How To Ride Your Powerful Overthinking Machine

Overthinking is like a powerful sports car. Learn how to control it.

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And now let's go to today's topic.

You are on a first date with a girl you matched on Tinder. You already had some great conversations on chat, but this face-to-face discussion is just absolutely in flow.

Within 30 minutes, while she's telling you the story of her family and how she moved up to the city from that small village, you start feeling that your brain turns on like a V8 sportscar engine.

"Damn, she might be the one. No, actually, she will be the one. But first, I'm gonna introduce her to my friends and then family; I wonder what they will think of her. Hey, she just mentioned that she's on bad terms with her dad, gosh, so I won't have like a proper father-in-law. Well, anyways, at least our kids will be beautiful thanks to her blonde hair and blue eyes."

So, this powerful engine did not only turn on but already went on full-throttle to an unknown future, including a person you don't even know yet. At all. 

And, of course, this does not stop there. You imagine your wedding, the name of your kids, and how you will travel to your dream destination with her and post that selfie with her on Instagram so everyone can see that you are happy.

Once again, all of these were ignited by the fantasies of a woman you just met, don't know, and most probably won't see on a second date.

Welcome to Overthinking!

And welcome to my life as an overthinker.

The example above was indeed based on a true story from my life. However, this was only one snippet from all those millions of moments when I experienced overthinking and massively suffered from it.

We have two ways of overthinking:

  • Negative overthinking: the one when you drill down into the field of suffering and anxiety about a particular - actual or hypothetical - event in the past, present or future, or

  • Positive overthinking: when you imagine various scenarios in the present or future to prepare yourself, make decisions, and be aware of all possible outcomes.

Nowadays, Overthinking and I got on better terms. And although it's still not perfect at all, I can identify the source of my negative overthinking, which are:

  1. Past painful experiences

  2. Low self-esteem, hand-in-hand with

  3. Poor self-awareness

To be more precise, all of these sources could go hand-in-hand, but that could be the topic for another post on how low-self esteem and poor self-awareness led to painful experiences. 

Negative Overthinking - The Highway To Hell

From what I experienced, there are less and more harmful negative overthinking moments.

An example of a less harmful negative overthinking happened to me when I moved to London to start my second bachelor's studies.

Before the induction day, we had already started chatting with my new classmates in a WhatsApp group. Surprisingly, my classmates got super excited about meeting me and expressed their excitement like they would be meeting the messiah or some presidential figure. 

I got very comfortable and anxious. 

"Are they mocking me now?"

"They are like three years younger than me, am I gonna be the old guy they will make fun of throughout our studies?"

"Am I gonna be the poor and old Hungarian dude in the class who will be excluded from all socializing events and groups?"

The more I rode this rollercoaster of negative overthinking, the more anxiety and panic I felt in myself. Needless to say, when we first met with all the mates, they turned out to be bluntly excited and happy to meet me.

And a few weeks before writing this post, I met one of my old classmates who became a true friend of mine. We talked about that moment, and he explained that for some indescribable reason, they indeed felt some "presidential vibe" around me, seeing all my photos in suits and so on, which caused excitement and fun.

You see, this was a harmless overthinking for me.

I could bring tons of harmful negative overthinking - mostly, obviously, around my past relationships.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Even though the particular experiences differed, the pattern was always the same: that particular girlfriend went to some fun events, and I heard nothing from them for too many hours. My overthinking super engine turned on, and the 500 horsepowers took control of my thoughts and drove me off the cliff with all the "what if" questions in my head.

The result: laying on the bed with panic attacks, creating more profound surreal scenarios, getting to a state of lowest self-esteem, and going into crazy jealousy. Eventually, I got these out on her. 

Although low self-esteem and poor self-reflection were the main drivers of that overthinking phenomenon, the root cause - as I identified years later - was the painful experiences beforehand with someone who always had an eye on someone else. 

Learn How To Drive Your Negative Overthinking Machine

Learning from these moments and implementing new ways to control negative overthinking is challenging and time-consuming. It took me years and more painful moments to understand what I needed to change.

These lessons apply not only to relationships but all other aspects concerning yourself.

  1. Rationalize your thoughts & Brace yourself: yes, you can let your harmful overthinking rush to the deep, but for every "what if" scenario, you must ask questions:

  • "Is that really a possible scenario?"

