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Photo by Ben Blennerhassett at Unsplash

Sometimes I wish I had an off switch. Something on the back of my neck that I could flick to stop me thinking too much. I wish there was a way of powering down my brain, in the dead of night when I’m trying to sleep, or tying myself in knots fretting about the future. My mind has a habit of going into overdrive, often at the most inconvenient times. I’ve had friends tell me I think too much, or too deeply, that I wind myself up until I’m like a compressed spring. My best friend once said to me, “I think you think other people think as much as you do, and the fact of the matter is, most of them don’t.” While I do try not to underestimate how much other people think, it can be hard sometimes when you look at their actions. So many times I have asked the question, did so-and-so not stop to think about x and y? A lot of the time, the answer would appear to be no.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t swap my brain for anything in the world. It has carried me through school and university, is capable of analysing literature and absorbing foreign languages, and is the source of my creativity. But it also knows how to torture me. It knows how to keep me awake for hours on end while it unspools thoughts, memories and suppositions. We have entire conversations, my brain and me. They range from the profound to the nonsensical, but they are all interesting, at least to me. I just wish they would be more considerate when it comes to timing.

At night is when my brain really goes to work. I’ll be lying in bed, and rather than going to sleep, it will decide that now is the best time to examine my entire life from birth to present day.

Not now, Brain, for goodness sake.

I’m trying to sleep, Brain.

…Go on.


Thanks, Brain, you’re so helpful.

What now?

That’s nice, Brain, but it will never happen.

Sometimes the information is useful but comes far too late.

What is it, Brain?

I do, oddly enough.


I think you’re right, Brain, but why are you telling me this now when it’s no longer relevant?

Couldn’t forget it if I tried, Brain.


Gee, thanks, Brain. Now tell me, why in God’s name could you not have given me this information at the time?

OK, fair point.

Oh, my brain is excellent at working out why things happened the way they did years after the fact, and more importantly, why I reacted in a certain way. Some people think I have a tendency to dwell on the past, and they’re not wrong, but it’s just part and parcel of how my mind works. I hate not understanding why certain things happened, so I mull and ponder and pick things over until I do understand. Only then can I make my peace with the past.

With all this pondering comes an ever-growing list of things I should have said and done. People I should have taken to task and arguments I shouldn’t have shied away from.

Thanks, Brain, you’re only eight years too late.

Yes, well, he wasn’t worth the time or the effort anyway.


Yes, then I’d definitely have ended up having that fight.

That’s a strange regret to have, Brain.

Sometimes, when it’s not setting the past to rights, my brain likes to pose unanswerable questions:

Ifs and buts and whys and wherefores. I drive myself crazy with them sometimes. I know there’s no point, but I can’t help myself. That’s why I need an off switch. Something to cure me of my chronic overthinking, or at least give me control over it. Truth be told, I think we could all do with one sometimes.

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Lauren Phillips is a language teacher and writer with a deep love of words in all their forms. She uses writing to help her process her own tangled thoughts.

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