I need to tone it down a bit...
February 20, 2011 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes some people tell me that I think too much and that I over think things. Is there a way that I can become more of a feeling person and less of a thinking person?

It seems to turn up everywhere. I take everything logically and act accordingly. I'm nice to people and I do take others' feelings into account, but at times some people including therapists have told me either directly or in other words that I think too much. My feelings in anything are oftentimes slightly or partially clouded by logic and this seems to be getting in the way of getting into relationships and such. I want to be more expressive and more feeling or at least showing more warmth towards others.

Also this causes me anxiety as I overanalyze things and sometimes some things just don't make logical sense in my life.

Is there any way that I can tone down my brain's gizmos and let my heart do more?
posted by antgly to Human Relations (20 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Practice meditation, this is one of the things it's meant for.
posted by rainy at 9:21 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take less time to make unimportant decisions. Then grin stupidly and jump in a sprinkler.
posted by pmb at 9:39 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

My feelings in anything are oftentimes slightly or partially clouded by logic

Well, that's not a sentence you read every day! I can see two things "you think too much" could mean, in a perfect world where words have meaning and are not just things thrown around to hurt you:
  1. Your "logic" is just anxiety. Your first reaction to the situation at hand is an appropriate one. But then you agonize about your initial reaction and mistrust your judgment, and manage to convince yourself that you're dealing with a very different situation that calls for a very different response. This response is often out of place.
  2. You "logic" is a difference in perspective. People who talk to you have preconceived notions that you just don't share. They propose a conclusion that's based on their preconceived notions and you disagree, because that conclusion doesn't seem natural to you. Your partner in conversation says you think too much because they're not used to examining their preconceived notions, or even being aware of them.
Other things being equal, the first explanation is the more likely one. A lot of people second-guess themselves. The second alternative is also possible, but I try to be careful with it: often the "difference in perspective" is just my own defeatist thinking.
posted by Nomyte at 9:40 PM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm similar to you, and I have 2 heuristics that works for me:
1. Put a time limit on your analysis. This works because usually when the choices are hardest, they often are equivalent choices; so you are not worse off choosing either one.

2. Have a randomization factor of about 10%. Optimization upto 10% is sufficient in most decision in life. Sometime, the 10% favors you; other time, the 10% favors other. Think of it like tipping random people. You don't have to keep the balance sheet exactly with every one. If someone treat you to lunch, accept it; then treat others to lunch. When the mood strike, you can spend on something spontaneous. Budget your resources accordingly.

With these permissive constraints, you will find dealing with others easier. You will free your brain to focus on important decisions; and have a happier life.

When you really think about it, life is full of noises. In a way, we are just noise on this large chunk of dirt here. Mind-boggling majestic movements of the universe happen all around us with nary a care for our thoughts and goals. So, it's rather pointless to spend too much thoughts on mundane things. All will be gone, in time.
posted by curiousZ at 9:47 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've always been a logical person. And always to a fault. My early twenties were a miasmic blur of self-observance. I kept lists, often of my own faults. I made notes, I observed everything. And I was miserable. Nothing was organic.

What was the cure? Getting out of my head, however the hell I could. Whether that meant jogging a couple of miles, reading Kierkegaard, watching Three Amigos, or drinking cheap beer whilst looking out of the window, getting out of my head meant intentionally separating my thoughts, which were often negative and self-loathing (i.e. "Boy, I really said a lot of stupid things last night. Jane must hate me now", "Did that email come across as sarcastic? Because I didn't mean that email to be sarcastic" "What did I do with my twenties? Caesar had conquered the entire known world by the time he was 25. I'm 28 and what have I done?"), from whatever I was doing at the time.

Here's the secret: When you're actively engaged with some sort of project, your own triviality (or other people's) ceases to be the focus. Start a project. Make it something that you can be passionate about. Give yourself goals and stick to them. You'd be surprised at how much the simple act of working towards a goal can give your life a sense of purpose and underscore your feelings. Life becomes something you are, not the logical machinations of a fallible machine.

I got this idea after reading a quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson: "I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair." Your mileage may, of course, vary.
posted by shiggins at 9:50 PM on February 20, 2011 [16 favorites]

Meditation does help a lot, but so does recognising that just because other people say something is bad, doesn't make it so.

Conversely, just because someone labels what you're doing as thinking doesn't make it so either - only you know if you're actually thinking logically and productively or if you're just obsessing needlessly.

A friend once said that if it wasn't for people like me (I'm a bit of a thinking person) then the human race would still be cowering in a cave, giving each other hugs to help cope with their fear of the dark.

