If you read my blog much, you know how I feel about rumination. Well, as a part of my commitment to actually do the various treatments I propose, I’ve been doing some of the dysfunctional behaviors as well. For the last two weeks I have spent time intentionally ruminating every day.
It has been awful.
No one should do this.
I am insane to do it on purpose. No one should see an insane therapist. I wonder if people think my ideas are bad. I’ve had more than a few bad ideas. I wonder how my life would be better if I hadn’t had those bad ideas. I probably would be further ahead professionally. What was I thinking with my first degree? ARG, STOP!!!!!
This is how rumination works. It pulls us into a thought spiral that is seldom constructive. In this example, I was running away with something I have already processed. In the past, I have done good work evaluating the choices I made around my professional degrees. I know where I made some mistakes and I know that largely, it was the path that made sense at the time. This rumination isn’t bringing me new insight or taking me into an important thought process. It’s just making me feel bad. I had a different topic each day, but at the end I felt a distinct heaviness of heart every time. Ruminating would lead me to new possibilities of negative implications of things that I hadn’t considered. Here are the starting and ending points of just a couple of my rumination sessions:
- That was a rough fight with my kid >>> I should quit working
- I’m worried about my colleague >>> I’m always on the outside
- I can’t find a dress I like >>> I have no identity
Telling what happened in the middle would just be too embarrassing! But this is how rumination works! What intentionally practicing rumination did for me was to examine more carefully what most of us do unconsciously. I see more clearly now that rumination is a petri dish for bleakness and regret. No wonder it is a huge contributing factor for depression! I’ll leave you with this reminder from Jay Uhdinger, who wrote a handout on rumination that I give to clients, “don’t forget, you are not your thoughts! Your thoughts are just part of you and they will fade if you do not hold on to them.” In other words, you are a person who has thoughts. And if rumination teaches us anything, it is that we should be hesitant to believe everything we think.