Summary of the book “I think too much – How to channel intrusive thoughts”: In the book, Christel Petitcollin deals with people who think too much, or what she calls “mentally over-efficient”, in order to teach them to best utilize their over-efficient brain and be able to live a calmer life.
By Christel Petitcollin, 2014, 196 pages
Review and summary of “I think too much – How to channel intrusive thoughts”:
The PWMD: Person with Mental Disability
This book is based on the professional practice of the author, Christel Petitcollin, coach and trainer in personal development.
Over the last seventeen years, Christel Petitcollin has dealt with people of all ages, all of whom felt that they were disconnected from the environment they found themselves in, didn’t value their self-worth, and had disruptive thoughts.
Over the course of her work, the author was able to establish a strong profile of the type of person who thinks too much.
Those who think too much have a mental state that does not allow them any respite. They are tired of their doubts, of their questions, of their acute awareness of things, of their over-developed senses. Someone with these traits will feel that they are different from others, feel misunderstood and hurt by it.
Whereas the person who thinks too much often hopes to receive help and be shown some solutions, they find themselves even more misunderstood and labelled as “dysfunctional”. However, what they need is just the opposite. To understand and accept themselves for who they are, people who over-think things need to feel that they are not dysfunctional but simply different.
The GAPPESM (The Association for the Protection of Persons with Mental Over-efficiency) refers to someone who thinks too much a PWMO: Person with Mental Over-efficiency. For Christel Petitcollin, she simply refers to them as a “gifted person”, a person who is more intelligent than the average person. In general, in her experience, the person who thinks too much does not accept this idea that they are gifted. She therefore prefers to use the term used by the GAPPESM to name the person who thinks too much: “mentally over-efficient”.
An over-efficient brain: a Formula 1 engine
To describe the brain of someone who is mentally over-efficient, the author employs a metaphor: that of a Formula 1 engine.
A brain that thinks too much is, in her opinion, a real jewel: “Its finesse, its complexity, its speed are things that should fascinate us. Its power is like that of a Formula 1 engine. However, a Formula 1 is no ordinary car. Put into the hands of someone who isn’t used to it and driven on a country road, it will become both fragile and dangerous. For it to be used to its full potential it needs someone with the skills to drive it and a race track to suit it”.
With this book, the time has come to take control of the Formula 1 car!
Contents of the book
I Think Too Much – How to channel intrusive thoughts is broken down into three sections:
- Hypersensitivity and mental overload
- Idealism and the disconnect with most people
So, if we continue with her Formula 1 metaphor, Christel Petitcollin suggests:
- Mechanics course: the neurological perspective;
- A traffic code: the emotional and relational aspect;
- Driving lessons: the mental perspective.
Christel Petitcolin’s idea is to provide the person who thinks too much with not only helpful explanations of how they function, but to also provide them with some solutions.
Part 1 – A naturally evolved mental structure
Chapter 1.1 – Hypersensitive sensors
The main problem for someone who over-thinks things – mentally over-efficient people – is that for them, it’s always too much: too many thoughts, too many questions, too many emotions…
From their perspective everything is referred to in the superlative or hyperlative: hyperreactive, hypersensitive, hyperaffective, etc. Perceptions, emotions, sensitivity: everything is increased tenfold. The fact is that their entire sensory and emotional system is hypersensitive.
Added to this, people who are constantly overactive, view all scenarios in life with an intensity that far surpasses what is considered as normal. Minor incidents, both positive and negative, can become dramatically over-significant in proportion to the reality of the situation, especially if they affect the person’s value system.
Humans collate data via their five senses. We then imagine that we all have the same perception of reality. The author demonstrates, with examples, (such as a visit to an apartment) that the way in which each person sees the world is, in fact, totally unique and subjective.
People who over-analyse situations – or are mentally over-efficient – will take on board more information than the average person, and with a more intense perspective than others. This is called hyperesthesia.
Hypersensitivity is the scientific term to describe the condition where a person has an extreme case of heightened awareness of the five senses. It is also a constant state of consciousness, vigilance, even alertness.
A brain that thinks too much, that of the mentally overactive, has a remarkable ability to detect minute details and nuances that are imperceptible to most other people.
Even though they are often bothered by noise, light or smells, hyperesthetes do not realize that their sensory perceptions are exceptional.
There are various types of hyperesthesia:
- Visual: the visual hyperaesthetic person has a vision of precision where the detail is often analyzed before the overall picture, and appears to be very sensitive to the moment.
- Auditory: the auditory hyperaesthetic can hear several sounds simultaneously, is often able to hear low-pitched sounds better than high-pitched sounds, and distant noises more clearly than those that are close by.
- Kinaesthetic: the kinaesthetic hyperaesthetic seems to be aware of many different things simultaneously: the atmosphere of a place, the humidity or dryness of the air, the soft or rough touch, how a piece of clothing feels, heat, etc.; they are very tactile.
- Olfactory: the olfactory hyperaesthetic has a sense of smell that is always alert (perfume, tobacco, perspiration, flowers, wine, etc.)
- Gustative: as a general rule, they are very knowledgeable about food and drink.
- Eideism: beyond the quantitative aspect, eideism relates to the qualitative aspect of sensory perception, i.e. the subtlety of nuances, the attention to detail (which often translates into poetry, art and a great imagination).
