Thinking about overthinking
Did curiosity actually kill the cat?
One night while playing in the bathtub of my childhood home, I was four or five at the time, my mom left for a second to get more soap.
Alone I sat, thinking.
I thought until I perched over the side of the tub, looked out the bathroom door down the hallway, and yelled, “Mom! Where do we all go when we die?”
I still remember the empty confirmation of knowing that no one will ever know the answer to that question—and the bleakness I felt as I let my chin rest on the tub’s edge with one arm tossed over the side in mental defeat; a few tears lacing the corners of my eyes. I wondered where my mother’s father was and where my father’s mother was, out there in the open air. How was it fair for life to just end, there must be some sort of say we all have in what’s next…right?
This defining memory of existentialism so early on in my life is something I think about every now and then as I continue to learn more about the in’s and out’s of my being when it comes to the action of thinking.
Not all of my thoughts were negative growing up—at all—I just thought a lot. I was the kid who’d get anxious when the leprechauns “visited” my classroom because where the hell did they come from and why were they leaving tiny footprints all over room 304???; or when I was too curious to stop myself from watching paranormal shows, which led me to believe my bedroom was haunted, causing me to experience insomnia and minor hallucinations for a few months. In my early teen years, I started to get annoyed with the amount of thinking that still consumed me and wished I could “just be like everyone else”—as if no one else out there thought as much as I did, or sometimes experienced the spiraling of thoughts I did. Once I discovered the internet in most of its glory, I then realized I was not alone; but isn’t it interesting how isolating thinking can be? I wasn’t always caught in an anxious pattern of thinking though, it was the kind of thinking that wondered what if? What’s next? How this? Why that? Along with a plethora of other quirks that come with going through puberty, this was something I had to start learning how to navigate when it would take unforeseen turns.
By my junior year of high school, I came to learn that my past sensitivities were a blessing in disguise rather than a hindrance, and that the way I thought and digested the world from one experience to another, was just what made me, me. I cared about many things, but learned to not waste my energy on others—an approach I still utilize today.
The less productive cycle of thinking I fell into pretty often during my childhood led me to think that any kind of thinking I did was considered overthinking, rather than just being an extremely curious person who thought about a plethora of things at any given time. Generally speaking, the concept of overthinking is when you dwell on the same thought or situation repeatedly—typically in an unhealthy and over analyzing manner. How I twisted this into thinking that curiosity meant the same thing is another story, but one I still wonder about.
Thinking prompts one to wonder and question things around them. Thinking, in theory, is a choice. Though even when we choose to not think, we are still actively choosing to not think—so I guess we are all still then giving a certain amount of energy to the action of not acting on something…the action of not investigating/questioning something further.
I’ve become extremely self aware of when and if I’m overthinking, and what that actually looks and feels like for me—but I still wonder from time to time why I overthink certain things I’m well aware are out of my control. In my opinion, fixating on things one can’t control is the epitome of overthinking—at least in my experience. In more recent times, I’ve come to learn that most of my overthinking has to do with things I care deeply about, that are coincidentally a mix of things I can and cannot control—the best combo! Despite being aware of my overthinking tendencies, I still act and push through whatever is holding me back or causing me to fixate on something I can’t control, which is still kind of odd to me.
It’s a good thing I’m resilient and confident in the face of uncertainty, so I’ve been told. What’s funny is how this confident resilience doesn’t change the exhaustion associated with a thought spiral, no matter how logical and problem-solving one tackles a spiral time and time again.
Overthinking takes its toll and I’ve always been curious about the how’s, what’s, where’s and why’s of these tolls. Even though I’ve learned to use these loops to my benefit, think about it.
Thank you for reading.
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