I stumbled across a psychology term that couldn’t describe what I do more perfectly: rumination. Wikipedia says it’s “the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.” And the American Psychological Association says, “The word ‘ruminate’ derives from the Latin for chewing cud, a less than gentile process in which cattle grind up, swallow, then regurgitate and rechew their feed. Similarly, human ruminators mull an issue at length.”
It’s an endless loop, a circular reference, me trying to solve a problem that can’t be solved. I keep making the same realizations, I know. But I’ve been getting a little discouraged that after so many months of meditation, life coaching, positive thinking, prayer – just working so fucking hard – that I’m still stuck in these thought patterns and still going over the same things in my head. Over and over and over and over, knowing I’ll never figure them out but still trying endlessly to.
(I’ve made a ton of progress, don’t get me wrong; on the whole I’m a much more positive, more accepting, calmer, more peaceful, more compassionate person – who actually likes herself.)
It was super comforting to know that what I do is so common that it’s been studied, has a name, has scholarly research behind it, and, <angels sounding trumpets> ways to stop </angels sounding trumpets>! It felt like getting a solid diagnosis that I can now work on concretely.
The first solution that popped into my head was that as soon as I catch myself going over the same thoughts, I yell out (in my head of course) “RUMINATOR!!” just like Miracle Max’s wife in “Princess Bride.” It makes me giggle and takes the situation down a couple notches on the seriously-I’m-fucking-crazy-right-or-not-oh-god-what-is-happening-in-my-head yardstick.
For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the damn word, though! I caught myself doing it – a lot – and then tried to come up with the word but all I kept coming up with was either “enumerator” or more often, “bloviator.” Both were fucking hilarious to me and so worked pretty well.
The other tactic I’ve read about (obsessively, natch) to stop this shit is distraction, either with another thought, an activity, or by the one I already came up with all one my own, which is to say, “Stop.” to yourself. Or, “BLOVIATOR!!!!”
So, half marathon it is then. I had already started running again when a nasty little cold kept me on the couch. I also started volunteering with the kid’s grief group and it was AWESOME. I love doing those things, they’re so fun. Hard to understand, I know, but it really isn’t sitting around crying about how sad we all are.
Hello, my name is Lara and I’m a ruminator. It’ll take me a while, but some day I’ll be a recovering ruminator.
“Gender aside, ruminators share some common characteristics. They often:
- Believe they’re gaining insight through it.
- Have a history of trauma.
- Perceive that they face chronic, uncontrollable stressors.
- Exhibit personality characteristics such as perfectionism, neuroticism and excessive relational focus–‘a tendency to so overvalue your relationships with others that you will sacrifice yourself to maintain them, no matter what the costs,’ Nolen-Hoeksema explained.”