  • "What if this happens? Are you gonna feel totally destroyed? How can you handle that? How will you stand up?"

  • "What if this does not happen? What if the opposite happens?

And more questions like those.

2. External agents have little to do with your negative overthinking: the scenarios and questions you create in your mind are primarily in your mind. People and events influence it much less than our own (lack of) self-awareness and low self-esteem. 

Work on your self-awareness, and understand what values you bring to your own table & to the surroundings. Be aware that the biggest and best influence you can have is yourself; if you solely rely on your authority, you will have a much more steady state of mind and soul.

Therefore, even if your negative overthinking engine ignites again, you will know how to steer the machine away from the cliff.

3. Share your thoughts with your trusted ones: this takes courage but sharing your negative overthinking flow helps you to release some tension and get valuable insight from another perspective.

For too long, I kept everything to myself regarding my negative overthinking thoughts. However, once I could start sharing those thoughts with my great friends, I felt more liberated and less anxious as I could not only get some helpful advice and different point-of-view, but I could also feel that I was not alone with this struggle. 

I know it's not easy to start, and you might feel insecure or vulnerable. It's a state of discomfort. But life always happens beyond your comfort zone, as they say. What's there to lose anyways?

Embrace Your Positive Overthinking

As I describe above, positive overthinking - in my words - is about imagining various present or future scenarios to prepare yourself for specific events, make decisions and be aware of all possible outcomes.

A few years ago, I got broke due to a decision I made in my career. I had no income for almost half a year while still living in a rental, paying my loan, and all other living expenses. I could not see the income side of my cash flow for the following months.

Despite all the anxiety and panic attacks I felt throughout those months, one thing was much stronger in me: positive overthinking.

I started imagining all the possible scenarios for the upcoming months:

  • "Okay, so if I won't get that job, I will stay without an income for more."

  • "It means that I might have to give up my rental, sell my car and just move back to my parents."

  • "I might also have to take a shitty job to at least have some money until I can carry on with my career."

  • "Or if I have no luck in finding a proper job that fits my career, I can just move abroad again."

  • "But what if I move abroad and will feel in a shitty state of mind again?"

  • "Well, then I will keep trying with finding a proper job in a proper location"

Of course, thousands of these questions and answers were roaming around my mind. Eventually, mapping all the possible worst-case scenarios helped me to control my anxiety and be creative enough to find alternative, short-term income sources - such as mentoring some students for good money.

The lesson from this: take the courage to map all worst-case scenarios and accept that all could happen so none of those will come at you as a surprise.

This applies to all aspects of life:

  • what career you choose or what career you want to change to,

  • how you approach dating - especially in the early phases of getting to know each other

  • vital decisions ahead of you that might be life-changing

  • any kind of adventures that might feel scary - as I talked about that in my previous article

Looking At Death Through Positive Overthinking

In my opinion, meditating on death is also an element of positive overthinking. Death is always a tough and painful subject, especially if it concerns your loved ones or your own upcoming death. 

People are usually afraid of death. They are scared to die and even more afraid to lose their loved ones.

How many of you have already meditated on the death of your parents, siblings, spouses, or best friend? Have you ever imagined standing at the funeral of those loved ones? Have you ever meditated on what happens after and how you will get through the phase of grief? 

I am afraid not many of you went through this meditation. Because it's painful to think about the fact that we'll die and all our loved ones will die. Sooner or later.

And to be fair, most people and societies have always been ignorant about the matter of death throughout the millenniums.

The advantage of being conscious of death is in line with the benefits of positive overthinking: you prepare for all possible outcomes; thus, pain and shock could be less than without any awareness.

Meditation on death also brings additional philosophical and mental benefits. You realize that life is truly short, and you shall not wait to make decisions that you need to feel happier and more fulfilled.

Such meditation encourages you to spend more time with your loved ones until they are around. Because even though a loved one will never die in our hearts and soul, we won't always be able to enjoy their physical presence.

As we see, overthinking is indeed like a sportscar with a powerful engine. You will fall off the cliff if you don't know how to control and steer it. But if you manage to take leverage of its power, that machine will take you on an adventurous ride.

And this ride is called:

LIFE.

Máté - TMBNC

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