In a majority of cases of intellectual overload, hyperesthesia is combined with synaesthesia, i.e. with cross-activation of the senses in the brain.
For instance, synesthetes see words in color or numbers in relief. This ability, which is generally subconscious, favors memorization.
This heightened multi-sensory awareness has its advantages. It:
- is helpful in the provision of lots of information about your environment;
- leads to a state of alertness and an active curiosity for the outside world;
- provides a unique sensory pleasure.
However, hyperesthesia can cause the person to suffer from exhaustion and become very impaired if the sensors are too sensitive and the perceptions too heightened.
This is called latent inhibition deficit. In fact, with most people, there is an automatic selection process that occurs within the available sensory information. In people who are mentally overactive – or who think too much – this selection process is not done automatically, they do it manually, which requires a conscious effort.
So, in general, in their everyday lives, these people find it very difficult to make choices and to decide what is important and what is not. Their dream is to be able to “unplug”.
To be hyperaesthetic is to be hyperactive. A mentally overactive person has a tendency to share their sense of wonder with those around them, but, in most cases, the reaction is one of complete incomprehension.
Chapter 2.1 – From hypersensitivity to hyperlucidity
- Hyperaesthetics are hypersensitive
Hyperesthesia greatly expands someone’s perception of the world and exacerbates sensitivity. As a result, hyperesthetes are hypersensitive people.
This hypersensitivity relates to: light, sound, heat, cold, and over-stimulation.
The trigger points for someone who over-thinks, i.e. the mentally over-efficient, are driven by the right-hand side of the brain. This side is essentially governed by emotions and feelings. This is why hypersensitive people are often consumed by uncontrollable emotions and mood swings. Because of this, they are commonly misunderstood in how they behave and are often met with disapproval from those around them.
- Emotional Quotient (EQ)
Emotional intelligence is now referred to as Emotional Quotient (EQ). It measures the individual’s skills in these areas:
- Control of impulses;
- Self- motivation;
- Ability to get along with others.
Those who are mentally over-efficient possess great emotional potential, but it acts as more of a burden than a benefit until they learn to employ it correctly.
So, the key to effectively control one’s EQ and convert one’s hypersensitivity into an effective tool, is self-knowledge.
People who are mentally over-efficient have a real need for affection, encouragement, human warmth and contact, along with an atmosphere of calm and positivity within their relationship. Generally, their ego is low and they are extremely sensitive to the judgment of others. They constantly need reassurance about themselves.
Furthermore, in order to learn how things work, both the teacher and the subject matter must involve them emotionally. Within work, it is crucial to encourage them rather than to reprimand them.
How stress works in the brain
A gland in our brain, called the “amygdala”, serves as an alarm system. In situations of physical or psychological aggression, it is activated and triggers the production of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which are produced by the adrenal glands.
As soon as the amygdala is neutralized, the person is suddenly disconnected from the world, out of touch with their emotions. The person no longer feels anything, which leads them to lose complete sense of a lack of reality to what happens in the current situation. This is called “dissociation”. In fact, the person is left more as a spectator of the events in progress.
This “dissociation” mechanism has some serious drawbacks. The stressful experience remains trapped in the amygdala. The person will mentally relive the exact experience in full, as it originally happened. This mechanism is called “post-traumatic stress”.
For those who are mentally over-loaded, a high level of amygdala has been detected, as well as a particularly low reactivity threshold. This results in latent post-traumatic stress, in many situations. In the event of a sudden emotional outburst, they may, for example, utter absurd words or seem to act in a bizarre way.
An over-efficient mind, or someone who over-analyzes situations, is a hyper-empathetic person. They instantly pick up on, guess at, and, above all else, feel the emotional state of the people around them, even when they don’t know them. This wave of emotional overload is disruptive and causes them to be exhausted.
Nevertheless, thanks to hyperempathy, these people develop a great sense of benevolence and kindness. Someone who mentally over-analyzes things is highly valued for their listening skills and for the comfort they are able to provide to others who may have some problems. Many over-achievers make this the focus of their work.
The disadvantage is that this makes them very vulnerable to people who are good manipulators and fraudsters: as they apply their own methods to others, they believe that kindness is a state of being, not a formula.
It’s only one short step from telepathy to hyper-lucidity. Mentally over-efficient people can see, hear and feel many things well before others do, but, the author believes, often choose to be silent, because of the general reluctance of others to take heed of their warnings.
When they feel understood, recognized, in confidence, and once they have thoroughly tested the ability of the other person to take in the information, those who are over-active in their thought processes, will often admit that their lives are filled with paranormal experiences (telepathy, elation, clairvoyance, feel attached to nature, premonitions, the capacity to sense auras, to feel occult presences, to remember past lives…).
Chapter 3.1 – A different neurological wiring
The differences between the left and right sides of the brain
Biologically, our brain is composed of two separate hemispheres, the left and the right, which only communicate with each other through the corpus callosum.
Each side has its own logic and language:
The left brain
The left side of the brain is dominant in 70 to 85% of brains. Among its characteristics, it:
- Allows the creation of dreams and the implementation of projects;
- Is linear, methodical, verbal and numerical;
- Can name, describe, define;
- Can use numbers and related arithmetic;
- Breaks down tasks and processes them step by step and element by element: known as analytical;
- Performs tasks sequentially, chronologically and establishes cause and effect, which culminates with unique solutions: it is said to be symbolic, abstract, rational and logical;
- Encourages independence and individualism.
