Dangers of Rumination – How to Escape ?

Psychologists have found that ruminative thought process is associated with negative emotional state. But what is rumination? The word rumination comes from Latin which means the act of chewing over again the cud what has been chewed slightly and swallowed previously by cattle etc. In psychology rumination refers to a thought process where people fixated into thinking the same thing over and over.

While ruminate, people focus only on their distress – its possible causes and consequences, without thinking of a solution. It focuses on bad feeling, unpleasant experience from past and excessively attentive to the pain – diverting all consciousness into it. It impairs our ability of planning, initiating and completing goal-directed activities.

Rumination is a complete waste of mental energy, a dangerous mental habit – leads people only to focus on their flaws and problems, raising negative moods even further. Persistent negative emotional state welcome many negative consequences like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, binge drinking, eating disorder, self-harming behavior etc.

People while ruminate remember negative events from past and interpret them more negatively. Less optimism makes them feel gloomier and helpless about the present and the future. Cycling negative thoughts again and again can paralyze our problem solving skills.

Depressed ruminator tend to retrieve negative memories from the past more. Recalling negative event more frequently make it seem that those events are actually more frequent in the life of ruminator then the other. They feel like “Why always me ?"

Individual by ruminating often reinforce their belief that nothing can be done to overcome the problem and therefore it is useless to take action. Thus ruminators lack self-confident, find problem overwhelming and unsolvable and even if they come up to a solution, find it difficult implementing.

Rumination can make people withdraw from mood alleviating activities, impede from constructive behavior, affecting relationship with friends and families.

The ruminator might dwelling on the question like, “why am I such a looser ?” , “why are these happening to me ?” , “why do they hate me ?” , “what is wrong with me ?”. Ruminator tend to believe that they are trying to gain insights about their problems and feelings by rumination, while actually worsening the situation.

In her research, Yale University psychologist Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema finds that, while ruminator seek help from other, many of them get even more frustrated. Ruminator might be responded compassionately at first, but if they persists they are not welcomed anymore.

She finds that the others don’t understand the sufferings of ruminator and soon get annoyed and even hostile to the ruminator. This hurts the ruminator more, wondering "Why are they abandoning me, why are they being so critical of me ?" said Nolen-Hoeksema.

Who are vulnerable ?

The people who are sensitive, neurotic or have a history trauma are more susceptible to rumination. People who have a tendency to overvalue relationship are willing to sacrifice anything to maintain that. But it can cause more self-criticism or self-blame, encouraging rumination.

According to Nolen-Hoeksema, women tend to ruminate more as they value interpersonal relationships more. As the commitment of other people towards us is very unpredictable - so dwelling on that, making an attempt to solve the mystery fuels rumination.

How to stop rumination

Ruminators often find it difficult to engage in activities that are helpful to get out of rumination. As the mind become experienced in ruminating, it has a tendency to start rumination triggered by simple stressor. But with patience and some time the following strategies are proved to be very effective.

1. Expressive Writing

Psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson in his study found that “expressive writing” is very helpful for a depressed person. He asked his patients to write essay about their feeling elaborately and found that they start feeling better. Thomson suggests that writing is a form of thinking and it improves our natural problem solving abilities.

Writing our problem and the current feeling in a detailed manner would give us an insight about what is going on our mind. Shedding some light on the problem would be very helpful to deal with it.

Writing a problem gives us a more analytical approach. Breaking a complex problem into smaller component and considering one at a time is useful. This way the problem becomes tractable.

But sometime people are reluctant to disclose the reason of their depression and the writing seems to be very painful. People often find it much embarrassing, sensitive and difficult to express their “complex internal struggle” in words. They may even pretend to be mentally strong and tempted to ignore their feeling.

2. Breaking the cycle

Psychologist Nolan Hoeksema suggests, engaging in any activities especially in those that needs positive thoughts and actions. Activities that are physical or absorbing are good to break the cycles of rumination.

Such activity may include hobbies, favorite sports, learning a new skill, or thinking about design, ideas or a new project. Practicing mindfulness, meditation are also helpful for breaking the cycles of rumination. Engaging in activities that improve self-confidence are often found helpful to reduce the habit of rumination.

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