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Why Overthinkers Are Creative Problem-Solvers

By Nick Darlington on Wednesday March 22nd, 2017

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The Key to Problem Solving

Neurotic overthinkers often have negative thoughts and emotions. The mere mention of the word conjures up a host of negative feelings and emotions: anxiety, worry, stress, moodiness, and overthinking. However, psychologists have discovered a hidden gem. Neurotic overthinkers are highly creative. In fact, if you’re one, you may even be a creative genius.

Why are Neurotic Overthinkers More Creative?

To fully understand this, we need to find the link between creativity and neuroticism…

According to an Opinion Paper published in Trends and Cognitive Sciences, a new theory is presented which establishes a link between creativity and neurotics. The part of your brain responsible for self-generated thoughts – for example, introspection and over analysis – is more active in neurotics, yielding both positive and negative traits. The positive traits are increased creativity and the negative traits are anxiety, depression, obsession and even misery, to name a few.

In speaking to Huffington Post, Dr. Adam Perkins, one of the authors of the study re-affirms this:

Neuroticism has costs, but it also has benefits. Highly neurotic people will suffer a lot of anxiety and depression over their lifespan, but their deep-thinking, brooding tendencies can also give rise to greater creative potential.

The link then lies in overthinking.

Neurotic over-thinkersNeurotic overthinkers struggle with negative thoughts and emotions.

Overthinking as the Driving Force Behind Neuroticism

Overthinking is regarded as the driving force behind neuroticism. But not just any type of overthinking. Overthinkers are adept at negative thinking because certain parts of their prefrontal cortex (a brain area governing self-generating thoughts) are highly active. Consequently, they’re hypersensitive towards threat and danger, even when it doesn’t exist. They will often go into overdrive to solve the problem. Whilst this can lead to great unhappiness for neurotic overthinkers, it’s closely linked to an imagination that overreacts and generates threats. It can also push them to become highly creative problem solvers.

Perkins goes on to say:

If neurotic people tend to think more about problems due to having a lot of threat-related, self-generated thoughts — which explains their tendency to feel unhappy — it seems likely they will have a better chance to create solutions to those problems, compared to low scorers on neuroticism who look on the bright side of life all the time.

Great Neurotic Thinkers

And this probably explains why the likes of Van Gogh, Woody Allen, and Isaac Newton were highly creative and yet highly neurotic overthinkers. They dwelt on problems longer than the average person. They dug deep, they analyzed (and over-analyzed) and they obsessed.

Isaac Newton, for example, was prone to worrying, overthinking and dwelling on scientific problems:

I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light,

That being said, if he hadn’t, many of his creative breakthroughs wouldn’t have come to fruition. This would’ve had a profound impact on learning in schools and the world as a whole.

Isaac Newton thinkingWould Isaac Newton have impacted the world so much if he weren’t an overthinker?

Helping People Make Sense of Their Own Experiences

The researchers hope the theory stimulates new research and provides a single framework to tie together both the emotional and creative aspects of neuroticism. They do, however, acknowledge further research is required:

We’re still a long way off from fully explaining neuroticism, and we’re not offering all of the answers, but we hope that our new theory will help people make sense of their own experiences, and show that although being highly neurotic is by definition unpleasant, it also has creative benefits ~ Perkins in Eureka Alert

So the next time you feel down, depressed, anxious or moody, remember you have an amazingly unique ability as a neurotic overthinker – you’re highly adept at creative problem-solving. Some may even say, you’re a creative genius.

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Words By Nick Darlington

Originally posted on Lifehack, Lifehack is your source for tips to help improve all aspects of your life.



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