Its language, referred to as “digital”, is:
- Objective, logical, cerebral: it explains, interprets, analyzes;
- The most widely used language in science, education, business;
- Unable to identify a problem in its entirety and is ineffective when it has to deal with different moods.
The right brain
Is dominant in 15 to 30% of brains (and corresponds to the brain of someone who thinks too much, the mentally over-efficient). Among its characteristics, it:
- Is the seat of creativity;
- Lives in the present moment;
- Prioritizes sensory information, intuition, and even instinct;
- Perceives things in a global way and can come up with something from a single idea;
- Often knows but can’t explain how they know;
- Has thoughts that branch out to all sorts of different options that, in turn, provide them with a whole host of different solutions;
- Is affectionate, emotional, so irrational, and makes people feel they belong to the human family, and even to the living world, which leads them to have an altruistic and generous vision;
Its language, referred to as “analogue”, is:
- Made up of figures, symbols and metaphors, it is also the language of synthesis, of totality;
- Useful to have a global perspective of things;
- The language of humor, of sound associations, of ambiguities, of puns and wordplay, of confusion between literal and metaphorical meanings.
In accordance with their dominant hemisphere, people think and process information differently and have very distinct interests and personalities. It is always possible to develop the skills of the other hemisphere, but, more than anything else, it is important to accept yourself for who you are.
A multitude of different thoughts
People who are mentally over-efficient have a thought process that will trigger a multitude of ideas. This means that one idea will trigger ten other ideas, which in turn will give rise to ten new ideas, in an infinite proliferation of ideas.
This “tree thinking” is particularly effective in a search for solutions. Where sequential thought links one idea after another in a linear fashion, this type of thought pattern explores numerous avenues of reflection simultaneously and in parallel. This happens naturally and subconsciously.
In this context, the author explains that the over-thinker needs to take control of their mental navigation. The power of imagination of these characters is such that it makes experience virtual situations with almost the same intensity as real ones. As this works in both positive and negative ways, the author suggests that someone who is prone to over-analysis of a situation should deliberately work out a few helpful thoughts to refocus their mind, should they become depressed or anxious.
- The need for complexity
A brain that tends to over-think needs things to be complicated in order to perform well. When this brain is used to its full potential, when it is confronted with important and complex data, with difficult problems, it feels an intense pleasure.
- Lots of doubts and questions
The “tree brain” is a factory of doubts and questions. This is only positive up to a certain point, because when you constantly question yourself, it eats away at your self-esteem and creates an identity vacuum that means the opinions of others carry too much weight.
- Constantly back and forth from past to present to future
The brain of someone who over-analyzes life rarely finds itself in the here and now; it is constantly back and forward between the past and the future.
Helped by its “tree” structure, before the decision to act, the over-thinker examines each option and takes into account past events and potential future consequences.
- A mill that grinds
It is the image of the famous little wheel, the hamster in its wheel, tireless, intrigued by its agility and speed. However, for the author, the metaphor of the mill is better, as it provides the idea of grain that is ground, that is, that it serves a purpose. When the brain of these people who over-analyze life, has high quality grain that they can grind, they are happy. Therefore, Christel Petitcollin’s advice is to constantly nourish it with new things to learn, with various challenges or projects to accomplish, simultaneously, because when the mill is empty, boredom sets in and depression follow.
- A quirky but fabulous memory
When it comes to the ability to learn and memorize, there are several points to consider:
- The heart decides: if the subject is fun, if the person likes what they learn, their memory is incredible;
- Brains that are wired to over-think situations love challenges: it makes a huge difference if they are challenged with work that, in itself, is dull and holds no interest for them;
- To memorize, they have to create their own associations, images, phrases, connections to other information, mnemonics;
- To remain fully focused, the brain must have other things to do at the same time because it has the need to multi-task and likes complexity (e.g. walk around, listen to background music).
- Sleep patterns of over-active people
People who over-thinks things are often “short sleepers” with a lot of energy. Nights aren’t particularly restful, they often wake up over the course of the night, are agitated, often experience complex dreams and hyper-realistic nightmares. A brain that over-thinks things can be compared to a TV that stays on standby and turns on again with the slightest nudge. So, the need to take a few short naps in the day must be considered, in order to balance things out.
- Lack of serotonin
Mentally over-efficient people – or the person who thinks too much – often has mood swings, along with appetite and sleep problems, because their serotonin levels are low.
The author shares some ideas to consider, to increase serotonin intake and restore a peaceful state of mind, recuperative sleep, and a balanced diet:
- Proteins: they synthesize serotonin;
- Sport: which releases serotonin into the central nervous system;
- Projects: dopamine, which can be given the term “excitement of novelty” hormone, promotes the synthesis of serotonin;
- Homeopathy: in particular griffonia, which works positively on serotonin levels.
The different forms of intellectual disorders and disabilities
- The Gappesm
Gappesm (The Association for the Protection of Persons with Mental Over-efficiency) is an association under the French law of 1901 whose aim is to help people with mental difficulties. Gappesm has stated that mental over-efficiency can cause people to suffer, or can even be termed as a disability.
The term PESM includes: hyperaesthetics, those who are mentally overwhelmed, those who speak at high speed, the hyperemotional, those whose curiosity is insatiable or ultra-selective, the hyperactives, and people with Asperger’s syndrome.
