September 27, 2013

Confessions of an Over-Thinker: Our Challenges & Strengths.

Ruminating thoughts can be paralyzing and suffocating, but not all bad.

Without awareness, however, the rumination can keep us from taking action, often not knowing where, how and what to begin with—wasting our well intentions to create, act and challenge ourselves.

And, I’m not talking about the “monkey mind” thoughts—those that come in and out at lightening speed, jumping from one topic to another. I am talking about the complete and hyper focus of a single issue, thought or experience that has us analyzing it six ways to Sunday.

If you are an over-thinker, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The planning of a day or a project can go on for hours—resulting in tons of wasted time and paralysis in how to get started. The last encounter of a first meeting can have us analyzing every word that was said and every gesture that was made. Trying to figure out what it all meant—drawing our own conclusions out of the complicated story just contrived.

Thinking about every possible situation, from every angle—anticipating every possible outcome.

Many times anxiety is involved—possibly creating it, and sometimes resulting from it. Sometimes a perfectionist personality tends to over-think—wanting to get things right the first time, fearing what might happen if failure arises.

Just as an over-doer stays busy in the body—moving from one task or activity to another until they drop—over-thinkers tend to really enjoy the thinking about things—the strategies involved and the putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

It can be exhausting, though. As an over-thinker, myself—sometimes my brain just hurts. I relate it to sore muscles after a good CrossFit workout or some power yoga. I often wonder if that soreness is building my brain, just as clean & jerks build just about every other muscle in my body.

Maybe just wishful thinking—but I’d like to think I’m getting some kind of benefit out of the intense processing that is going on, not just wasting all my precious time with it.

And, I know that I’m not. My husband and kids tell me that it’s creepy how spot on I can be and have been in understanding the current and future complexities of life. My clients often ask me—how did you know that? I credit it—in part—to the years of over-thinking that have sort of made me an expert in the areas that I am most interested in.

So, if you’ve identified yourself as an over-thinker—embrace it—be proud. And try not to over-think it. Just recognize where this benefits you in your life, and make adjustments for the challenges, so that you stay ahead of the paralysis that can be experienced. Then get moving.

Strengths of an over-thinker include:

Excellent observation skills

Excellent at analyzing and strategizing

Excellent forecasting skills— although, of course, we can’t predict the future in most cases

Ability to identify patterns in material objects, ideas and/or relationships

Ability to learn a ton of information quickly

Can have a good connection with intuition

Can have good awareness of self

Can have expert knowledge in one or a few areas

Can have excellent problem solving skills

Some of the challenges that we face include:

Difficulties getting things done

Difficulties moving into action

Can give less time to building emotional awareness

Can be controlling (due to anxiety issues) or perfectionist

Can have less relational awareness

Less social and maybe more introverted (which might not feel like a challenge to some of us)

Confusion and paralysis as we try to understand from every possible angle

Difficulties making decisions

Difficulty going with the flow and adjusting to the unexpected

Difficulties breaking things down into steps

By no means does this list include everything. I’ve compiled it both from my own experiences and the experiences I’ve had as a counselor and yoga teacher with other over-thinkers.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned throughout the years, is just to move into action sooner than I want to—sooner than feels right. I don’t have to have everything figured out before I get moving, as I am learning to do both at the same time. For an over-doer, spending more time in thought and reflection—and less time in the doing—could create a similar kind of balance.

Trusting that—as new opportunities and experiences present themselves, new information is obtained, feelings can be felt and adjustments can be made—all while action is also taking place.

Balancing those thoughts, feelings and actions—co-existing and collaborating along the way.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman



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