Do you ruminate too much?

Photo from Rumination involves repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings and distress, and their causes and consequences.

Rumination involves repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings and distress, and their causes and consequences. This kind of thinking can result in anxiety and depression and prevents us from being at peace.

Often when we feel hurt, it is because something in the present has triggered old wounds. Someone forgets a birthday, and the wounded part decides one is not important to that person, and they simply do not care about us.

Like a child picking away at the hole in their jeans, making the hole bigger and bigger, the mind can endlessly replay how bad it was that the person forgot. Perhaps they think of all the things they have done for that person, and so the hurt grows bigger.

Rumination is like a magnet; once started it attracts more and more negative thinking. Then the person may repeat their interpretation to all who will listen, making the issue bigger and bigger, while adding other negative things about that person. The one who forgot is now the “bad guy.”

The question one should ask is, “Why am I reacting so strongly to this?” Making it about the other person prevents one from looking at their pre-existing wounds and working on self-healing. Blaming others makes us a victim, which may have been a theme throughout our lives.

People who ruminate tend not to let things go. They may repeat negative stories from the past over and over. I tell high school students the way to commit something to long term memory is to go over and over it. The ruminator reinforces their victim story repeatedly. All the past hurt is right there on the surface. That is why it is no surprise that they keep getting triggered.

Ruminators get stuck in a negative feedback loop. Projecting their inner hurts on to others creates problems in relationships. Those problems create more negative thinking, reinforcing those old wounds. The quality of life suffers.

It is important to declutter our hearts and minds from resentments and anger we might be carrying. Imagine walking down a long road with a couple of very heavy suitcases. The slow you down and cause your arms to hurt.

Carrying all the negative thoughts has the same effect on a psychological level. The resentment and stress created in the body compromise our physiology as well. High blood pressure, headaches, gastrointestinal issues are exacerbated by the stress of our own thoughts. The immune system is suppressed.

We avoid substances we know to be carcinogenic. Negative judgmental thoughts and resentments can have an equally damaging effect. They do this to us when we think these thoughts and do it to others when we keep voicing them.

We can learn to choose peace, to speak it and to live it. It is time.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.