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Pointless pondering

According to Google, 'Rumination' is defined as "a deep or considered thought about something." I first came across the word in one of my CBT sessions, my therapist stating that I "seemed to spend a lot of time ruminating about past events."

And she was right. At that time in my life (around 3 years ago now), I was almost constantly ruminating about something, whether it be a memory from my distant past or something that happened 10 minutes prior. It would often involve the same thought process too. First I'd repeat the scenario in my head as it happened. Next I'd alter something – most of the time the words that had come out of my mouth or my body language. Then I'd repeat the scenario again. Unhappy or unsure of whether this new scenario would actually happen in the way I'd imagine it, I'd alter something again and run through scenario V3 in my head. Rinse and repeat for God knows how long.

Imagine it almost like a film editor searching for the perfect scene, cutting bits of video out here and bits of audio out there. Or an artist trying to draw the perfect portrait, making minute adjustment to lines and shapes until they're satisfied.

The only difference with me was that there never was a satisfying ending. A lot of the time I would come to the conclusion that I'd said or done something wrong, even if I hadn't said or done anything. Cue a sustained period of self-loathing and a severe drop in self-confidence.

Not only was it feeding my depression, it was sapping my concentration and my energy. Days would go by where I'd spend my entire time in my own head playing editor of my own past.

The worst part about it was that I'd think I was helping myself by trying to see how I could approach the situation better. But actually, without knowing the right process through which to do that, all I was doing was setting myself up for failure.

Eventually I learnt how to go through this process in a healthy manner through my CBT sessions. I learnt to ask questions like “was it really that bad?” or “what can I actually do about it now?” A lot of time, the answers were no and nothing.

I still do the same thing to this day whenever I catch myself ruminating. I feel a lot more in control now of what I'm thinking and as a result, I'm not beating myself up about things that happened in the past.


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