Are You a Chronic Overthinker? The Defense of Projectizing, Part 3
Updated: Aug 25
Thus far in this series about projectizing, a deeper form of perfectionism, showing up in a tendency to anxiously fix ourselves, we discussed how important it is to refrain from making ourselves a project to be fixed or a problem to solve, rather than a person worthy of love and compassion. We also explored Sarah’s story, a woman desiring marriage and how she makes herself a project, as we dive deep into her story of shame around her singleness and confusion around her faith.
In today’s post, we will explore toxic thinking patterns, prioritizing knowledge over relationship, and demanding answers over self-acceptance. A primary way we projectize is by trying to control our circumstances which exhausts vast quantities of attention spent in chronic overthinking that steals our joy and robs our peace of mind.
Where does chronic overthinking come from? I’ve discovered in my work with clients that overthinking is way to control, and control is rooted in fear. We overthink because we are afraid and feel out of control either situationally or relationally.
Overthinking is expending too much time and energy ruminating, rationalizing, reasoning, and analyzing everything which is harmful rather than helpful. It’s all-consuming. In this way, overthinking is self-protection that helps us feel in control. However, it’s a temporary solution to a deeper problem: fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of abandoment, fear of inadequacy, fear of feelings, or fear of intimacy.
One way control can show up is through an obsessive need to know that is not serving us well or creates suffering and anxiety. These toxic thinking patterns become an illness of introspection because we are scrutinizing ourselves, and we get stuck in paralysis by analysis. The more people try to fix and analyze themselves, the farther away the answer is and the more anxious they become.
Overthinking, the all-consuming need to control through knowing, becomes an intense drive within us to want to turn everything into a problem to be solved or turn us into a project to fix not as a person with a story and emotions.
However, knowledge in and of itself when used to avoid the reality of our pain does not satisfy the longings of our soul or the deep desires of our hearts. Yet many of us are afraid at our core to truly let another person know us at a vulnerable level because we are afraid if they knew everything about us, they might leave.
Knowing at the Cost of Being Known
On their first visit, many clients share with me the reason they are seeking counseling, such as anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. Clients who are unconsciously suffering from the defense of projectizing sit tensely on the edge of the sofa, determined to fix themselves. They are highly intelligent, motivated, and successful people. Often, they hold back tears. They see feelings as a nuisance or an inconvenience to solving their problems. If they could just get their anxiety to stop, for example, they would be okay.
They are chronic overthinkers. They want tools so they can know exactly what to do and how to do it. They don’t want to know themselves; they want to know answers. They are impatient and, in a hurry, to fix the problem. They want things to go back to the way they were before they were struggling so they can be “happy or normal again.” They have yet to experience the truth that happiness is not contingent upon a pain-free life. They do not see the connection between their suffering and frantically wanting to fix themselves. They are unaware of past and present underlying pains in their life and how these are affecting their current issues.
This need, however, is never satisfied, because you will never have a pain-free or problem-free life. Your need to overthink and fix yourself every time a problem arises will overwhelm you, consuming your emotional energy and thought life. Instead of enjoying a life of purpose, fixing yourself and overthinking becomes your purpose.
These clients desperately want to know things and how to be fixed at the cost of being known as a person. Freedom from their suffering entails doing the necessary work by facing the reality of their deep-seated pain so healing can take place. Many people unknowingly live out of unresolved pain that shows up as chronic overthinking and a compulsion to fix themselves for most of their life.
Intellectual Knowing or Relational Knowing?
Freedom from chronic overthinking is found through experience. The experience of relational intimacy, sharing our story with another, facing our fears, and feeling our feelings. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The original Greek word for “know” is ginosko, which means to know the truth through personal, firsthand experience.* Knowledge in and of itself does not bring freedom, just as awareness does not lead to instant healing transformation.
Many clients have come to me for counseling after reading numerous self-help books and listening to podcasts on anxiety, perfectionism, and how to overcome chronic overthinking. Perhaps they have found some relief, yet they continue to remain stuck. Why? Because freedom and healing come through personal experience.
This means we need to experience our pain, face our fears, and embrace the reality of our challenging circumstances, even if they’re hard and scary. Likewise, we must feel our feelings and share our experiences with a safe person who can speak truth and help us expose the lies we are believing to be true.
You Are Not Alone
Although people seek advice and counsel about their chronic overthinking and anxiety, they yearn for who they are buried beneath their fears, painful emotions, and the lies they believe about themselves. Having another person, such as a therapist, you enter into a relationship between two people where you heal through a heart-to-heart intimate co-creation of change. Not head-to-head dialogue about how to fix the problem, or worse - fix ourselves.
We don’t need advice and we don’t need answers, quick fixes, or how-tos. We need to share our story and to have someone partner with us to face the deepest truths of our lives so we can be healed and live free from obsessive overthinking.
Next week, we will explore helpful ways to overcome toxic thinking patterns and our tendency to obsessively fix ourselves.
The content for this blog post has been taken from Andrea’s book, The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking, and Self-Sabotaging Behavior
* Ginosko,” Bible Hub, https://biblehub.com/greek/1097.htm.
The photo accompanying this article was sourced from Unsplash and is in the public domain.