Friday, April 16, 2010

Over-thinkers anonymous

I over-think EVERYTHING. It drives Mr E Man crazy. I put it down to my scientific training: you have to consider alternative hypotheses! And state the Potential Pitfalls and Alternative Approaches!

But apparently, this kind of rigour is not necessarily appropriate when trying to decide what to do at the weekend.

When Mr E Man told me jokingly (?) to "OMG, GET HELP!!!", I started to think about what that help might look like....

NB: I originally intended this post to be in the form of a cartoon, but it turns out that I can't draw. At all. I mean, I can draw stick figures that are almost as good as the ones on xkcd, but I can't do perspective or anything like that. So please imagine the poster below as part of a cartoon: it's on a noticeboard in a long corridor of the kind often seen in academic research institutes, and there's a young student standing in front of it and reading intently with a worried look on their face.

18 comments:

  1. oh my. I think you just over-thought that.

    I have, however, been called an overthinker by more than one of my exes (in fact, I think I've been accused of it by every.single.one). I'm the type that comes up with a restaurant idea, they say "yes", and then I suddenly think that maybe, I'll come up with a better idea if I just start rattling off a list again. Drove one of them UP THE WALL such that we actually had a fight over it. I'm learning to mellow out though, and let the anxiety stay in my own head. One could argue it is a form of anxiety...

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  2. one way how you should not deal with this is the following:
    Start over- and re-thinking, then tell yourself you shouldn't be doing that, and instead go with a half-hearted intuitive decision. After it turned out to be the wrong decision you will rethink the whole situation and analyse why it went wrong, and that is worse.

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  3. actually, you are well on your way to recovery because an untherapized over-thinker would write and write and write until their font has become progressively smaller and smaller and SMALLER and then runs off the side of the page and continues on the back of the poster.

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  4. Aaaah... a Google Wave for over-thinkers. That could go on forever, and ever, and...

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  5. LMAO! I totally belong in that group. I can't say it's the fault of science completely, but I can say that science turned what could have been a manageable little personality quirk into an engrained personality trait. Why is it that over-thinking seems to go hand-in-hand with disclaimers?

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  6. I think the poster itself may be diagnostic.

    I don't think it's necessarily a science thing. It may be an OCD thing though...

    -antipodean

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  7. I think it's a professional hazard as well as a personality trait. I've been an over thinker for as long as I can remember, causing all those who know me much stress and frustration, but they have learned to live with it :)

    I just started watching "Big Bang Theory" and had my boyfriend tell me after a particular episode, "OMG, you're Sheldon!" . . . . To which I responded, "Thanks?!??"

    For me it is equal parts over thinking and obsessiveness and one seems to amplify the other until someone finally tells me to let it go.

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  8. Kyrsten, that sounds somewhat familiar... although I'm OK with things like restaurant choices and concentrate more of my over-thinking energy on things like scheduling phone calls to the UK around brunch, bike rides, etc etc.

    Nina, yeah, that does sound worse!

    Grrl, sounds like some of my (first draft) emails...

    Bob, I asked three or four people to check the poster and this was the consensus font that we eventually decided on. Perhaps I need to increase my sample size, though.

    Silver Fox, Wave is a very dangerous enabling technology!

    MXX, yeah, science has a lot to answer for!

    Antipodean, I'll go away and think about what you said for a month or two.

    ScienceBear, yes, Mr E Man is learning to "work around" (i.e. ignore) it.

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  9. I would totally join if I saw that poster around here. I think.

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  10. Cath

    Actually you need to think it over, and over, and over, and over, in exactly the same way for a month or two.

    -antipodean

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  11. Hmmmm...

    You know? I am thinking this could have a place on the addiction site I am building. I mean it is really hard to say and I will definitely have to spend some time thinking about it - but it could work.

    For now though, I really need to focus more on writing two papers due Tuesday and focus less on exactly how they should go. I mean I have only been thinking about them for about fourteen weeks now, resulting in two papers that have changed focus to the point that they have no resemblance to the originally intended topics. But I suppose it is time to stop thinking about them and just write them.

    I will have to think on that some...

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  12. Sounds like a really interesting idea for a site. If you think you can use this, then please go ahead (with a link to here, obviously) - let me know if you need the original file.

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  13. Oh no, I was mostly being sarcastic - though I would certainly not begrudge someone who was actually being adversely effected by this behavior the help. Addictions are addictions. And the "over" part may or may not be appropriate, but that is something that I spend a rather large proportion of my time thinking about. Now if only I could quit over-thinking other things.

    For the over-thinking record, I have been involved in a argument with three other people about what the "beginning of the end" for the Roman Empire actually was for almost four years now. I will grant that the periods between emails has grown from days to weeks until now it is every month or so - but all four of us have had it in the back of our minds for a rather extremely long time.

    Keeping in mind that none of us are professional history scholars. Indeed at the beginning of this we were all working in the building trades. Don't even ask me how we got on it, but this actually started on a thread on the contractors only area of a home improvement forum. We started out trying to help another contractor figure out how to fix door jambs that are a little short of a hardwood floor that had the carpet pulled off and was refinished. Specifically we were arguing about whether it is better to cut a filler piece, mix some sawdust from the cut with glue and fill it that way - or take the correct approach and just pull the whole fucking thing and lower it (it was a high end job).

    Next thing you know there is about five times as much argument about the fall of the Roman empire as there is about the damned door. It makes perfect sense really - a very natural progression...

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  14. LOL! I thought you might be thinking of using it to point out the dangers of group therapy. I guess I over-thought that :)

    Every time I see one of my UK-based friends, we get into the same (friendly) argument about horse melanoma, so I know what you mean...

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