There’s this fun thing you do when you have anxiety: overthinking. Yes, lots of people overthink things. Most probably do at some time or another. With anxiety, it’s a whole ‘nother level of overthinking. Catastrophizing, overgeneralizing, paranoia, hypochondria. Your fight-or-flight button, blinking like a sputtering neon sign, spins your thoughts all over the place, and trying to calm yourself down, picking the irrational thoughts away from the rational, when you can’t really tell which thoughts are rational or irrational, can get you paralyzed in a state of overanalyzing everything.
“Josh, you overthink things,” a friend in college told me once while I was fretting over something.
“Really?” I said. “Do you think so? I dunno…maybe I do, but–”
“You’re literally doing it right now,” she said.
Anxious overthinking is tremendously unfun. When it’s happening, you really wish you could shut your thinking off (or at least, as Sarah Fader says, put your brain on airplane mode).
There’s another kind of thinking I do that may appear to people who aren’t me as overthinking. It isn’t.
I think a lot about how I live my life, how I do the things I do, how I don’t do the things I don’t do, how I dress, what food I eat and how I eat it, what I’m reading, what I want to read next, what TV shows I’m watching, what TV shows I want to watch next, what I write about and how I’m going to write it…it never ends. And it’s never going to end.
Maybe it’s an ENFP thing. I’m a contemplative, intuitive extrovert with energetic, introverted feelings. I’m always going to be thinking of an Ideal Josh living an Ideal Life…and I’m never going to be that person living that life. I’m never going to be satisfied with The Way Things Are Right Now. I’m never going to stop wanting to tweak things. Rearrange, recolor, start, stop, reverse, play back, add reverb. I’m always going to bouncing from cloud to cloud in my head. And because I generate ideas out loud, you’ll often see me posting online, or hear me in personal conversations, pondering my writing and how I approach it, or my job and how I perform it, or, to get really meta, how I think about thinking. And from the outside, it can look like I’m overthinking things, especially when you’re used to me stuck in anxious thought patterns. But I’m not overthinking things, I’m thinking things just right…for me.
When I verbalize these trains of thought, I invariably get someone telling me, “Stop overthinking it! Just do what you want to do.” Which isn’t bad advice, per se.
But what I want to do is…think this stuff out. And rethink it again later. I want to try living my life one way, then try living it another, then another and another. The universe is a laboratory, and my life in an experiment. My natural state is motion and change, thinking out loud as I go. I’m not a noun, I’m a verb.
So if it seems like I’m contemplating my life a little too much and I should just relax and do what comes naturally…that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m just…joshing.
Which, come to think of it, is exactly what this post is.