I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m used to writing about overthinking based on empirical research, which I am familiar with, and which I have been immersed in for over 15 years. This perspective about overthinking though, comes not from the literature, but from my clinical experience.
So, when we’re talking about overthinking (“rumination” in the literature), we’re talking about brooding, going over the same material repeatedly, feeling stuck, dwelling on problems, passively focussing on symptoms, etc. We know from the literature that those of us who overthink feel less support and more criticism from those around us. There are also specific parenting histories and backgrounds that make people more likely to overthink. Women overthink more than men do, and this gender difference explains the difference in rates of depression (women are 2-3 times more likely to become depressed, compared to men).
In my clinical experience, what I’ve come to see is that overthinking is sometimes used as an emotional validation strategy. When overthinking, the overthinker wants to know that their emotional response is justified. For example, after an argument with her partner, a woman might say, “It’s not fair that he said….” with a question in her voice. She asks me, implicitly, or explicitly, to validate her emotional reaction while, at the same time, doubting herself. I’ll be writing more about this Inner Critic and the Inner Vulnerable Child at some point. Attempts to re-hash aspects of the interaction or go over things seem like attempts to justify feeling a certain way. It seems to me that accepting feelings as they are and decreasing the loudness of that Inner Critic, are vital when overcoming overthinking.
I’ll be talking more about this in my upcoming workshop on Beyond Overthinking on the 13th of February, 2016, in Dunedin. I’ve just recorded a CD with mindful-based coping strategies/meditations/visualisations. Here’s a sneak preview of version 1 of the cover…still working on it! What do you think? Too orange?
Self-validation is part of self-love. Here’s a beautiful blog post I saw about some strategies to start the day with greater self-love.