Written By: Sandi MacCalla ~ 4/18/22
Responding to a recent proclamation of “Are you overthinking it?” from a colleague, I went on a research trip to understand my reaction of defending my thinking and to grow from it. If you, like me, have been raised by a critical authoritarian, receiving feedback can trigger automatic defense reactions.
My new-found discoveries:
- Like most behavior, there is a spectrum involved.
- Obsession is the least productive but can turn the corner on its way to Critical Thinking.
- It tends to immobilize taking action or problem solving.
- It lets fear win.
- It thinks perfection is the goal.
- It marinates in negative outcomes.
- Tools to tackle hiking out of the forest instead of doing a botanical study on the trees.
- Visit the person who inspired and modeled obsession for you (face-to-face or virtual).
- Know that their obsessiveness is not their fault, nor your model.
- Ask them non-judgmental questions to understand their thinking process.
- Find a map
- Query others who seem to have conquered their forest:
- who have well-won wisdom
- whom you trust.
- This doesn’t come naturally to me, and I have experienced how it takes all the buzzing around out of my head and puts it down on paper.
- It often reveals problem-solving options that hadn’t surfaced before.
- It helps put you back in control.
- Start with a first step (your choice of easy or challenging).
- Just try not to rush back into the forest now looking for mushrooms.
- Keep your focus on an exit strategy (solution).
- How to help your friend’s obsessing:
- Listen. Often, listening helps the other person “process” their thinking by verbalizing it.
- If they ask:
- Contribute your struggle with a similar issue.
- Share resources you found helpful.
- No proclamation of their situation is needed .
- Asking a gentle question could help them unlock:
- “Do you know what your end goal is and what is in your way?”
- “Is this situation serving you?”
- “You seem to be in process with this situation. If there’s something I can assist with constructively, please let me know how I can help.”
Overthinking is the focus of the next blog. Thank you for journeying with me on this topic. Please share ways you found to be effective in your journey. It turns out we all can learn new ways to be gentle and to make a difference.