Meditation can help you become more aware of your feelings and help with the obsessional aspect of thinking - but remember that being able to think critically is a blessing, even if others see it as a curse.
posted by Ultrahuman at 10:11 PM on February 20, 2011

I've always had this 'problem' too. After years of anxiety and circular thinking, I'm finally at a place where my brain isn't spinning out of control like a broken laptop fan, I'm not driving everybody around me nuts with brain leakage, and most importantly, I'm coming up with some neat stuff that I truly enjoy puzzling on! Also, since I've found this balance for several years now, I can look back on that time (early and mid-20s) with some distance and valuable perspective, and the assurity that I won't be going back there again. I say all this, hopefully as a comfort to you that you'll still retain the logical and valuable parts of yourself you take pride in, but you won't always be this way (the cloudy, mired heart and body and soul).

Forgive me for a cheesy metaphor, but your brain *is* like a muscle. Yours is probably like Popeye's right arm, overpumping iron to the detriment of everything else. When I was at my worst, most-anxiety ridden, I was the clumsiest fool on Earth. I was so up in my thoughts that my body became a two-wheeled, wavering and wobbling doo-dad for carrying this lead-soaked thinking sponge around. My heart was so shielded, so protected by thought, that I couldn't even be in a romantic moment without running some algorithm on what was just said.

I think the very question you ask (last line of your FPP) really demonstrates that you want to strike a new balance and you're heading in the right direction to do so. Letting your heart do more is just it. Also, being in your body in ways that force you to trust it, putting your brain aside for stretches of activity.

That second one is really hard to do. I started with activities that required a lot of thinking and strategy...rock climbing, geocaching, etc. Over time, I took the mental training wheels off and I can work on activities that directly involve shutting the brain off (like yoga) and those that are just too chaotic/dangerous/busy that you can't afford to let your brain be front and center (bootcamp, surfing).

For the heart, it's empathy in every day things. It's a long process of unshielding and softening. Honestly, I'll have to get back to you on that one in a few more years, but maybe some others here have some perspective for the both of us to help us along our way.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:15 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are not busy enough. Do more with your life and this p[roblem will solve itself - either it will stop totally or you will learn to think much faster and it won't bother you anymore.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 10:18 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now, could prove to be very inspirational to you. It's helping me a lot in regards to "getting out of my head".
posted by purplefiber at 10:41 PM on February 20, 2011

Keep busy, especially with things that involve other people. This sounds contradictory, but I find myself more spontaneous when my time is more scheduled. Try to have something non-school related planned outside your house for every day of the week.
posted by auto-correct at 11:42 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

In David Burn's Feeling Good, one of the criteria I was diagnosed with is perfectionism. I do tend to think waaay too much in terms of people and things I do. Since realizing this facet of myself, I've had good success just living and not worrying so much about getting things to a good state. I'm still somewhat of a perfectionist at work, because that's what I'm good at. But out of that, I try to keep things chilled and accept things as how they come, no worries :)
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:37 AM on February 21, 2011

I'd suggest finding things to do that will increase your self-confidence.

Confident people don't need to spend a lot of time second-guessing themselves. They have experience of making good decisions and of surviving bad decisions, so they are able to trust themselves to make the best possible choice with the information they have available. They don't worry incessantly about what everybody else thinks; they are able to handle the idea that some people won't like them, and they don't mind.

Some things that can help with self-confidence:

Learning a physical skill, particularly if you're not naturally very sporty. Have patience with yourself while you do it. If you get knocked down, get up again, calm yourself and carry on.

Getting fit, particularly strength training.

Learning any kind of important life skills that you're missing - money management? Basic DIY or car maintenance?

Teaching. I juggle (because I joined a student juggling club years ago) and now I teach workshops every now and then, which is a great confidence-booster.

Learning more about assertive communication (plenty of resources on the internet for this).
posted by emilyw at 2:27 AM on February 21, 2011

You are me; I am you, and currently seeking professional help for exactly this. Didn't your therapist offer any, uh, therapy, to address it?

Anyway, mindfulness (which is a geek-friendly word for meditation) is the first thing recommended by everyone I have spoken to who seems to me to be emotionally in touch with themselves, including my therapist. I've had success with listening to the "Insight" rain track from here, once a day for 60% of the week. I'm skeptical of the brain waves thing, but the beauty with this is that you don't have to sit in a posture, or breathe, or think in a particular way (though you will eventually want to). Just be still, listen to the rain, and see what happens.