- Asperger’s Syndrome: a very specific form of hyperactivity
Asperger’s syndrome is also known as high functioning autism. In this section of the book, the author asks about this syndrome: could it not be caused by too great a dominance of the right brain?
In this part of the book “I think too much”, Christel Petitcollin returns to, in minute detail, all the signs that make it possible to identify Asperger’s syndrome in a child.
Is it necessary to take IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests?
Sooner or later, those who are mentally over-active will ask themselves if they should take IQ tests to find out if their mental state is one that shows they are gifted and talented.
Christel Petitcollin’s advice is not to do so. IQ tests are very contentious and, for the author, they are too artificial and lack relevance. For her, IQ tests:
- measure only a few targeted intellectual tasks (those that the socio-professionally privileged classes are able to perform);
- are calibrated and deliberately designed so that their results are symmetrically distributed around the number 100, which is the average, in a bell-shaped graph called the “Gauss curve”;
- take into account only one definition of intelligence, whereas it is a subtle and fickle concept that could be endlessly refined: Howard Gardner, for example, in 1983, distinguishes eight aspects of intelligence (linguistic, logic mathematical, musical, bodily, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic);
- are designed by left brains for left brains and are not suitable for how the right-hand side of the brain works: it is, in fact, the left-hand side of the brain that needs to classify and quantify what surrounds it;
- comes up with results that are not consistent, although it is commonly accepted that IQ is definitive.
I’ve prepared a video that is aligned with this column: Why we need to stop THINKING TOO much and take ACTION:
Part 2 – A unique personality
Chapter 2.1 – The identity void
As they have felt different and misunderstood since childhood, without the ability to make sense of this unease, people with mental health problems suffer from an identity void. The author’s belief is that the mirror of their interpersonal relationships cannot reflect who they are in their entirety. The image is fragmented and distorted, even in relation to those around them, who frequently make them aware of how bizarre and abnormal they are.
Low self-esteem and fear of rejection
Self-esteem is the measure, in a very subjective way, of one’s own value. Good self-esteem makes it possible to feel good about yourself, to find your place in society and to act on the goals you want to achieve.
In fact, self-esteem is created and sustained through:
- the recognition of your parents and social environment;
- when a person is successful.
Christel Petitcollin’s opinion is that the self-esteem of mentally over-efficient people is created on the wrong basis from the start and caused by rejection since childhood. Even if the parents sincerely love their child, bit by bit, they will feel overwhelmed by what they are: the responses will be less and less positive (e.g. “He is too much of a perfectionist”).
The effort to understand this absurd society, these illogical people, these unfathomable situations, compels the over-analytical person to have to make a constant and exhaustive effort. This will lead them, little by little, to develop different forms of adaptation strategies, in order to compensate for their difference and to blend in with the masses.
The despondency and guilt felt by these over-efficient individuals often results in a state of hidden depression. However, the depression of these particular individuals is not an ordinary depression because it can be combined with a joie de vivre and an energy that is always present and ready to be rekindled.
To avoid social isolation, people with intellectual cross-wires tend to have a plan to isolate themselves from the outside world. These moments of solitude present an opportunity for them to relax and recharge but also present them with a great deal of anguish.
Escape into fantasy
Mentally over-efficient people, in general, have a vivid imagination and opt to escape into a parallel world as soon as reality disappoints them or upsets them. They take refuge in something that they are passionate about, something exclusive to them, or other sorts of escapism such as a book, a movie, or the Internet.
People who are mentally wired differently from the rest of us tend to try to copy what those around them do, since they don’t understand the social implications of their behaviour.
Arrogance and provocation
The false self
To fill their identity void and to compensate for the risk of rejection, people who are mentally over-analytical build up what the author calls a “false self”. This “false self” allows them to adapt to life in society: it allows them to take into account the needs and opinions of other people so as to be acceptable to them. However, no matter how successful you are, when you no longer have the right to be yourself, you experience a terrible sense of emptiness and deception.
Stockholm Syndrome and Swimsuit Syndrome
In this section, Christel Petitcollin discusses two types of conditions:
Through specific examples, the author shows us that if you don’t have it within you to say “no” to the demands of the world around you, it is the precursor to burn-out. So, to bring your true self back into existence, rather than say: “Yes, okay”, the author suggests you reply with: “Uh, that doesn’t suit me!”
This mental mechanism was first identified in a hostage situation: the hostages had become passionate supporters of their captors’ cause. In this case, the intense stress makes the people involved lose their common sense and they embrace the logic of their aggressor.
The author believes that Stockholm Syndrome may explain why many mentally challenged people are eager to please their abusers and are unable to stand up to anyone. Moreover, the fear of abandonment and rejection makes them perfect targets for manipulation.
For Christel Petitcollin, if you are able to re-establish your true self, you will feel safe, calm and fulfilled. She concludes this section with an explanation that runs throughout this book, that those who over-analyze life must reconcile themselves with the wonderful person they are, free themselves and allow themselves freedom of expression, in order to rediscover their true self.
Chapter 2.2 – Idealism
A desire for absolutes
In parallel to this “false self”, the over-thinker has a very solid system of values, comprised of very high expectations.
This desire for the absolute pushes them to two extremes, and they adopt:
- Either the stance of the wise man: they develop a universal benevolence, a heartfelt kindness, empathy, patience…
- Or that of the grouchy and bitter person: they are inflexible, self-righteous, infuriated by any transgression of their own moral codes that are committed by other people.
