Professional Overthinker

This title comes from a tee-shirt I saw recently in a sponsored ad on social media. The moment I saw it, I knew I owned the title, and so, of course, I had to order the shirt as well!

I’ve shared here before about my self-titled diagnosis of RMS – Racing Mind Syndrome. For some, it’s what makes it difficult to fall asleep at night, others (also) go into this mode immediately upon awakening. I tend to have both of those problems but I also go in and out of RMS whenever I don’t have something going on to keep me focused. I can be in RMS while doing menial chores that are done by rote – like washing dishes or folding clothes. I often call them daydreams, places in which I think about potential things upcoming in my life and write a screen play for it as I would like it to happen, should it happen. But I also travel into RMS thinking of the what ifs that could happen in the worst case scenario of things.

When I’m tired enough physically to need to rest or sleep, depending upon the time of day, in order to be able to still my mind, I’ve found a way (don’t ask me how) to turn off the conscious control of my thoughts and let them wonder where they choose to go. Most often, those thoughts are wandering paths of travel, flitting from place to place without accomplishing anything. Sometimes those thoughts are about setting – and controlling – a potential probability of a happening upcoming in my life. Sometimes they can travel around how I would answer a specific question that would be asked of me.

As a person who is a pleaser, I like to ask questions of another to get to know them better. But what might seem as an innocuous and innocent question to another has motive. Asking, “what is your favorite color?’ means I want to know what I should wear around you that will be palatable to your eyes. “What is your favorite type of movie (or book, perhaps)?” means I want to know what makes you comfortable to talk about to keep a conversation going without being awkward. And, to be honest, asking another questions also allows my introverted side to be firmly in place without having to reveal anything about myself until I feel comfortable enough to do so.

After those conversations though, my mind will engage in RMS to relive those conversations and look for clues that tell me more about the psyche of a person. My passionate interest in the psychology of the human mind always leads me there. What are the emotions behind the choice of a favorite color? How are people who choose vibrant red different from people who choose buttercup yellow?

Psychologists and other mental health professionals will try to explain to you why overthinking is unhealthy. I suppose that’s true. Overthinking can make you create problems that don’t exist, keep you mired in thought instead of taking action. Some of those professionals will say that overthinking is when you examine and reexamine negative thoughts, emotions and memories. And I’m going to say that can be very true. But for me, it’s not just about memories, things that have happened in the past. For me, most of the time it is a sense of playing out the future.

I do not have a poker face. My emotions are easily exposed by my face – by a look I get on my face or if my face and neck skin flush. I’m pretty sure that, in the game of poker, I will physically show whether I have a good or bad hand without being aware, much less able to control the signs. Knowing that is a big part of why I hate surprises. Opening gifts is like torture for me! While unwrapping, my brain is repeating the words “Control your disappointment” in my head. It’s not that I have a preconceived notion that I won’t like the gift, but what if I don’t? How will I hide that so the giver doesn’t feel bad? I don’t want to be flourishing with praise, out of fear that the giver will misinterpret it and start gifting similar items. My mind immediately races towards how long I’ll keep the gift before regifting or donating it without feeling too guilty.

I have been lucky over time to find places where I can just be “in the moment” – where the racing thoughts become quieted and I am focused and absorbed by what is happening. Online music streams – especially with my favorite music streamer (yes, you, Desiree, in case you happen to be reading this post!) – pull me into the moment and all thoughts are quieted. I often say that those streams are like therapy to me and I truly believe that!

I know I’m not the only overthinker out there. I read others’ blogs and see that the struggle is real. And, honestly, there are some benefits to being an overthinker. It gives me a place – if only in my mind – to be in control over something I probably won’t have control of in real life. It gives me a chance to process ‘worst case scenario”, to expect to be disappointed so that I can at least move quickly through and past the disappointment. Some would say that makes me cynical and a pessimist. I think of myself as more of an equal opportunity optimist and pessimist. I still look for the best in people and hope for only positive outcomes to things. But I’m also more prepared to deal with less than positive results. I like to think of it more like, “Expect the worst, that way you’re never disappointed” and then, when something better than that happens, you get to feel positive!