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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

When You’re Blamed for “Overthinking”

I was once told that I “over-analyze words and interpret them in a different way than they were intended.”

This opinion was lodged by a man I had gone on three dates with, after I had cordially informed him I was no longer interested in dating.

He was upset that I ended things, and after a flurry of texts, chose to send me a lengthy email explaining why he was hurt. It was in this email that he shared his complaint of me over-analyzing.

He was right, in some regards. I do analyze the words that others and myself use. I love words. They carry such ability to connect and provide understanding. They can also wound. So I do think deeply about words, including what is directly said and what is indirectly implied in their use.

A mixed media collage of a man putting his hand over a woman's mouth. There is a also a man looking, a bunny, and a mother and child with the words "Where are You?"
"You're Too Much" Mixed Media Collage by Jackie Schuld

His use of over-analyze, implies he feels I go too far. I think this is a common complaint of women, liberals, and marginalized populations that critique harmful words and comments. The ruling majority (and by that I do not mean actual numbers, but our cis-white-heteronormative culture) are those who are typically not harmed by the words being critiqued and therefor do not have the experience and awareness to understand how certain words and phrases are deeply cutting.

Those that lodge complaints that others are “over-analyzing” “over-thinking” or “too sensitive,” are typically people who are not on the receiving end. They have not paused to critically think about their words.

So in comparison to the amount of analysis done by the average white cis-heternormative male within our culture, yes I over-anaylze.

But that doesn’t mean I over-analyze. “Over-analyze” is only accurate when I am compared to a group that is in desperate need of more self analysis.

I like to think my level of thinking and analysis is the norm. I’d like to believe that this is how our brains are intended to think and connect us with our fellow humans.

I would like to address the second comment made, that I “interpret [words] in a way different than intended.”

He is also correct in this assertion. I often think about deeper meanings and implications of words that differ from the original intended use.

For example, I was told by a man that I was “lucky” that I had not been raped after I shared about a sexual assualt experience. Yes, I interpreted “lucky” differently than the man intended. He was intending for me to “see the positive” in a very traumatic experience. Instead, I felt deeply unseen in this moment of toxic positivity that dared to imply my sexual assault experience could have been worse, and I should therefor feel “lucky” instead of the deep anger, fear, frustration, and myriad of other emotions.

It was incredibly invalidating of my experience and completely missed how terrifying and traumatizing that moment was for me. No comparisons need to be made. Do we tell a person who lost an arm in war that he should feel lucky he didn’t also lose a leg?

So yes, I notice the impact of words. And yes, it is often different from what the speaker intended. But that does not absolve the speaker.

After addressing various offensive things I’ve been told, the response has often been “but my intention was good” and “I meant it in a nice way.” That may be true, but a person can also listen to what I am saying, utilize some empathy, and see the other implications of their words.

That seldom happens though. Fragility gets in the way. The speaker’s hurt ego about being “called out” or “criticized” gets in the way of true connection. It becomes a hot mess of them trying to justify, defend, and whatever else, instead of a simple admission that they did not realize and now they understand.

I would also love a brief apology and an expression of gratitude for me being vulnerable and caring enough to take the time to explain this to them. Alas, considering most do not reach the level of understanding, I don’t normally get to experience gratitude.

For example, if my former date were to read this essay, I’m sure he would say I’m “over-analyzing and interpreting his phrase in a way that he didn’t intend.”

And with that, he would be proving everything I wrote in this essay.


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