Flaws in the value system
This puristic system of values:
- Does not help the mentally over-active to find their place in society: the social codes that exist overwhelm them or they find them unpalatable (too many unspoken words, hypocrisy, cowardice, stupid rituals);
- Has been shown to be completely unsuitable with mean and dishonest people and can even become dangerous with predators;
- Could lead to those who use it to become self-reliant and take precedence over the rules and laws;
- Puts huge emphasis on honesty, disregard and respect for rules: except when the mentally over-active consider the rules to be stupid (in this case, their personal ethics will always over-ride certain situations, even if the results of this behaviour has severe consequences for them);
- Causes a problematic attitude with authority: the leader, in addition to their position, must be competent and provide well-thought out and thorough instructions; on the other hand, respect for any form of hierarchy doesn’t register with those who have over-active minds.
Chapter 2.3 – Difficult Relationships
Most mentally over-active people have problems in their relationships with other people. They are often subjected to rejection or harassment, or worse, fall under the influence of a manipulative type of individual who knows how to use their weaknesses to manipulate them.
Mental retardation and psychological control
The preferred victims for narcissistic perverts are, in the author’s opinion, mentally challenged people.
She believes that in addition to their lack of self-esteem, which presents a huge opportunity for a manipulative person, the mental makeup of the mentally challenged is conducive to psychological control for these reasons:
- Someone who suffers with mental over-efficiency is not aware what a calculated manipulator is up to, in terms of seduction and flattery, as they are driven by an intense need for warm, intimate, and extremely sincere relationships.
- The style of mimicry used by the predator works wonders: misunderstood by nearly everyone, in search of their soulmate, the mentally over-efficient person believes that they have finally found another person, who is able to accept them as they are.
- Someone who is mentally over-efficient just wants to try to understand the other person and to doubt themselves: so, if and when something does go wrong within the relationship, their mental road map can lead them to endlessly dwell on things and their strong need for stability makes them surrender to any threat that may occur.
- The inclination of someone who is mentally over-active to feel guilty, leads them to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong, until, finally, they are convinced that they are the ones who manipulate the other person and that they are the only problem in the relationship.
For the author, narcissistic abusers are, in fact, the exact opposite of mental over-achievers. Narcissistic abusers and those who are mentally over-efficient are, for her, like two pieces, black and white, of the same puzzle.
In order to not become easy prey for NAs (Narcissistic Abusers)
The author believes that, in order for those who are mentally over-active to not be easy prey for narcissistic abusers, they must:
- Be conscious of the fact that malice exists;
- Know how to distinguish kindness from stupidity, subservience, self-respect, cowardice and fear of confrontation;
- To accept that the only option with manipulators is to escape;
- To comprehend that their need for intellectual stimulation is paramount in the trap of their psychological control (what fascinates them about the manipulator who tortures them, is their perceived complexity).
A disruptive intelligence
In the opinion of Christel Petitcollin, the mentally over-efficient person is clearly more intelligent than the average person, which is the main problem.
As a matter of fact, the speed of nerve impulses has been measured: it is faster in the right-hand side of the brain.
Conversely, “tree thinking” is more efficient than sequential thinking for a number of reasons:
- It manages more data simultaneously;
- The way it functions with regards to the association of ideas, increases the ability to memorize details and the choice of answers by a factor of ten;
- The ability to establish ideas in a transversal way increases creativity;
- Their thought processes are shortcuts which enable them to make quick decisions;
- The ability they have to view things in a global way gives them the ability to survey and identify problems in their entirety;
Mentally over-intelligent people reject the idea that they are super-intelligent. However, if they were able to accept this fact and face up to what they are, they would no longer have to hide behind their “false self”.
With their refusal to acknowledge their intellectual superiority, they create a real prejudice against those who have less intelligence, those who have “normal” minds. At this point, the author elaborates on her thought with a very poignant example of an Olympic champion who comes to compete with amateur athletes in denial of his difference in physical condition. The reader quickly appreciates that modesty that does not take into account one’s superiority can quickly be seen as false modesty or even contempt.
Therefore, for the over-efficient person with an over-analytical brain, the most honest way to deal with this difference is to admit it and then break it down into small independent skills so that a normal person will find it easier to understand. A few simple, well-chosen words can do the trick. The author puts forward several phrases as examples to use.
Who are normal people?
Since they represent 70 to 85% of people, those whose left-hand side of the brain dominates are the ones who fall within the norm. In her book “I think too much“, Christel Petitcollin calls them “norma-thinkers”.
The neurology of “norma-thinkers”
Compared to someone who is mentally over-efficient, norma-thinkers are hypaesthesic. Their five senses are less developed, less alert and less in tune to the perception of details. They are not easily distracted by the environment.
As they are less attentive, they do not take intonation into consideration; nor the context of the words that are spoken; which are less meaningful for them than for us, and do not read non-verbal language.
Their sequential thought process can be compared to a knotted line of thought. They move through their reasoning methodically, knot by knot. The process is much slower, so for the mentally over-efficient it causes a lot of frustration. People who think in a “normal” way should not be forced to abandon their knotted rope; as this can irritate or cause them confusion. This sequential thought process fits in well with education systems. It allows us to move forward on rails, which provides long-term stability and consistency.
