The Many Ironies of Overthinking

Perhaps, being able to reason properly and think rationally is what differentiates humans from other living beings. The human mind is made and equipped with all the means and strength to reach the end we desire. We think. We have thoughts. We think a lot or a little depending upon what the situation really is (to us). To achieve a linear thinking process is often just a far-fetched ideal for any person. Thoughts, though under full control, tend to move in discrete patterns and directions. To make it graphical, a thought can be a tree’s trunk and many branches are attached to it. The branches basically are different reasonings we adopt, prejudices we already possess and emotions we cannot avoid. Any nutrients or water that’s coming from soil through the tree’s roots pass through the trunk and reach full ends of all branches. The process isn’t long. It is necessary.

Every now and then, I hear people using the term Overthinking. We know what’s thinking obviously. What makes it over? The term isn’t only used incorrectly but is also not understood fully in any sense. The common perception and basic understanding of overthinking is- thinking too much. Transportation of nutrients to every single corner of a branch cannot be called too much. Why is that people associate this too much to thinking and make it over thinking? If it’s not about quantity of the thoughts, what it really is?

This theory aims to bust some flawed understandings of overthinking and tries to explain what overthinking really is and why it isn’t the ideal way to go about.

Consider two friends speaking to each other, one person was very tensed about the test results which were yet to be out. The other person tells her “not to overthink things”. Then, she asks why the other friend wasn’t worried about the results. He says he knows that he’s going to score bad. And after a few days after the results, he suggests her to think about how to go further in upcoming tests. She asks him that why wouldn’t that be overthinking too. That little question from a normal a conversation holds a massive answer. We further try to understand what exactly happened in the fictional scene and understand what the thought processes of both the persons are. We can infer some basic things from the case we have here. In the first instance, the person didn’t know what the result was. The person kept thinking about a thing which she didn’t even know yet. This, in one word, can be simply termed as “assuming or making assumptions”. In the last exchange after results, she poses the question “why wouldn’t that be overthinking”. Well, what do you think before I tell you the answer? It certainly wasn’t overthinking. He asks her to think more about a thing that she knows for certain. Before I explain why, let us understand what went on in the second exchange. Perhaps, it is the most unique characteristic of a thought process. In the second exchange, he didn’t know his result for sure, but he believed in something he doesn’t know for sure and hence he wasn’t worried about the result. This thought process is called believing something to be true. That becomes the truth for him even though it is just a sugar-coated version of assuming things. Yet, the person wasn’t worried with the fact that he believed, this shows us why the person chose to believe in the possibility of him not getting a good score.

To sum up, we have three different forms of underlying thought. 1. Assuming 2. Believing 3. Knowing. so, in which cases does a thinking become over and thus overthinking? Basing our thoughts on something we know we don’t know for sure is a certain form of overthinking. Basing the same thought process on a thing we believe to be true even we really don’t know is a process that builds upon a false base. As compared to the latter type, believing gives us a base, either real or false, to think upon. Assuming neither is a base nor creates a base for thought. Thinking upon something we know for sure resonates with the initial comparison to that of a tree. The process of thoughts may extend to an infinite level from the real base. It is rather a form of wise thinking as it has a lot of reach to create reasoning and form decision. Just because it is too much, it doesn’t negate all its positives. It would come off a surprise, but the fact is that such long thinking reaching all corners gives out the simple answers/outcomes- the fruit. The simplest equations and answers are the ones that have the longest derivations, be it in Mathematics, Physics or Life.

A special form would be the second one for sure- Believing. Logical thinkers might term it as wishful thinking too. Rather it is a little too much and a little less of wishful thinking. Our thought processes create what we call the mindset. Maintaining the positive mindset with a freely running thought process is usually hard. Believing makes out free escape from this hard goal. It creates the mindset we desire to achieve even if it doesn’t reach all the corners and always give us an outcome. It is a form of holding thinking or limiting thinking or even thinking on a false base.

The question remains, what really is overthinking? It is clear by now that it isn’t the quantity that makes it the way it is called. A thinking that takes off from no base doesn’t travel to any corner and nor leads to any outcome. Assumptions create alternate possibilities, hence alternate forms of branch of thoughts. These branches add unnecessary weight to a worthless trunk with no base at all. This is overthinking. There is a certain exception to this theory as well. We often think too much about thing we know that is inevitable. We fail to accept, do not want it to happen and get intimidated wholly. Thoughts that take off from here can also be called overthinking.

How do we identify “overthinking”? we need to identify the base we’re building upon first. We need to be critical of the forms of bases that we know. There might be wholly different variations of the bases I’ve discussed here. As long as it is something that leads to no fruit even after reaching all the ends, it is still overthinking. Thoughts are beautiful. But they do need to give us some conclusion and they have to end. Thoughts that cannot give us any conclusion can be the ones with bad reasoning or no base. We can either change the adopted reasoning and give a try or terminate the thinking by terming it “overthinking”. Identify the cause, weigh your branches, spot the fruit (if any) and then evaluate if it becomes overthinking or not. Flawed statements and understandings about/of overthinking cannot be something you should hold on to anymore. Detach from the lazy perceptions, give your mind some burden and hard repairs to improve your thought process. Equip it with the mechanism to keep it working and still accommodate a system of surveillance on its own self. This theory exposes the ironies. It explains why it is false myth and helps you understand what real overthinking is. Deciding what overthinking is up to you at the end of the road.

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Akhil Surya

Akhil Surya

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