Are You Overthinking It? The Dangers of Introspection
I’ve written about this tendency of mine before—to daydream, to overthink, to create scenarios in my head and then have a difficult time returning to reality. I’m one of those people who’s been journaling since age eight and will disappear from time to time to sit on a beach, climb a tree or ride a bike simply to get away and think.
I am of the overanalyzing persuasion. It’s something I’ve grown to accept about myself, but it’s also something I’m learning to watch about myself. I think it’s important for we over-analyticals to be aware of when it’s time to JUST STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.
Now that I’m a writer by trade and work from home, my job is to think. This is great, and this is dangerous. Since I no longer work in the 8-to-5, fast-paced corporate environment, I have time and space to really flesh out my thoughts. Any problem, obstacle or doubt that’s arisen in the last few months has received extra attention. I’ve thought about it, run through various scenarios a million times. I’ve journaled and talked to myself about it. And now look, here I am analyzing my over-analyzing.
Through all of this, I’ve realized something. My tendency to overthink is really an attempt to control things in my life I can’t control. Think about it. How often to do you overthink circumstances that are beyond your control? For me, it’s the past and the future that I obsess over–as if thinking about them enough will change my past and make certain events occur in my future. It’s ridiculous. It’s a joke. But it’s what I do.
Being introspective is a good gift, but when your thoughts become a desire or attempt to control the person, place or thing you’re thinking about, it’s gone too far. That’s when we are not just thinking, but overthinking.
Something I know to be true but often disregard is that I rarely find peace in trying to control my life through my imagination. In fact, the opposite happens. When I get lost too deep in thought, I come out of it more anxious and confused than I was before I entered it. So nowadays, when my thinking becomes overthinking, I try to focus on what is true. Because that’s what the Bible says to do: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble…whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely…meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Whatever things are true.
The true things for me right now are simple and basic: God is good. God is faithful. God is sovereign.
Even though I wish I could, I’ve learned I cannot think my life into being better or different than it is, and I cannot think my problems into being fixed. I can, however, force (and it does take an act of force) myself to meditate on what is true. Eventually the truth that God is good overcomes whatever lie or uncertainty had been occupying my brain, and very slowly but very surely, I am more at peace. The fog caused by the anxiety clears, and a path toward hope becomes visible.
Oh my goodness. I needed this so badly today. I’m in the midst of making one of the biggest decisions of my life: to stay home with my children. I am the worst at over thinking everything! I have already built up the worst possible outcomes in my brain about how the inevitable meetings with my bosses are going to go. I know I need to let go, and let God work. I know that all things work together for good. It’s a leap of faith, and one that I must trust God with the outcome. It’s the right decision, it’s just a tough one. God is good, God is faithful. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing, Becca! It’s so funny how we can continue to over think even when we know what the right decision is. I do that all the time!
Waoh. That’s great and very true. For sure I have learned.
Thank you very much! I have realized that my introspection, self-analysis, and intellectulalization have become handicaps. As I accept reality and surrender to ‘what is’ rather than ‘what I want’, I can become more peaceful. I have made a point to visualize me running through a field of flowers, happy, joyous and free, when my incessant thoughts try to bog me down. When I shift my thinking, and ask the Holy Spirit to control my thoughts, I can trust God in the moment.
I’m gonna try that visualization thing, Beth. Thanks!
Really enjoyed this. I’m a major over-thinker and have learned the importance of keeping it in check. Great post!
Andrea, well said. “Analyzing my over-analyzing” -wow, I connect with that phrase. My brain operates this way, too. My train of thoughts circumnavigates my brain, never really arriving at a conclusion. And the powerlessness to change any aspect of past or future just by obsessing about it is still my reality when I’m finished obsessing. I appreciate your approach to shifting your thinking to “what ever is good, true, noble, etc..” Thank you!
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