Why Do We Over Analyze?

“You can analyze the situation. To me, that’s all just mental masturbation.”                   – Sammy Hagar

I talk with a lot of folks who describe their brain as something they have no control over. There are many conditions that leave a person feeling this way: addiction, anxiety, ADD, and depression are at the top of that list. I relate. My brain is about as attention deficit as they come.

I’ve learned a lot of strategies over the years that turned my deficits into strengths. If not for my willingness to change, my head would have remained very similar to a bad neighborhood: unsafe to go into alone.

I worked with an amazing woman years ago who described her brain as a hamster wheel that never stops spinning. At the height of her struggle, I asked how she was. She spat at me, “The fucking hamster is on crack!” I laughed and asked, “Who’s feeding the hamster?”

The hamster is her, anxiety is the wheel and the amount of thinking determines the speed at which the wheel spins. Too much thinking is avoidance of action and of emotion.

Like most of us, she played to her own strong suits. Smart people use analysis as their go to for dealing with situations, relationships, and the feelings they have about them. This is problematic at best. Analysis is like a hammer. It’s a perfectly good tool, it simply has limited application. Worse, if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.

I’m fond of the expression, “Analysis leads to paralysis.” When we struggle, our thinking is either circular (no clear course of action, no decision) or it’s muddled (clarity is overshadowed by emotions like guilt, shame, and fear). Bottom line: We stay stuck in our heads to avoid feeling what’s in our hearts.

I strongly favor the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple System). There are only two major problems with this system:

1. I will gain clarity about what needs to change (me)and of course (change is uncomfortable)
2. I will know exactly how I feel about whatever it is I’m messed up about and I’ll need to both experience and express those feelings (alternatively I choose to bottle it up which inevitably leads to more depression and anxiety).

Life is hard, but it’s not complicated. It’s as simple as we allow it to be. Clarity is never attained singularly. Try doing a brain dump – take everything on the hamster wheel and share it with a friend. Two heads aren’t just better than one – they’re a million times better.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.