Do you find yourself overexplaining to friends and acquaintances? You might consider this a personality quirk, but scientists have found that it’s a sign of childhood trauma. Of course, sharing personal details about your life with loved ones isn’t abnormal. It only becomes a problem when you share to an excessive degree or want to please people.
Overexplaining is a typical trauma response for people walking on eggshells around their parents. They worried so much about doing or saying the wrong thing that it paralyzed them with fear. So, people-pleasing became the default behavior, as a survival instinct to avoid perceived abandonment.
Neuroscientist Explains That Overexplaining Is a Sign of Childhood Trauma
However, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t bear the burdens of what happened to you. You wanted to please your parents out of a need for safety, but now, you have no reason to feel anxious.
We often carry our childhood trauma with us as adults, but releasing it offers so much freedom and relief. Clinging tightly to your negative childhood experiences only hurts you in the end.
But, if you haven’t yet released past trauma, it can manifest in the form of overexplaining or oversharing. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist, explains more about this theory and how she helps people “grow their brains” with cognitive techniques.
Oversharing is a fawn trauma response to avoid conflict and appease others. Children do this unconsciously when trying to exert control over a situation; in their early development, they rely on instincts for survival and safety. As adults, we often do this to control our anxiety, but it usually backfires because we’re not getting at the root of the problem.
Dr. Leaf says that we need to find the thought “root” that triggers this behavior to heal our trauma. If you find yourself overexplaining a lot, you probably spend tons of mental energy managing your feelings and trying to decipher others’ impressions about you. This takes a toll on you after a while and can lead to mental exhaustion.
Seven Common Reasons for Overexplaining
Dr. Leaf explains typical reasons people overexplain or overshare:
- You’re trying to keep yourself safe or avoid anxiety. This probably means you have unhealed trauma and haven’t found the thought “root” leading to this behavior. Usually, the root cause is a toxic relationship or parental figure who mistreated you. While the fawn trauma response may have helped in your past, it’s now hindering you from leading a full life.
- You may also find yourself overexplaining if you’ve been gaslit. Now, you’re immediately defensive if people try to distort your words, so you overexplain to outsmart the other person. After all, you don’t want them to use anything you say against you.
- Or, maybe you’re just trying to explain where you’re coming from, and it’s not associated with any trauma. You may also overexplain due to thinking on your feet, a typical behavior in today’s world.
- Many people overshare because they need to justify themselves or their actions. They need validation from other people, which often signals unhealed trauma.
- You’re overexplaining because you feel like you’re responsible for anything wrong that happens, perhaps. Maybe someone in your past blamed you for their problems, and you’re still holding on to that misplaced guilt.
- Or, maybe you overshare because you’re trying to evoke authenticity and encourage others to feel comfortable in their skin. However, overexplaining can sometimes mean you want others to feel sorry for you, another sign of childhood trauma.
- Finally, perhaps you enjoy talking and consider yourself an extrovert! Overexplaining isn’t always a negative thing; it’s your intentions behind it that matter.
Dr. Leaf added that it’s important to learn self-regulation and examine why you sometimes overshare. If you can understand the reasoning behind your thoughts and behaviors, you can heal them at their root.
Five-Step Process to Uncover the Root of Overexplaining
Over the last 38 years, Dr. Leaf has worked on a mind-management system to reveal the roots of undesired behaviors. Doing this allows you to rewire your brain, heal past trauma and remove the barriers holding you back. In one of her clinical trials, participants who practiced these techniques over 21 days saw an 81% decrease in depression and anxiety.
Here are the basics of the mind-management technique to detox your brain:
1 – Gather:
This step involves gathering information about your thoughts and behaviors. First, think of this step in terms of overexplaining. Now, recall something that happened to you recently, and try remembering your thoughts in the moment. Did you apologize profusely or have trouble saying no? Did you find yourself overexplaining for clarity? Or, did you worry about how the other person would react to what you said?
Next, think about how oversharing may affect your life. Oversharing resembles overexplaining, but oversharing usually involves disclosing personal details about your life. Overexplaining means feeling the need to describe an event or thought excessively. Now, think about your common behaviors in everyday life. Do you post private details about your life online or use social media to express your emotions?
Dr. Leaf says: “Remind yourself that oversharing doesn’t create intimacy; it can be a sign of self-absorption that is masked as “vulnerability.”
2 – Reflect:
Contemplate your answers to step 1 and understand why you exhibit these behaviors. Also, think about how overexplaining may harm your relationships and life in general.
3 – Write:
Keep a journal to record your thoughts and hopefully better understand the root of your trauma.
4 – Recheck:
Try to see your behaviors in a new light, and avoid being so hard on yourself. Transform any negative thoughts into positive ones using affirmations and self-love. You’re worth it!
5 – Practice your new way of thinking each day:
You can do this by:
- Being patient with yourself and not expecting change overnight
- Celebrate small victories, such as setting boundaries or saying ‘no.’
- Letting go of the need to please everyone. Do your best, but never forgo your values to make someone happy.
- Give yourself grace and sit with your feelings. Please don’t feel ashamed for having emotions because it makes you human.
- Practicing mind-management, where you know how your behaviors affect others and can adjust them accordingly.
Final Thoughts on How Overexplaining Can Signal Childhood Trauma
Hopefully, you understand why you overexplain and use these tools to correct the behavior. Now, remember that oversharing isn’t always bad; it’s only harmful when trying to overcompensate for something. Or, if you feel anxious in social settings and overexplain to feel adequate, that’s a sign you have some inner healing to do.
Overexplaining doesn’t have to rule your life, though – a qualified therapist or self-help techniques such as this one can help you heal from the past.