Frequently, my clients talk to me about how they overthink many problems or over-analyze a situation. People do this because they engage in something that I call “preemptive coping.”
A good example is playing chess and trying to figure out all the possible moves before picking up a chess piece. Or looking at a situation and saying, “okay, if this person makes this move, then I’ll do this. If this person makes this move, then I’ll do that.” People do this in order to preemptively cope with all possible outcomes.
The problem is that they’re doing that in order to cope with the outcomes. And by doing that, they backhandedly diminish their belief in their own problem-solving ability. Plus, it’s mentally exhausting. Anyone who overthinks or over-analyzes can relate to the fact that it is mentally exhausting.
The other problem with it is if you’re playing this chess game of all the possible outcomes that could happen, many times, none of the situations actually occur. You could be thinking, “okay, these 10 things could happen, and if these 10 things happen, I will have these 10 responses to these 10 things.” You have all these possible outcomes and none of them happen.
It’s a perpetual cycle of overthinking or over-analyzing. It is common to over-analyze what another person might have said or what another person might have done. People tend to make a lot of assumptions based on what people are thinking or what people are saying without a lot of evidence that they’re going to do anything. Then based on these assumptions, people are left guessing about what that person is thinking or what that person’s next behavior is going to be.
That’s when the overthinking and overanalyzing comes in. “Okay, I think this person is thinking this, I think this person is going to do this based on X.” Without evidence. “And because I think they’re going to do this, I’m going to do X, Y or Z in return.” Many times none of that ever happens, and people usually waste a lot of precious mental energy on this task and then they’re on to the next.
The next day, something else happens, they make more assumptions about something else that someone said or did and they repeat the same behavior. “Okay, I think that they may be thinking this, or that what they just did meant that. And they are about to say or do X to me, then I’m going to do X, Y, or Z in return.” Oftentimes none of these eventualities ever occur. All this guessing diminishes a strong belief in your problem-solving ability and your coping ability.
It’s critically important that people have a belief in their ability to cope with different situations. This speaks to their need to be able to have patience and frustration tolerance to wait for an event to occur. It’s really hard to have patience, it’s really hard to have frustration tolerance. The more you can cope and wait for something to actually happen, the more satisfied you’ll be with your life. People spend too much time acting on assumptions instead of acting on actual events, which causes them to be really dissatisfied.
If you can learn to live and cope with the unknown, have the ability to tolerate with patience and frustration tolerance with the unknown, and only cope with things as they happen, you will feel more satisfied. You will believe in your ability to cope with things that actually happen. This will help reduce overthinking and over-analyzing and following a path that will only lead to further mental exhaustion.