In the mind of a normal thinker, there are fewer ideas, fewer questions, less originality, but everything is more organized.
- The emotional world of “norma-thinkers”
The emotional needs of normal people are much less intense than those of those who are intellectually over-active. The surface relationships that an over-achiever considers to be superficial are enough for them and suit their needs.
- Enjoy groups and even crowds;
- Love to have fun and be entertained;
- Do not feel the need to partake in debate and change the world;
- Do not like to talk about themselves in an introspective way: for them; in-depth conversations are reserved for times of depression;
- Are full of criticism, especially for anything out of the ordinary: for them, criticism is not rejection; it is an opportunity for improvement.
The left-brain mentality
The dominance of the left=hand side of the brain encourages individualism; even egocentrism, while the right brain gives rise to collective and altruistic thought.
In the course of an exchange, the “norma-thinkers” focuses on what differentiates them from their counterpart; whereas a right brain looks for anything that can bring them closer.
A more balanced value system
The value system that stems from this individualism is much more flexible than that of someone who is overly intellectual and full of ideals. People who think in a more normal manner like things peaceful, nuanced, reasonable. They give society its stability. In summary, the right-hand side of the brain will push, while the left-hand side will temper.
Normal thinkers do not have the mental processing ability as that of a person who is overly intellectual to formulate doubts and questions. As a result, they are able to undertake tasks with confidence; with the certainty that they are the right person in the right place.
People who think in a more conventional way are able to create an identity for themselves; find their place, feel integrated and develop their self-confidence. Everything reaffirms that they are the ones who are correct. This is why they feel comfortable to make judgements and be confident about it.
Life under the scrutiny of regular thinkers
The values of a regular thinker, everything that is part of the richness of the personality of someone who is intellectually over-efficient, is seen in a negative light: for them, the mentally over-efficient person is immature, unstable and naive. They ask themselves too many questions, are too emotional and cause themselves unnecessary complications in life. They’re a jack-of-all-trades who can’t do things right because they try too hard to do too many things.
Find your soul mates
From this point on, thanks to all the information above, those people who over-think things should be able to distinguish the people who they associate with: the regular thinkers, the over-thinkers and even the manipulators.
The author recaps with the following:
- Manipulators: they are to be avoided at all costs because they are a real danger to those who think too much.
- Normal thinkers: they can be of great benefit to people who over-think life because of their warmth and companionship, their stability, and their relaxed attitude…
- Mental over-achievers: they share the values, the humor, the speed of mind, the emotional state and the existential outlook of other overly-intelligent people; this provides comfort and enjoyment, but you need to make sure that situations don’t arise that may lead to clashes (when overly-intelligent people come together, you need to be very sensitive).
Love with a capital L
When it comes to love, those who are mentally over-zealous tend to overdo it, compared to those who think in a more regular manner: they overdo it not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality.
- The meaning of sacred: an innate skill
Mentally over-efficient people think with their heart. For them, every object is connected to an experience. In fact, they have a heightened sense of what is sacred, which, in the eye’s of the author, ultimately provides them with much more wisdom.
- Emotional needs: the great misunderstanding
The emotional needs of the mentally over-efficient are immense.
Normal thinkers take these displays of affection as an emotional void; and translate them as a need to fill themselves with love. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. Mentally over-efficient people are filled with love and feel an irrepressible need to give it.
In this regard, Christel Petitcollin recommends that the mentally over-efficient person no longer look for love outside of themselves, but rather feed on their own energy.
Part 3 – How to live well with your over-efficiency
Chapter 3.1 – The impact of revelation
As you read through this book, someone who tends to over-think things in life; is able to make sense of what they intuitively perceive to be the case. Nevertheless, the impact when they become aware of their own over-efficiency can be an intense emotional shock.
They will experience several different phases:
Some words can finally be applied to explain their unknown, constant, subconscious and yet tangible discomfort.
The roller coaster
Once their story has been re-calibrated, so that things work in a different way, these people consider what is to come and realize that this drawback to how they function will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
The grieving process
From that point on, the process of grief that is needed to, one day; become a normal person begins, with its different stages: denial, anger, negotiations, depression and acceptance.
To accept that mental over-efficiency is a poisoned gift, but a gift nonetheless, is the first step towards happiness.
Chapter 3.2 – Anchoring
Anchoring is one of the main concepts of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). It is a natural phenomenon that is based on the association of an external stimulus with an internal state (Proust’s madeleine, for example).
Anchors are one of the simplest ways to take control of one’s moods.
These states are called:
- Resource states: states that are best suited to handle a situation (courage, relaxation or concentration);
- Controllable states: states that hinder and harm us (stress, fear, loss of motivation, etc.).
The concept of anchors is to choose the appropriate internal state (resource state) for a given situation. Then it is necessary to activate it and to remain in this state for the duration of the situation. At the same time, people learn to no longer fall into a state that causes them to lose control (limiting state) and to deactivate it.
Most anchors are subconscious. However, it is entirely possible to deliberately create them through the use of a visualization method described by Christel Petitcollin.
This means that the over-efficient person simply needs to anchor all the beautiful resources that they possess (their state of alertness and curiosity, their benevolence, their optimism, etc.) and ask themselves this question: “What is the most appropriate internal state for the situation I am about to face?”
