My last blog highlighted seeing our undesired behavior in others. What starts as a lesson in grace and patience for others and ourselves, can quickly morph into a dark battle within us if left unchecked. How? Because, in noticing these unwanted behaviors playing out around and within us, we can fall into a loop of self-punishment.
My friend, here lies a most dangerous place on our path of growth and it’s called rumination. When ruminating we say things like, “I can’t get out of my head”, “I’m overthinking everything!” and my favorite, “My mind won’t shut off.” And by its definition, it certainly is “obsessive thinking about an idea, situation, or choice especially when it interferes with normal mental functioning” because we definitely feel powerless to our mind.
Our thoughts dictate what we believe whether it’s accurate or not.
While dialed into the unwanted behavior around me, I see other people, behaving such as I had, and my mind starts to spiral downward. Thoughts like, “So incredibly immature!” “I can’t believe I said, or did, that.” “Wow, how did people tolerate me?” It’s like being sucked into a dark hole if I don’t catch myself. Of course, we see it much worse than it actually was, but our thoughts dictate what we believe whether it’s accurate or not.
So how do we avoid the rumination trap?
For me, it’s been a process of learning to identify and acknowledge it. I empower myself by actively asking if it’s the truth and reminding myself “it was then, it’s not right now”. And, after identifying it, I practice self-compassion.
Even today, I’m grateful for my rumination as it’s a warning sign to monitor and adjust my behavior, because I don’t intend to slide backwards and create new issues to ruminate. See this vicious cycle if we aren’t aware? The key is learning the lesson and applying it to our choices.
Unsurprisingly, mindfulness is a key ingredient in battling rumination because it connects us to the present moment, including our corresponding thoughts and emotions, and brings awareness to choose differently.
Forgiving ourselves helps dismantle the habit of rumination.
I’ve worked to forgive myself for unintentionally harmful, disrespectful, and ignorant behavior (i.e., “lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated”) in the past because I was doing the best I knew at the time. This is always a hard one because like most people, I tend to be toughest on myself, believing I could’ve done better but the truth is, I was genuinely unaware and not failing to choose differently. At the time, it wasn’t an option to me.
Memories keep our pain alive! In-reality, they’re the unresolved injuries we’ve yet to learn from. So, confront the painful emotions and give them the release they’re crying out for. Let them go, with love!
“It would be much better if I could only stop thinking. Thoughts are the dullest things. Duller than flesh. They stretch out and there’s no end to them and they leave a funny taste in the mouth. Then there are words, inside the thoughts, unfinished words, a sketchy sentence which constantly returnsJean-Paul Sartre
It goes, it goes … and there’s no end to it. It’s worse than the rest because I feel responsible and have complicity in it. For example, this sort of painful rumination: I exist, I am the one who keeps it up.
No denying rumination is self-criticism on steroids and needs to be immediately contained, before it attracts too many dark clouds that’ll begin to block out all the light of growth with ruthless punishment. Today is not yesterday. We don’t live there; we live in today. We can choose well today and heal the injuries of yesterday. Growth is life-affirming.
Acknowledging our emotions and our broken pieces is the beginning of healing them. Then we can face them head-on, and dig-in to find the root of their hold over us. There’s no other way to wholehearted living. Rumination is unnecessary and unproductive punishment, and we need to figure out how to forgive ourselves and just let go. ❤
Keep it Simple,