Woman’s Mental Health – Thinking too much – Possible causes
Do women think too much? A book by a psychologist provides strategies to come out of the ‘epidemic of over-thinking’.
Why does this happen? Nolen-Hoeksema draws on her own research experience, as well as that of other cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists to postulate that some brain-circuitry problems concerning the interconnected networks in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the amygdale and the hippocampus, all of which are together involved in emotional regulations, may actually be responsible. The very connection that are responsible for the increased efficiency of thought processes in women can. When they are slightly out kilter, cause over efficient thinking, whereby switching off becomes increasingly difficult.
However, given that these circuitry problems are not easy to conclusively demonstrate, this postulation can, at least for now, be considered at best an extremely plausible speculation. Nolen-Hoeksema also looks at the social psychological research and comes to some other causative elements of the phenomenon. She concludes that the “Over-thinking generation” is beset by s “Vacuum of Values”. This results in a culture of over-thinking, especially when combined with the “Entitlement Obsession”, that is commonly seen in the current generation of young and middle-aged women. The “Compulsive Need for Quick Fixes” that’s part of the contemporary solution providing times we live in, and what she enjoyably refers to as “Our Belly Button Culture”, by which she means our habit of pushing the envelope on the self-awareness thing as a result of which we constantly gaze at our navels and over-analyze each and everything we do to death.
Understanding that women do over-think and that there are a few recognizable causes and patterns to this phenomenon is one thing. But can anything be done about it? Can over-thinking women indeed reclaim their lives? In a refreshing departure from many self-help books in recent times that really peddle commonplace solutions that any self-respecting agony aunt could provide, although using shiny new nomenclature, Nolen-Hoeksemaspends most of the book describing practical strategies that women have used successfully to combat the downward spiral that over-thinking some-times sends them into-depression, alcoholism and self-destructiveness. The basic approach to escaping the over-thinking syndrome lies in three steps – breaking free, moving to a higher ground and finally learning to avoid future traps.
Each of these steps is described in great detail with many practical things that can be done with ease by anyone who cares to try. On the face of it, many of the strategies described may be considered too simple, even simplistic. However, they are hardly that. Thought and experimentation has obviously gone into them and only an over-thinker belonging to the belly button culture would find it easy to
reject simple solutions and seek more complex panaceas couched in the language of self-awareness.
Nolen-Hoeksema begins by distinguishing over-thinking from garden-variety worrying. Worriers worry about the future. Over-thinkers fret over the past. What has happened in the past. What they’ve done in the past. What they should and could have done in the past. And so on. Nor is over-thinking a variation Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where the individual’s conscious mind is actively intruded upon by unwanted and often, blasphemous thoughts that pretty much have a mind of their own and can sometimes take over the sufferer’s entire thought process. She defines three categories of over-thinking.
The first of these, Rant-and-rave over-thinking is usually related to an event of perceived injustice which sets in motion a “thought rage”, as it were, from which the individual finds it very hard to escape. The second, Life-of-their-own over thinking starts of as a sort of rumination of something that the person is a little unhappy about, say, being over-weight. Her mind then launches on a tirade directed against herself and her flaws and shortcomings which are immediately exaggerated to epic proportions. Her mind then goes around in circles, much like a roundabout that just cannot be stopped. The third variety, Chaotic over-thinking, involves jumping from one chaotic thought to another, not necessarily in linear progression. It’s almost like multiple thought processes explode against each other, each feeding off the other and setting a reverberating circuit of unhappy and unrelated thoughts.
The author has avoided falling into this trap by treating the subject with empathy, diligence, scholarship and authenticity. Her detailed stories of over-thinking women and her comprehensive description of the thought process of over-thinkers are a delight to read and I’m sure will be readily identified with by most women who read the book. Large numbers of American women have benefited from Suson Nolen-Hoeksema’s wisdom.