Monday, August 16, 2010

Making a Big Deal out of Nothing

This morning I was writing in my journal about a past experience when something occurred to me: I was probably overanalyzing the situation. Isn’t that what people always tell me I’m doing? Wait…Isn’t that what people always accuse others (especially women) of doing? I began to wonder how many other people overanalyzed things in their journals.

I’ve read quite a lot of personal writing: diaries, journals, letters, etc. Keeping a diary was some sort of rite of passage for little girls in Western countries, and women tended to save every letter imaginable. It’s no wonder that historians have relied heavily on these records to reconstruct life in the past. Sometimes writers and interviewees are accused of lying, jumping to conclusions, misinterpreting facts, and having imperfect information, but never of overanalyzing a situation. If anyone’s accused of that, it’s the historian interpreting the primary source documents. Unless there are clearly disputed facts, most content generally seems to be taken at face value. Same with oral history.

However, I’d really like to read someone’s thoughts on this issue. I’m not really advocating a new historical method, just an extra dimension by which to evaluate personal papers. What does an overanalyzing document even look like? The term is so subjective, used when one person feels that another is overthinking what’s been happening in a relationship, that it’s not clear what would qualify as “overanalyzing” a situation. Maybe this is a job for the psychologists.