Overthinking Overthinking

AKA the Inception of overthinking

Ok its time to talk about the absolute the bane of my existence on this planet.

Overthinking

I always regard overthinking as the intersection of intelligence and anxiety. Two wonderful gifts to the human race, but mixed together, like beer and red wine, become so much greater and more dangerous, than the sum of their parts.

Took me ages to work out which quote to put here. Also these margins are unequal. Its tight on the right side.

Overthinking overthinking

Unpacking overthinking is like opening up a Sarcophagus. Yeah it starts with a thirst for knowledge and understanding of ancient cultures, and ends in wishing you had never opened it. It’s a broken coffin FFS.

Also potentially you are going to be haunted until your death for opening it.

Ok where do I start? Well at the start would be way too easy…

Sausages

Otto von Bismarck, the famous Prussian statesman and architect of German unification once remarked: “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made”.

These are my favourite, courtesy of the Ginger Pig

Sausages are a great analogy of the dangers of knowing too much.

The more you know about a thing, the more you overthink that thing. And overthinking leads to a lack of participation and enjoyment of the finer things.

If you knew how they make sausages you probably wouldn’t eat them. Any normally functioning vegetarian will tell you that pigs are highly intelligent creatures. Loads of cultures don’t dig on Swine. But that digression is for another time.

We probably shouldn’t eat pigs.

Normal supermarket sausages are made by grinding up cheap unwanted stuff like fat and connective tissues that would otherwise go to waste and putting it inside animal intestines. Its literally the leftovers of the slaughterhouse floor. Even the posh sausages from a butcher aren’t great. Also eating processed meat can be linked various forms of cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes.

Where was I going with this? See my issue? I overthought sausages.

DVD extras and the proliferation of knowledge

DVDs (remember them?) used to come with a bunch of extras including directors commentary and behind the scenes footage. You could watch the film and learn trivia and listen to the creators chat about the making of the film. This is a great analogy for overthinking. Just ENJOY the movie. You don’t need to know how it was made. This higher level of consciousness is superfluous at best, and damaging at worst.

After watching too many ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries, you struggle to suspend disbelief, which is normally essential for any kind of storytelling or cinematic experience. You are now wondering how those shots were made, was *that* bit CGI, and how many actors auditioned for that lead role.

Don’t worry, be HAPPY

“In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry. Be happy.” – Bobby McFerrin

Overthinking is essentially worrying. Worry is like rust. It eats into your mental health, is hard to remove and almost always comes back.

In many cases, overthinking is caused by a single emotion: fear. Being scared of stuff means you worry about it. See how this works?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is mostly about accepting your worrying thoughts. It’s unpacking, restructuring, reframing and learning to cope with these distortions. Nothing has changed, the situation is still the same, yet you can cope easier.

Choice Paradox

The Paradox of Choice is an observation that having many options to choose from, rather than making people happy and ensuring they get what they want, can cause them stress and problematize decision-making. This is a great example of how overthinking creates issues. The more thinking, the more stress.

Heres an example. Want to buy Mayonnaise?. Waitrose has over 40 different types

Its just Mayonnaise. Its just egg yolks, sunflower oil, mustard and wine vinegar or lemon juice. Everything else is on you.

OK so you will probably get Hellmans, like any normally functioning human being, but should you have economic or dietary, or spicy needs, it’s a fucking minefield.

A 5 litre bucket of Hellmans. You could dunk a 12" pizza in that. Or a whole roast chicken. I don’t judge.

Ways to reduce overthinking

Ok here are some simple pointers for reducing overthinking:

1. Don’t sweat the little things

Try to work out what is important, and what is just everyday noise. Most things are not going to be solved by you. Focus on the big ticket items in your life. Consider the Law of triviality. It’s common that we give too much of our time to trivial issues. Maybe its procrastination? Maybe it’s easier to overthink the simple stuff rather than tackle the big stuff?

2. Practice being basic

Heres a piece of solid advice. You ARE a basic bitch.

This is a compliment disguised as an insult. Its good to be basic!

Let’s get ‘back to basics’. Society and social media made you flabby, pretentious and needing an angle. Then you worked on your ‘brand identity’. Now you overthink your decisions through this brand identity. Just shake that off. You are not *special*. You just learned some new predilections.

Wine is a great example of this. I get fucking slated for insisting that Sauvignon Blanc must be from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. Why? cos I read it in a posh magazine. I’m not posh. I just cultivated a pretentious angle. Also I fucking HATE Merlot.

Why hate Merlot?, well I watched a little movie called ‘Sideways’ and got woke.

Sideways. Just a perfect movie.

Our choice paradox is exacerbated by our exposure to culture.

3. Get drunk

Yeah I know this seems like the answer to all life's problems (apart from alcoholism, it arguably is) but after a couple of beers, you biologically CANNOT overthink.

Shopping whilst inebriated (SWI), is a wild ride, you will buy a bunch of stuff based on pure desire, untethered and immune from overthinking. You may also come back with a multipack of Pringles, but thats the cost of doing business.

I’ve recently succumbed to a dark addiction to these bastards. Its my crystal meth.

I buy all my stuff after a cold beer. You can always take it back for a refund if you make a mistake (you won’t), but a purchase after a pint will be the most honest reflection of your needs. Alcohol kills your fine motor skills, and reduces you to a child’s mind. Ever seen a kid overthink? Nope. I rest my case.

4. Start taking action

Never, ever let overthinking stop you from taking action.

Søren Kierkegaard, Danish theologian, philosopher, poet, social critic, and religious author, was widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. This is, by far, my favourite quote of his:

“If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

My take on this is to vanquish any ill-thoughts and just ‘make some stuff’ You cant lose really, everything you do will move you to a better place.

5. Embrace mistakes

Again, am with Kierkegaard on this:

Embrace Kierkegaard.

Everything positive in your life is, in some way, influenced by the learnings from a mistake. Every mistake begats a learning process that leads to success.

6. Forget about the past

You can’t change the past. Unless you have a time machine. Which you don’t. And if you did, you would open up a bunch of existential nightmares. Marty McFly found this out the hard way.

Ok let wrap this up

Be kind to yourself, overthinking is horrible, it mainly because you are a wonderfully intelligent person, but you are also a flawed genius.

Try not to worry about the consequences of your approach, every time you fuck up, you become wiser. Even Yoda made mistakes.

Trying is for Stormtroopers. Be a Jedi.

Good luck!

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Mat Venn

Designer. Dad. Cyclist. Runner. Flâneur. Autodidact. Piano student. Writer of intelligent balderdash. Fondue enthusiast. Hopeless romantic