Anxiety Revisited

I recently ran across this article which caused me to think again about clients with whom I have worked that say they "overthink" things which frequently causes them to get stuck in a never-ending battle with worry and anxiety.

I really appreciate the article since it puts this thinking style in a positive light. In the very brief article, they highlight the creativity and problem solving powers of "overthinkers" or worriers. So, if you have a tendency to overthink things or worry about things that may or, more likely will never happen, perhaps its your genius brain trying to help you come up with a new invention! I like being able to put this frequently negatively characterized thinking style in a more positive light.

The area I disagree with in the article is that the article suggests that "happy-go-lucky" people are "at a disadvantage" in the area of problem solving simply because they cannot see the potential problems. I hesitate to judge either thinking style as positive or negative--more advantageous or less. The worrier frequently gets stuck. They can come up with millions of problems and therefore be unable to move past the problems into the solutions. The non-worriers don't give as much weight to the potential problems and may have the confidence to know that whatever problems may arise--they'll just deal with them on the fly. This may be looked at as having high self esteem. It may also be looked at as unrealistic or even dangerous. So neither is better than the other. They're just different. 

Imagine if these two thinking styles came together! The worrier that presents all of these potential problems and the non-worrier that quickly comes up with ways to solve the problems! That is actually where the great, amazing inventions will come from--the combination of these two strengths! So, once again, it becomes clear that we need each other. Two heads are better than one. Although sometimes more than two heads can really cause gridlock...

Charles Barsotti from the New York Times

Charles Barsotti from the New York Times

This is what I find beneficial about therapy. For worriers or overthinkers, therapy provides a setting for a client to identify the risks and, together with the therapist, come up with solutions for how to overcome or mitigate the risk. Next, the support received in therapy might be just the thing that is needed to help motivate and teach the client to slowly push past the risk and do the thing which causes them such great anxiety. For the non-worrier, therapy can provide a place where some examination of the potential for problems can come in, possibly avoiding a great fiasco due to insufficiently thought out plans. In both cases, the client can slow down their thinking, process the situation with the assistance of an objective third party, and hopefully make the decision that is the best for the given situation. This is why I frequently say "Not everyone needs therapy but everyone can benefit from therapy!"