How to manage the struggle with overthinking?

Overthinking is a good example in NLP that refers to a class of language patterns known as “unspecified verbs”. The question requires more resolution, but overall you are looking at


  • overthinking what?

  • what context is it happening?

  • if it is not “over” thinking, then what will it look like behaviorally?


Overthinking can be based on inappropriate mental loops. It can be a strength misplaced. Or, it can be contextually inappropriate. For example, overthinking what to eat for lunch probably means you don’t have proper decision criteria. However, thinking and ruminating about a future outcome because it is uncertain often relates to a person’s inability to manage uncertainty, which often is a state management strategy.


Lets look at loops. From NLP, we know that a TOTE strategy is often a useful feedback loop. When overthinking takes place, the strategy for thinking is inappropriate. Let’s compare clear thinking with overthinking.


Clear thinking example


  1. Notice a problem.

  2. Define the problem parameters.

  3. Consider options for creating a suitable solution.

  4. If solution does not emerge, consider reason.

  5. Tackle the reason that the solution does not emerge with a new set of problem definitions to solve the deeper issue.


Overthinking loop example


  1. Notice a problem and feel anxious.

  2. Consider how the problem causes more problems.

  3. Repeat from 1.


Again, your TOTE will be different than the one I list, but I’m probably not too far off. Ultimately, there are two elements in your ability to make changes to overthinking. The first one is your decision strategy. How do you decide that something is a problem?


Second is your learning strategy. How do you know that you have what it takes to tackle the problem? Without a proper learning strategy, your TOTE will loop and this is what makes thinking, “over”.

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