Why overthinking will doom you – and stupidity can do you good

When indecision and mixed-up thoughts take over.

By Frankly

5 min. reading time

You might’ve heard the phrase “paralysis by analysis”. In short, it’s a fancier way of describing the state of over-analyzing (or overthinking), i.e., heavily considering all possible options before making that excellent move.

But why do we overthink? Overthinking happens as we grow older, and our fearless, curious, and child-like brain becomes overwhelmingly jam-packed with rational knowledge, information overload, and new perspectives and ideas continuously throughout life.

But what does this have to do with creativity? Over a century ago, American philosopher and psychologist William James identified the brain mechanics of why overthinking sabotages creativity. Since then, it has been a topic for many scientific studies.

For decades, we believed the right brain is the home of creative thinking and the left brain of logical thinking. While this theory has a seductive simplicity, it’s purely a myth with no evidence to support it. In 2013, a bunch of very smart researchers from Dartmouth College debugged the myth and found that creativity and imagination require communication of the entire brain. Not just the right part.


Although most scientists knew that already.


Now, let’s get a bit nerdy. Hold on tight. Overthinking (over)activates certain parts of the medial prefrontal cortex, which is connected to the conscious perception of threat and danger. Essentially, there’s little or no way to overthink something without diving into anxieties, fear or stress.

The amygdala, also described as "reptile's brain", is an almond-shaped section of the brain responsible for detecting fears to develop an emergency plan. While doing this, it is designed to ignore all logic and reason to ensure survival.

This is a destructive and counterproductive response for the modern human being, such as yourself. Why? Researchers have concluded that when we find ourselves in a stressed situation, Amygdala takes the steering wheel and knocks the frontal lobe into the backseat for a ride-along.

The thing is, our frontal lobe is not only a key player in distributing creativity and imagination. It is essentially the “control panel” of our personality, responsible for high-cognitive functions such as decision-making, problem-solving, reasoning, judging and attention.

When we start to over-analyze and overthink, we stress the brain, trigger the amygdala, and experience a sense of paralysis, which effectively reduces our creativity and productivity. So, occasionally, a little homegrown stupidity might not be such a bad idea if you want to get things done.



Sources: Psychology TodayDifferences Between, Visions Applied, Elite Daily, yourbrainhealth, and Thought Catalog

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