Deep Thinking vs. Overthinking vs. Obsessive Thinking: An HSP Conundrum

The accusation hurts. You’re a sensitive person. You delve deeply into various subjects that come up in your life. Then, someone in your sphere of influence, with a concerned expression on their face, says to you, “You need to stop overthinking everything.” Are they right?

Deep thinking is a desirable trait, and one that HSPs have in common. We take in so much detail due to hyperactive nervous systems. With that detail, we can make more informed decisions. Therefore, we examine the detail to gain insights that are often out of reach for someone who does not possess the ability. These insights lead to new ways of looking at problems, ultimate solutions, and building blocks to advanced knowledge. This is a positive practice.

Depth of processing or deep thinking should not be confused with overthinking. When you think deeply, you explore all aspects of a problem or belief to come to a conclusion. When you find that conclusion, you use the process to glean insight from it and apply the results to your purpose. Then, you move on, confident in your state of mind and ready for the next step, action or opportunity for growth.

Because you dive deeply into the details in order to reach your goal, others can easily mistake that process (especially if it is not native to their own experience) for overthinking. But overthinking is different from deep thinking. Overthinking comes from a perspective of perfectionism. You mull over details again and again, unable to make a decision. You come from a place of little confidence in your own ability to make the best decision. The answer remains out of reach because you question whether someone will chastise you for your choice or tell you that you are wrong. Overthinking means that you cannot efficiently make a decision for fear of what might happen in the future.

As bad as overthinking may be, it may turn into something equally as or more destructive. Obsessive thinking is when your mind turns the details into a mental loop. Doubt dominates your mind. Why didn’t I do this instead? Why couldn’t I have thought of that first? Its incompetency rises from an obsession with the past. It is epitomized by a host of “what ifs.”

Image courtesy of Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay.

While these three forms of sweeping thought processes are subtly similar, their process/outcome is very different. As an HSP, never give up your highly beneficial trait of deep thinking. It is a powerful gift. But know the difference among these three. Having a competent depth of processing trait does not preclude you from falling victim to the other two. Plus, knowing the difference and being able to explain it will help you respond appropriately to the “You need to stop overthinking everything” admonition.

Know the difference. Know the truth. And thrive as the highly sensitive soul you were born to be.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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