Chapter 3.3 – Tidy Up and Organize Your Thoughts
Subconsciously, when we think, we take shortcuts in how we think, mix things up and guess. This is even more pronounced when it comes to “tree thinking”. The left-hand side of the brain encourages you to categorize, compartmentalize and organize things; which makes it easier to find our way around. The right-hand side of the brain, on the other hand; continually creates ideas and gives equal importance to all the details. It connects them by association of ideas and not by family or group. In a nutshell, it generally creates confusion in the heads of the over-achievers.
The idea that the author suggests is to carefully sort out the ideas that you have in your head; every night, before you go to sleep. She suggests that you put your ideas in order, apply some sort of logic, accuracy and sense to them.
She also suggests two other tools: mind maps (form) and logic levels (content).
- Mind maps, to organize your thoughts
For left-handed brains, most of the information is presented in the form of the traditional plan: “Big 1, Big A, Small a, etc.”. However, right-brainers find it difficult to memorize information presented in this way.
Therefore, there is a tool that is particularly well adapted to how those who are intellectually over-active think: the heuristic diagram or “mind map”, which is a tree-like representation of the data. There are free software programs that allow you to work with mind diagrams. Mind maps have many potential applications in all areas (personal, educational and professional).
To make a mind map, you need to:
- Put the title word in the centre: the “key ideas” will be arranged and branch out all around it;
- Show only relevant words: the more visual appeal that a mind map has, the easier it is to memorize.
So, the moment that you feel confused about a subject, the author recommends that you write down your thoughts on paper and break them down in the manner of a mind map.
- Levels of logical thought
Mind maps are more a reflection of the way you think, whereas logical levels allow you to organize your thoughts.
It is also an NLP tool that allows you to structure your thoughts but also means that there is still some coherence and logic that links your ideas, as well as to return each component to its place. The idea is to use these six categories to organize your thoughts:
- The environment
This is the context, something we can only react to and not act upon directly: “Where? When? Who else?”.
It is about how you react to the things that happen to you; from the smallest things that you do to your overall conduct: “What are you doing?”.
This relates to the personal resources that you we have at your disposal to take action; i.e. your resources, your know-how, your skills: “How do you do it?”.
- Values and beliefs
Values are what are important to you, beliefs are what you believe to be true. This part addresses our motivation, our priorities and what we believe to be right, true and important: “Why? For what purpose? What is important to you about…?”.
This part is to do with who you are, your mission, your overall vision of life: “Who are you?”.
- The level of spirituality:
This topic is of great interest for people who are mentally over-efficient. It is about spiritual questions: “Who else? What is the bigger picture? What’s the goal?”.
Chapter 3.3 – Restore your integrity
The first step to rebuild your integrity is to reclaim your own identity. The more the over-efficient person knows who they are and their environment, the better they will accept themselves and adapt.
Then, this restoration of their moral integrity will also require the reinforcement of their self-esteem.
How to resurrect your self-esteem?
Don’t look for perfection
The paradox of perfectionism is that the less you expect of yourself, the more you progress. The over-achiever must accept themselves for who they are: perfect in their imperfection. This is the only way to recreate the pleasant modesty to be ordinary and begin to validate your successes.
- Openly acknowledge your successes without worry
When you know how to acknowledge your successes, however big or small; you can start to build a solid foundation of success on which you can add to in the future.
- Enhance your self-image
Self-image is the subjective way in which you see yourself and how you think others see you. It doesn’t relate to reality.
The author suggests that people who are mentally challenged should just do what they have to do, without the need to prove anything to anyone else. Ultimately, the more you are convinced of your own value, the more others are also convinced of it.
- Cultivate self-love
Finally, at the core of self-esteem is unconditional self-love. This is the most fundamental foundation of self-esteem. The more we love ourselves, the more we will take care of ourselves, our needs, our health and our appearance.
To do this, the author proposes three visualization techniques that she details in this chapter: comfort your inner child, terminate your inner saboteur, and get married.
How do you determine if your self-esteem is good?
For Christel Petitcollin, self-esteem is ultimately recovered when these points are met:
- You can refer to yourself in positive terms;
- Your sensitivity to minor incidents is significantly reduced;
- The emphasis of your self-esteem is no longer exclusively concentrated in one area; but instead is distributed equally between your professional and personal life;
- The importance attached to the perception of your image and the opinion of others has diminished;
- There is no longer a need to devote energy to the protection or development of your self-esteem;
- Injury caused to your self-esteem no longer contaminates your mind, activities or your moods;
- You no longer have the need to always be a perfectionist.
Chapter 3.4 – Optimize the way in which your mind works
It is perfectly feasible to live a happy life with an over-efficient brain. All you must do is to follow its rhythm and fulfil its five basic needs.
How to cope with a slight excess of effort
Due to the fact that over-efficiently active people are hyperactive and full of energy; the author’s advice for them is to live their life at a sustained and balanced rhythm. She believes that those who are over-achievers should increase the pace of their daily lives in order to feel alive. Therefore, it is vital for them to challenge themselves and to always have several projects that inspire them, on the go.
The five basic needs of the right-hand side of the brain
Feed your brain with knowledge
The brain of those who are mentally over-efficient has a need to learn as much as possible. Without this process, it gets depressed and starts to get frustrated. It has a hunger for complexity. So it needs to indulge itself and develop knowledge of things that interest it the most.
