It’s only in recent years that I have come to understand that I overthink. In previous years I would have never thought of overthinking as thing, instead it was possibly hyper intelligence gone mad. Something unique to me and my way of being in the world. It is hard for me to know where the overthinking began. In school I probably equated overthinking to being bored out my nut. Like where are we going with this? What’s the point? Seriously is that all we are covering in the lesson today. Is that all we are expected to learn in a whole year? Oh my god is any of this going to be in anyway relevant to my future life? It certainly didn’t feel that way. Yet I was always confused. Always overwhelmed. It couldn’t possibly be this simple? Yet alarmingly it always was, even now a lot of the time. Few of us get things right the first time around. Yet it seems to be something that is demanded of us in the western education system.
When I fist remember overthinking as an actual problem it was in my early working life. When I was a waitress trying to figure out how to get through the daily to-do list and rather just starting with what needed to get done. Sitting down to figure out in what order to do them in order to be most efficient. This of course leads to complete inefficiency and of course reflects that there must be a way to think my way out of it or through it so I can get it done faster. Rather than accepting that doing was the skill set. As I learned the work routines I would get faster because it would become easier and more instinctual. I know it seems obvious now. Linear learning is a long way from the circular learning of indigenous teaching where we repeat something over and over again until it is learned. However back then that seemed like a radical kind of learning that I am only beginning to catch up with now. I makes me feel like I should be doing better.
Overthinking can be applied to anything from cleaning the house to responding to communications or finally sitting down to do our life’s work. No pressure there. We don’t know what to do or in that moment at the very least what to do first. Overthinking stops us from flowing and usually ends up with our minds and often our body’s in tailspin. We get caught up in the consequences of getting wrong rather than the process of getting it done. Overthinking often removes our impulses to create. Overthinking can be excruciating and crippling. That can leave us stuck for years, even decades. I know I myself have suffered immensely at the hands of anxiety paralysis. Where every small decision and its resulting action has left me agonising over its long-term impacts. For example, my single-use coffee cup is going to destroy the world. Whenever I write about overthinking and indeed anxiety paralysis it takes me back to the interview scene in Good Will Hunting. Just as I write this I actually realise the deeper sentiments of that film set in the late nineties. After all, I’m the generation that burned down Woodstock. It’s only in the last year or so that I have fully begun to appreciate the impacts of late capitalism on the development on my own psyche and the generation that I grew up in. After all Trainspotting acted as the direct cultural backdrop to my teenage life.
Overthinking is a trauma response of a highly critical mind. When we overthink there are potentially four things going on. One; we have internalised the highly critical dialogues of the people that surround us, Two; our egoic mind is overdrive drive trying to resolve the things we can’t feel. Three; we become aware that we are in an inherently unsafe environment that isn’t just personal it’s cultural and systemic. Four; that this initial hypervigilance that accompanies shock or a traumatic event becomes normalised as an unconscious way of being in the world.
Ether way overthinking is trying to protect us from an unidentified threat. Overthinking is our mind trying to protect us from pain. Maybe we were criticized as children, maybe we have a parent that always finds fault. Maybe that criticism and fault-finding forced us into our shame body. Really I think that overthinking is born out of the need to create perfection to avoid crticism and the pain criticism causes. I’ve yet to learn of overthinking as a disassociative state. As I think about overthinking, (no pun intended) I muse as to whether it is a disassociative state of the right-handed mind that is desperate to execute fantasies of control.
What I know is that overthinking has kept me stuck. Lost in anxiety and trapped in the pain of shame. I know I myself have suffered immensely at the hands of anxiety paralysis. Where every small decision and its resulting action has left me agonising over its long-term impacts. For example, my single-use coffee cup is going to destroy the world. That the confusion about what to do next has left me not doing anything at all. I’m glad that time is past now.
Whenever I write about overthinking and indeed anxiety paralysis it takes me back to the interview scene in Good Will Hunting. Just as I write this I actually realise the deeper sentiments of that film set in the late nineties. After all, I’m the generation that burned down Woodstock. It’s only in the last year or so that I have fully begun to appreciate the impacts of late capitalism on the development on my own psyche and the generation that I grew up in. After all Trainspotting acted as the direct cultural backdrop to my teenage life.
Of course you know capitalism and AI are about to destroy our human ecologies. So you know maybe I’m right and I’ll be standing right over here behind my organic ethically sourced, upcycled climate disaster barricade. Cause you know there’s no running from climate disaster, in case you didn’t know already. Sorry for the bad news. This sums up the relationship between overthinking and eco-anxiety.
If I could explain the opposite to overthinking I would probably describe it as something called flow. Intuitively and instinctually humans do exactly what we are meant to at the right time in the right moment if we allow ourselves to trust. I use poetry as a meditation of presencing that brings me right back to the here and now. I am able to flow through my work far more easily than I ever was. If something feels wrong I put it down until it flows. Pausing the thoughts, following my intuition, listening to my feelings, and flowing through my instincts has helped me to gain a lot of momentum in my life.
It might lead to half-finished projects. It also leads to a little more done than the perpetual internal grip of the thought processes that held me back from making any moves at all. It’s more of a dance than a linear progression and it feels beautiful.
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