As others say, doing things with your body (dance class, exercise, woodwork, making/fixing, cooking, stretching) will help even up the mind/body imbalance.
posted by cogat at 4:32 AM on February 21, 2011


The Happiness Trap
Intimate Connections (helps with the getting into relationships and such)

I didn't much like the Power of Now - a bit too subjective, whereas the two above are based on empirical research.

Good luck, fellow traveller!
posted by cogat at 4:36 AM on February 21, 2011

Do you experience feelings/emotions regularly?

I used to be very much in my head, and what I discovered for myself was that I couldn't think my emotions, I had to feel them. As I started paying more attention to my body, I could sense things like anger, sadness, fear -- and these were all manifesting as sensations in my body, rather than ideas in my head.

People get very focused on what happens in the brain, but the truth is the entire body is involved in experiencing things and learning. Tuning into your body and what's going on with it might help.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:29 AM on February 21, 2011

I'm sure this is going to sound incredibly cheesy, but I always find nature helps me to feel rather than think. Nature doesn't think about logic or worry about what's right and what's wrong, it just gets on with it, and watching it just getting on with the business of surviving always has a kind of galvanising effect on me. Iris Murdoch explains it better than I can:

"I am looking out of my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. There is nothing now but kestrel. And when I return to thinking of the other matter it seems less important ... "

This happens to me all the time. I cycle to work, and I generally find my morning cycle a convenient time to over-think things. However, every so often I see a red kite, and without fail it instantly lifts me out of my preoccupations and makes me feel more alive. Spring is a good time to see if this works for you, too - I never feel more feeling, for want of a better word, than I do when I can see nature bursting into life all around me.
posted by raspberry-ripple at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Data point from a naturally analytic person: thinking and feeling are not mutally exclusive. I have been accused in the past of "thinking too much", but what made me better in social settings and relationships was learning to get in touch with my own feelings and to perceive the feelings of others. This did not require me to think less*. It did require me to pay attention to the moment more.

As far as the anxiety goes, I suspect your problem is not that you're thinking too much, but rather that you're thinking in an unhelpful manner. This can take a lot of forms - obsessive mental loops, trying to fit the world into a too-narrow cognitive framework, making inappropriate judgments, etc. Without examples it's hard to say exactly.

*(There is an element of quieting the internal monkey chatter long enough to really hear what people are saying to you and knowing when it's appropriate to save detailed analysis for later. That's not really the same as becoming less of a thinking person.)

(I could go on for a while about the work I did over years to move from being a thinking, but emotionally incompetent person towards being a deeper thinking and emotionally capable person, but it wouldn't be of much interest to anyone but myself. Feel free to me-mail me if you think any of those details might be helpful for your own situation.)
posted by tdismukes at 7:53 AM on February 21, 2011

I strongly suggest Get Out of Your Mind And Into Your Life. It's a workbook on acceptance and commitment therapy, a variation of CBT that focuses on mindfulness and self-awareness.

On that note: my ex frequently complained of being too 'logical' and 'analytical' to be emotional, and, with that in mind, id like to say that such claims smack of self-approval to me, as though emotion is for puny lower beings. Yeah, I have a lot of leftover anger. Get a therapist. Read the above.
posted by nerdfish at 11:49 AM on February 21, 2011

Hello, you are like me.

Many of us overthinkers are driven by caution, safety, and security. We're afraid of making the wrong decision and we feel like if we can find a rational basis for a decision, it will be the right decision.

The problem is -- speaking as a former lawyer -- I've learned that you can use logic to reach any result you wish. In fact, you can use logic to reach two completely opposite results. Sometimes there is no rationally correct decision. So what do you then? What are you left with?

You're left with figuring out what will make you happy.

Sometimes you have to ask your gut. Your gut can be trained; start trusting your gut on small, inconsequential decisions, and see how it turns out.

The heart and the gut knows some things that the brain doesn't. Sometimes your brain sees only the individual trees, but your heart and your gut see the forest. So learn to listen to them a little more and realize that logic is not always the best decider.

It's not necessary to abandon logic completely. Logic and rationality have probably gotten you to some decent places in life, so you don't need to throw them totally out. If you realize that you don't need to abandon logic completely, maybe it will be easier to let your gut have a voice as well.
posted by Tin Man at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2011

I have the same problem, and in addition to the other suggestions here, one thing that has helped a lot is to spend more time around women. Not for dating, not even for friendship (although those'd be nice if you can work them out), but just for exposure to more regular acknowledgment and display of feelings.

Yes, it's a cliche, and not all women are more "feeling" than "thinking," but I guarantee you that if you pay attention to the conversations of the women around you, you'll be introduced into a world where feelings are more valued and recognized than you'd ever imagined.
posted by Rykey at 4:13 PM on February 21, 2011

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