Sport will help someone who suffers from mental over-efficiency to channel their high levels of energy; make up for their lack of serotonin, provide them with their favorite drug, dopamine, and improve the quality of their sleep.
Exploit your creativity
An over-efficient brain is designed to be creative. Whether it is manual, intellectual or artistic creation, these types of brains, which over-think things, must be able to imagine, invent, conceive, manufacture, produce, build, and be challenged with projects that excite and stimulate them, otherwise they will become bored and depressed.
In an ideal world, this creativity should then be at the core of their professional life. Crafts and trades are the most suitable fields of study because they combine independence and creativity.
Be inspired by art
Outside of its need for creativity, the mind of an over-efficient person needs art, i.e. “beauty” in the broadest sense of the word. This is because art provides nourishment for their senses. It allows them to be expressive with their emotions and provides them with a platform for this expression and makes them feel positive and passionate.
Surround yourself with affection (oxytocin and serotonin)
People who are mentally over-efficient need plenty of love and affection in their lives. As a result, they need to choose their close friends carefully.
Chapter 3.5 – Live a good life within society with over-efficiency
Be in control of your loneliness
Some people with mental over-efficiency suffer from abandonment disorders, which means that they panic at the thought of abandonment. Their craving for recognition and reassurance seems unlimited. They expect the other person involved to be totally exclusive to their needs only. They need to learn to control the feeling of loneliness and turn it into an ally.
Learn to deal with criticism
It is essential to not take criticism personally. Instead, it should be taken as evidence of the values and behaviour of the person that gives the criticism. It should be viewed as constructive feedback, which will help you to evolve.
Heal the wound inflicted by rejection
Irrespective of their thirst for genuine relationships, it’s essential for mentally over-efficient people to accept superficial relationships. They should not always search for affection and intimacy in every relationship. Rather than run away from the fear of rejection, the author’s suggestion is for them to face it; to reach out to people, to employ humor and self-deprecation to help with this.
Manage your kindness
The trouble starts when the need to be loved is stronger than the need to be respected. Therefore, the mentally over-efficient person must undertake personal development work to assert themselves, so that they are no longer victimized.
How to deal with life as an over-efficient couple
Couples made up of:
- A narcissistic abuser and a person who is mentally over-extended: the mentally over-extended person absorbs all the abuser’s hatred, but rediscovers their zest for life and their energy as soon as they are freed from their persecutor.
- Two mental over-achievers: in general, they are a lively, curious couple, full of humor and kindness, who chat, debate, share and rebuild the world at their leisure. If they have learnt to cope with their over-efficiency, they will be a happy couple. It would mean that both of them have filled their identity void, restored their self-esteem and accepted how they operate.
- A mentally over-efficient person and a normal thinker: the mentally over-efficient person experiences boredom and frustration, but appreciates the stability and peace of mind offered by the normal thinker. In order to keep the balance of things right, the over-efficient one needs to find intellectual challenges and to use up their excessive energy levels through their work or their hobbies.
Mental over-achievers develop their feminine energies as well as their masculine energies. Mentally over-efficient women are very masculine (in how they function mentally) and mentally over-efficient men are quite feminine. Yin men and yang women, mentally over-efficient people can bring together the balance of the feminine and the masculine in themselves and as a couple.
In her conclusion, Christel Petitcollin returns to the origins of this type of over-analytical mind; more related to hypotheses rather than specific solutions.
She wonders whether mental over-achievement is:
- Giftedness: yes;
- A question of heredity: possibly;
- Resilience: it’s feasible, because danger, insecurity and abuse compel you to be creative and hyper vigilant;
- The fault of the parents: why not, but the author believes it would be related to the role of the father who plays a major role in the triangulation (mission of separation, removal from the mother’s influence and to encourage the child to overcome the outside world).
Conclusion of “I think too much – How to channel intrusive thoughts”:
In this book, Christel Petitcollin helps us to understand what mental over-efficiency is; this form of above-average intelligence, which, she believes, characterizes those who over-think things.
Throughout the book, the author presents many insights into the experience of the mental over-achiever, or gifted person, such as:
- The functioning of the right-hand side of their brain, which dominates over the left-hand side;
- Their hyperesthesia and hypersensitivity;
- Intellectual overload and a proliferation of ideas;
- A system of tree-like thoughts;
- Lack of self-esteem;
- Idealistic and an extreme and exaggerated value system;
- The disconnect, from childhood, with those whom the author calls “norma-thinkers”.
Besides the sometimes Manichean contrast between the ideas (right brain and left brain; mentally over-efficient and narcissistic abusers, for example); this book provides those who suffer from this mental over-efficiency with valuable information; that will help them to accept themselves as they are. As for those who think in a more regular way; this is a book to help them better understand the type of behavior that they may have taken in a negative light; in regards to someone they know, who is mentally over-efficient.
In the last part, the solutions suggested to live a good life with over-efficiency, mostly based on NLP tools; show that it is possible to turn this invasive but extremely potent mind into a formidable force for those who know how to use it, how to navigate it.
- Written so that it is easy to understand how the mechanisms of mental over-efficiency; or those who are mentally gifted, work.
- Solutions are offered to assist people who are overwhelmed by their thoughts to channel their mind and enjoy a more peaceful life with their over-efficient thought processes.
- From a perspective which is, sometimes; a little too simplistic and contrasts the right-hand side of the brain with the left-hand side; narcissistic abusers with those who are mental over achievers.
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