So many of our challenges come from using the conscious brain for purposes it wasn’t designed for. For the most part, it’s not our fault. We’ve either been trained into it by a culture or education system that values analytical thought above all else, or the circumstances of our life mean we’ve fallen into an overthinking pothole simply because we didn’t have the skills or understandings to know how to navigate our way out of it.
Let’s consider then what your conscious brain is really hot property at. At its essence, its superpowers are those of observation and decision-making. Both of these function in support of the unconscious brain, so that it can make the most adaptive and responsive decisions for us in relation to our environment and circumstances.
Where things go a bit (or a lot) wonky is when we attempt to use our conscious brain as an information gatherer, rather than an information receiver. This isn’t its job. When we use our conscious brain in this way, we end up chasing our tail because everything that we are musing or considering does not exist in reality; it only exists in our head.
Information gathering about situations and circumstances is predominantly sensory; it’s the job of the unconscious brain. When our nervous system is fluid and adaptable, our unconscious brain gathers information from our multiple sensory systems (that extend far beyond the fundamental five we are familiar with) and spits whatever info it deems relevant through to the conscious brain.
The conscious brain then receives that information, makes a choice as to what to do next, and takes an action based on that choice. The consequences of that action then provide the unconscious brain with more sensory information and so the cycle continues. This is the process of learning.
Where overthinking comes into play is in the choice phase. We entertain many choices, and predict the outcomes in our minds, rather than making a decision and taking action in the here and now. When outcomes and scenarios overplay in our mind and exist separately to real-life experience and sensory input, we find ourselves stuck in sympathetic thought patterns and activate our survival nervous system.
Part of breaking this cycle is training ourselves into action. If you recognize the endless questions and thoughts, choose one and take action on it. From that place, you will have more information, more knowledge, and more clarity about where to take things next. Otherwise, you’ll be chasing your own tail with the endless thoughts breeding only more endless thoughts.
Choice. Action. Observation. Refinement.
They all rely on each other.