Why Some Conversations Stay In Your Head On Repeat (And How You Can Finally Put Them To Rest)

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how to stop overthinking in relationship

When an interaction is emotionally charged and you feel upset with how it played out, you may tend to repeatedly over-analyze the discussion in an attempt to identify where you got off track. You want to learn how to stop overthinking hurtful conversations, but you can't seem to let them go.

Maybe your boyfriend made a hurtful remark to you in front of others, or your boss chewed you out at work and you can't stop overthinking it. Or maybe your friend is trash talking about you to people who are important to you, and you're worried about how to handle it.

How many of us have laid in bed at night going round and round with unspoken, yet necessary conversations? 

This circular thinking is actually an expression of anxiety. It is more clinically called obsessive thinking, and it is not all in your “head” — it is all in your brain.

RELATED: 12 Things Only Over-Thinkers Will Understand

Overthinking becomes a neurological speedway in your gray matter with no easy-to-spot exit ramps or pit stops. Your neurons go round and round the speedway with the release of brain chemicals that negatively affect your body’s balance and your well-being. 

Anxiety is actually not a feeling. It is a state you enter as an avoidance of a legitimate feeling.

Anxiety is actually fear, unfelt. When you identify and face your fears, you render them less powerful. Most importantly, your neurons slow down, and you are able to think about the situation from your higher, more rational brain.

Why do humans fear speaking up when the situation is screaming for us to share our truth? It is probably fear of rejection; fear of being judged; fear of not being good enough; fear of being out of control.

When it comes to hot topics, how liberating would it be if we could be aware enough to identify our feelings during an important conversation and use them to respond to the other person, rather than overreacting or underreacting?

To do this, you must first ask yourself how you felt when the event occurred. Were you angry? Sad? Scared? Embarrassed? It is probably some combination of these intense negative feelings.

When we fail to recognize and have these feelings, they will “have us” by either shutting us down or revving us up to say or do stupid things.

Here is the concept in action:

You go to dinner with your boyfriend and his parents. Your guy makes a cutting remark about your weight in their presence. You feel angry, sad and embarrassed, but you just sit there quietly seething. Internally, you are battling between cutting loose on him or stuffing down your legitimate upset. You choose the latter option.

Later that night as you are trying to sleep, you berate yourself by going round and round with what you needed to say but were too afraid to address. 

When you stop the circular internal chatter and get honest about the fear you felt, you have opened the gateway to some meaningful conversation where you can express yourself and generate a clearer understanding between you and your significant other.

RELATED: The Cool Reason Introverts Overthink Things (And 'Analyze' Everything Too Much)

These 5 steps will help you stop overthinking the hurtful conversation you had with your partner and address it head-on instead:

Step 1:

Back up behind your anxiety to the fear it serves to cover and allow yourself to feel it. Just sit with that a bit, and your anxiety will begin to lighten up.

Step 2:

Regulate your feeling by breathing through it. Notice you can feel afraid and still be okay.

Step 3:

Communicate your feeling to the other person. Make sure you communicate it responsibly: “I felt afraid when you made those remarks. It seemed like you didn’t have my back in front of your parents.” 

Step 4:

Respectfully request what you need from him/her in the future.

Step 5:

Enjoy being much calmer and more emotionally intimate with your person.

Notice that the communication is not at the expense of the other: It is respectful and delivered in the first person.

That means you don’t use statements like, “you scared me”, “you pissed me off”, or "you embarrassed me." Instead, you use “I" statements: “I felt angry, afraid and embarrassed.” With this type of response, you step up and take responsibility for your feelings. You don’t blame the other person for how you feel.

His problem: making the hurtful remark. Your problem: how you felt about it.

Remember that every event we experience affects us on a thinking level, a feeling level, and a behaving level.

When we ignore our feeling experience in the face of an upsetting event, we are leaving out the most important piece of the relationship-puzzle, and we set ourselves up to either act the feelings out by behaving meanly and then suffering later on or act the feelings in by shutting down and suffering later on. This approach pushes love away and makes you anxious.

The practice of identifying our feelings and thoughtfully expressing them helps us to be more confident in our love relationships and much less conflict-avoidant. After all, the successful resolution of conflict is the only way we build true emotional intimacy with those we love.

RELATED: 4 Things Your Obsessive Overthinking Reveals About Your Personality

Ellie Izzo is creator and founder of the Sentbeat app, a powerful coaching tool that helps savvy people quickly identify and navigate their negative feelings in a thoughtful manner. This empowers them to respond — rather than react — in times of conflict and, in doing so, create a better outcome. Sentbeat is presently in beta-testing phase and is available for free in the Google Play Store. If you would like to be a beta-tester and give us your feedback, please contact me at