While I’ve never personally been to therapy (yet), I am most definitely one to overanalyze every minor detail of life until it’s whittled down to a toothpick. In fact, I think I am – in a sense – my own psychiatrist; the problem being I have no prior or professional training in this field.
I’m not sure where I got this tendency to overanalyze every single experience, but it’s both a valuable and completely unproductive tool.
On the pro side of things, overanalyzing can make you more self-aware, and allow you to get more in touch with the things you feel about yourself and others in your life. In business, it can also help you envision lots of possible outcomes, therefore getting a jump on things others may not have picked up on.
On the con side (and I do tend to find this column to be longer), overanalyzing can cause you to be paranoid about things that aren’t actually happening, more prone to creating scenarios in your head that aren’t real, and to pick life apart so much that you’re not able to step back and enjoy it.
Over time, I’ve learned that while I’ll never be a person who doesn’t analyze things at all (I’ve tried the whole, born-again “I’m now a chill person” proclamation, and it didn’t work), there are things I can consciously do to curb the analysis, and try to channel it for situations that call for it:
Consciously being more extroverted is a cure for overthinking things. While I am a person that truly values my alone time, I find that forcing myself to chat with neighbors in the elevator, striking up a conversation with a stranger while getting coffee, or going to an event I instinctively wanted to stay home from all help lessen overthinking. As they say, “waiting gives the devil time:” My personal moments of waiting are when I really fall down the rabbit hole of trivial self-analysis. It’s why I’m so impatient waiting in lines (or at least, it’s one of the reasons).
Physical exercise is another miracle worker. Not to sound cliché, but I do think it’s a form of therapy in itself. No matter how easy or hard the work out is, it always feels like a bit of my headiness falls away after each work out.
Owning my shit is both a relief, and a way to avoid picking thoughts apart. Sometimes I think that when I analyze, it’s an avoidance tactic. There’s a truth about myself or a current situation that I try to work around or not come to terms with. I then analyze it to death thinking that I can come up with an alternate answer or reality. For example, if I had an argument with someone and it’s not quite sitting right, if I’ve imagined 20 scenarios and extenuating circumstances to make excuses for myself and place the blame on someone else, chances are I was an asshole to that person. Chances are I’d feel a lot better just saying “Sorry, I was absolutely wrong,” and go on with my day.
Writing thoughts down, almost like a list, also really helps when I’m picking things apart. The fact of the matter is so many thoughts are really stupid, but sometimes there’s no way to know that until you see them there on paper. Thoughts can seem almost encyclopedically true in your head, but you’d be surprised how stupid they become once you jot them down and read them over to yourself. It’s kind of like when actors read mean tweets about themselves aloud on Jimmy Kimmel: It takes the power away from them.
I also find the whole “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me” expression that we learn in grade school to be a good mantra to myself when I overthink. It’s pretty astounding all the assumptions I make about what people are thinking. If I never assumed things about people, and only took them for what they said to me or did to me, I would no doubt worry 80% less of the time.
So what is there to do with all of that energy once you’ve curbed the analysis? Especially as Manhattanites, what in the world will we do with all those neuroses once we learn to quiet it?
Well, they tell a superhero to use his or her power for a good and just cause, they tell them that with great power comes great responsibility. That’s what I say to myself about my own greatest superpowers, i.e. overthinking and worrying. Sexy, right?
While it’s not the stuff of great Marvel movies, when focused on the right things, overthinking can be harnessed, channeled and used to your advantage. Save the analysis for the work problem that needs solving, the big picture research that will take your company to the next level, even the hunt for the perfect restaurant for a Saturday night. It took awhile to realize that when it comes to my personal life, overthinking usually causes me to pick the wrong fights, make the wrong decisions and just be anxious 24/7.
The overthinking will never fully go away, but just like shape shifting, x-ray vision or time travel, it’s my responsibility to myself and to society to try to use it at appropriate times.
Is over-analyzing your “superpower”? I’d love to get your take on this.