"You shouldn't think so much"

In the GQ thread about schizophrenics and relaxation techniques, this post by dropzone reminded me that for much of my life, people have indeed been advising me that “you shouldn’t think so much.”

Questions:
*Has anyone ever advised you similarly?
*Was it appropriate advice? Did you take the advice?
*Regardless of the above two questions, under what circumstances would you give this advice to someone else?

FTR, I had a roommate who expressed bafflement at the idea that someone would give me advice like that. Also FTR, he was kind of a dumb jock.

Count me in.

I’ve just started a new job. I’m pretty anal about understanding stuff that comes out of my mouth. Instead of being given the information, the standard response is “Don’t overthink it.”

I can go pretty far inside my own head, and got knows, I hash shit out over and over and over again.

Although I have to say, in this world, I don’t think the biggest problem is too much thinkin’ going on.

I get told that I ‘think too much’ fairly regularly. Usually when I’ve deconstructed something to a pointless level, or have found something obscure and hidden to worry about in something superficially innocuous.

It’s sometimes good advice - especially when it comes to activities considered ‘fun’, but being excessively critical isn’t a feature I can switch off*, and wouldn’t want to, as it’s probably responsible for most of my better facets, too.

*Unless I’m drunk, when the world washes over me like I’m a pebble on the beach.

In the context of driving – my driving instructor said this to me all the time.

Well, my dad. :slight_smile: “Girls don’t need to think that much.”

People who have the tendency to become depressed can be (wisely) advised to avoid “rumination” behavior, where they dwell repeatedly and in depth on fears, worries, past mistakes, etc. This tends to only drag them further into depression and more rumination, creating a vicious cycle. I have been warned on that in the past and feel it is good advice. The counter to it is to think about constructive plans, ways that past mistakes have instead taught good advice and techniques, etc.

I also read an article recently that stated that pre-teen and teenage girls can inadvertently do similar things amongst their friends by repeatedly talking about worries/problems. They have a positive effect from having a bonding experience, but the negatives of dwelling on those problems can just lead to “rumination” and reinforced fears. This could lead to things like inadvertent encouragement of eating disorders, if weight or control issues are part of what is being talked about.

Missed the edit window:

I also heard this in kendo class in college - the instructor tried to make us understand the concept translated as “mind of no mind.” Instead of overthinking everything and being slow to react due to trying to think of the best option, or mindless slashing away without real purpose, you had to get to a state where, after much practice and experience, you could react with real intent to an attack, without having to think out what was your next option.

It’s sometimes a valid bit of advice, of course.

But I’ve never gotten the advice from someone else in any context but overthinking a work of fiction and thereby sucking the fun out.

Any time I overthink a problem, or get into a cycle of insecurity fed by thinking too much on the bad things, nobody - outside, sometimes, myself - ever notices.

Any time I get told ‘not to think so much’ outside the context of the above, it’s never advice against overthinking, it’s always condemnation of thinking - and reading, and any other intellectual pursuit - in general.

So, I do think that it’s somewhat suspect.

If someone says, “You shouldn’t think so much,” it’s not simply because you’re thinking a lot. It’s because you’re asking that person a lot of questions–probably questions that person doesn’t want to face.

You can easily think a lot (“ruminate”) without any other person knowing it. It’s when you pose difficult questions to others that they tell you you’re thinking too much.

This is generally good advice for me with respect to personal life, particularly with my husband. With my kid, eh, probably a good idea to examine why he’s doing what he’s doing as long as I’m not hovering. With my husband, not a good idea to examine his words too closely since he’s a literal thinker and he generally says exactly what he means and if he has a problem will tell me about it.

At work, not overthinking is generally not good advice. Dealing with regulations means that you need to look at all the ways a law might be interpreted to ensure your product is compliant. If it’s not, you could be looking at millions of dollars in fines. So overthinking is very good, as long as you let other people do their jobs, too. Edited to add that people in my line of work who tell you not to think so much are generally the same people whose products are not compliant and they’re working to please the client, not ensure product quality.

I was overthinking things when I took my motorcycle MSF course. As I was approaching various tasks, my brain was running checklists. By the time I got to the bottom of the mental checklist, I had taken too long to do the task.

For example, to stop the cycle:

  1. Apply front and rear breaks
    (not too hard, don’t skid. If you do skid the front tire, release right away, if you skid the rear, ride it out to a stop)
  2. Clutch in.
  3. Downshift to first.
  4. Come to a stop
  5. Left foot down
  6. Right foot down.

It needs to become automatic but I’m a big over-thinker.

The instructor told me to “Sing”. Can’t be a linear thinker and sing at the same time he said.

It really helped.

The first time I had sex. My partner had considerable experience and afterwards when we were talking about things he told me I was thinking too hard. The sentiment being that in certain circumstances you need to relax and not overanalyze.

My standard answer is. . “You’re not thinking enough” or for “You think too much”, it’s “You think too little.” :cool:

But I do agree with the other posters that it does depend on context. In work-related situations, my standard answer is generally the right one.

I was thinking <snort> about this the other day, after listening to an NPR report on patterns.

Somebody did some research and found that when people are stressed, they have a tendency to create patterns where none exists. Such as by seeing recognizable objects in static. And that when they’re NOT stressed, they don’t do it.

The suggestion was that creating patterns is our way of gaining control, of making sense out of non-sense; the researchers drew some parallels to superstitions, where people attribute causality as a way of combating fear.

So what I wondered is if people who develop (or have) mental illness that results in a split from reality are not doing exactly the same thing, building an alternative that makes sense because what’s around them doesn’t.
Anyway, I used to believe that “you think too much” was a stupid criticism (and it’s one I’ve heard a lot). I’m changing my view; I do think it’s possible to generate a false reality through excessive rumination, and that the reality one creates is often worse than the actual one.
I also know that, as an artist, it’s important to let up on control, so that art can happen. Deliberate choices are a part of making art, but they’re not the whole thing; our conscious minds tend to kill the actual “art” and turn the drawing into an answer to a question that wasn’t being asked. Hmmm, that was vague. Here’s an example – I saw this problem in a couple of my pieces just last night, work I’d done earlier this summer. I could see I’d overworked the portraits, I’d put in more information than was needed, because I was self-conscious and uncertain. I can see, looking at the drawings now, that I was trying to prove that I’m competent. Instead of just letting art happen. I over-thought them, trying to guard against criticism that wasn’t being made (except by me).

I don’t hear this often, but for some reason my host parents in Mexico said it to me practically every day, because I would sit around not saying anything. I am, in general, a rather quiet person, and they seemed to interpret this as me being an obsessive thinker. But really, I was just content to observe.

I have had depression before, and the problem is not thinking too much persay, it’s thinking cyclically. Like somebody said earlier, ruminating can be problematic.

Mine is, “You should try it just once.”

Well, as someone with OCD, yeah, it’s DEFINITELY appropriate from time to time. Thinking too much isn’t so much thinking in general as dwelling on ONE thing so much you’re well, obsessing.

Perhaps a better way to say it would be, “Think about something else?”

:wink:

Dammit!