularly about me. For some reason, I believe people often think about me and what I say and do; they probably don’t. I think I’m much more important than I am (see: self-absorption). I figure people put as much thought into things as I do, which means they play conversations in their head and I’m the subject of a lot of their thinking energy; again, probably not.

This post itself is full of overthinking. Some of it on purpose in my constant quest for irony and humor. Some of it genuine because I want to convey how much I overthink overthinking.

I need to consciously work on curbing the habit…it won’t fix itself, I don’t think.

3 Replies to “Overthinking Overthinking”

  1. I think it’s human nature to be pretty self-absorbed. People who don’t overthink are too busy thinking about themselves to think much about other people, while people who do overthink are probably too busy self-criticizing to have energy left over for criticizing other people.


  2. Tell me about it. I’ve been arguing out loud with my doctor for a month but I won’t actually speak to him until next week!


  3. I have read that telling yourself “stop!” can help. Some say you should follow it with “I’ll get to that later,” even designating a time. On the other hand, would we ever tell a cancer patient to “stop” worrying about their illness?


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