31 March 2015

Overthinking - and Dealing With It

My name is Colin and I like to think.

I'm told this is increasingly rare nowadays. There's definitely a bit of a social taboo prevalent in modern society about thinking too deeply about anything.

I'm different, because I'm not made that way. For me, the problem is simply knowing when to stop. The best way that I can describe it is with the attached picture, found on the 'net.

I'll come in of an evening and I'll find it incredibly difficult to stop thinking through the things that have happened in my day. I might be mulling over something that happened; a new place I have been to; someone new I have met, some interesting fact that I've picked up; a conversation shared. Something or other will dominate my thinking.

My mind refuses to rest until I've processed whatever it is. If I come in too late in the evening, I find it very hard to slow down enough to sleep. I'll toss and turn, listening to my own internal dialogue reviewing my day over and over. Until it's all neatly in place. Until I've closed that last tab and shut down for the night.

I have read up a little on this. The human brain is created with the capacity to make billions of neural connections every minute and to soak up information like a sponge. Sir Kenneth Robinson claimed in a recent talk that children start to lose this ability once they enter the formal education system. He concludes that it's we teach them to fear being wrong. Eventually, children slowly stop offering their own creative, out-of-the-box ideas. True creativity is removed from the agenda.

Nevertheless, the adult mind is constantly gathering information in all sorts of ways - formal, informal, gossip, hearsay. If we have too much information at hand (and let's face it, in modern society information overload is easy!), our minds get overwhelmed. Add to that the fear of being wrong, is it any wonder that people choose either:
  • to limit their choices (not to think too deeply)
  • to explore their choices (ending up with a tendency to overthink)
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Slartibartfast: Perhaps I'm old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what's actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, "Hang the sense of it," and keep yourself busy. I'd much rather be happy than right any day. 
Arthur Dent: And are you? 
Slartibartfast: Ah, no. [laughs] Well, that's where it all falls down, of course. 
(lines from 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy)
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A lot of friends are aware of my tendency to overthink and suggest ways to help me, I'm keen to work on this too - not to stop thinking, but to discipline my thinking, and particularly to ensure that I can still hear God's voice and encouragement rather that my own internal dialogue.

More in part two, later this week

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