Thoughts on So-called "Overthinking"
How the stink of mental-health problems may settle onto introverts
"Are you an overthinker? Many introverts are."
A line very much like that on a website I was cruising took me aback. I take pride in my thinking, and after I did a few Google searches and discovered that "overthinking" now has the stink of a mental health condition that needs a cure, I felt even more dismay.
Of course I'm familiar with the phrase, "Maybe I'm overthinking this," which means just "Maybe I'm assuming this is more complicated than it really is." But that's a situational error, not a deeply rooted personal pathology.
To be honest, when I spotted "overthinking" referred to as a psychological flaw, what first sprang to my mind was the retort, "Overthinking? You mean like overgardening? Overreading? Overcooking? Overtinkering?" I was not laughing while imagining these absurd analogies.
Then the more I read up on this new-to-me concept, the more strange its idea of thinking seemed to me. To me, thinking may or may not have to do with one's personal issues. It might involve wondering about something or someone, planning, reasoning something out, considering pros and cons of a decision - all healthy and normal activities.
In one account of overthinking, however, the commentator broke it into three types: worrying - that is, imagining various horrible outcomes in the future; ruminating, or going over and over again something in the past, either angrily or self-critically; and reacting distortedly, such as when someone doesn't return a "hello" and you jump to the conclusion that the person hates you. I agree that these behaviors aren't beneficial.
But considering these as extreme versions of thinking is as weird as classifying digging up one's lawn for a new septic system under the heading of gardening.
Isn't my beef here just about a label? No. In the light of the number of articles and blog posts I discovered linking overthinking and introverts, the "overthinking" label reveals important and harmful associations. Our culture has a largely negative image of someone spending time apart from others engaging in some sort of purely mental activity. From this implicitly antisocial and abnormal behavior, it's just a short step to "overthinking."
In our society, thinking is not normal if it occurs in anything more than extremely small quantities. Introverts are the ones told again and again, "You think too much." Neuroscientists tell us, however, that introverts don't just have a habit and a preference for thinking things through before responding to questions or events. As compared to extroverts, introverts' brains involve more indirect and complex pathways for processing information. We need to think more than extroverts in order to function.
In short, I reacted so strongly to the idea of "overthinking" because it casts even more disapproval on an activity that I enjoy and that many introverts find as necessary and natural as blinking.
Your thoughts on this?