When indecision and mixed up thoughts take over
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 consider all possible options before making that awesome 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 on a continuous basis 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 topic for a lot of 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 to it, it’s purely a myth with no actual evidence to support it. In 2013, a bunch of very smart researchers from Dartmouth College debugged the myth and found that creativity and imagination requires communication of the entire brain. Not just the right part.
(Although most scientists kinda 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 then 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 effectively designed to ignore all logic and reason to ensure survival.
For the modern human being, such as yourself, this is a destructive and counterproductive response. Why? When we are in a stressed situation, researchers have concluded, Amygdala takes the steering wheel and knocks the frontal lobe in the backseat to just be along for the ride.
The thing is, our frontal lobe is not only a key player in distributing creativity and imagination. It is, in essence, the “control panel” of our personality. Brain studies have linked the front part of the frontal lobe, called the prefrontal cortex, is traditionally associated with thinking and a critical part of the executive system, which refers to communicating, planning, reasoning, and judging, and other daily tasks.
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, a little home-grown stupidity once in a while might not be such a bad idea if you want to get things done.