Rules for when Rumination takes over

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Rose White

I found these notes I wrote for myself about a year ago or so and thought it might be helpful for someone else who also feels exasperated sometimes with intrusive thoughts or ruminating. I called it “Rules for Tumbling Inside the Head.” I don’t remember what I may have been reading or watching when I wrote down these ideas.

1) OBSERVE. Instead of participating in a vehement emotion stop everything, take a step back (inside) so you can observe your own experience. This puts you above the situation. Without distance there is no self-control.

2) DESCRIBE. Take a moment. Notice inside your body, inside your mind. “I notice that…” “It is interesting to see that…” Curiosity oddly, yet significantly, blocks or replaces anxiety.

3) NEUTRAL. Do the opposite of judge. This means do not evaluate, name, test. Neutral is the opposite of judging. Neutral exists outside of positive/negative. The experience of neutral is fundamentally different from good/bad.
Shame is a feeling about a feeling which is based on judgment of inner experience. Shame is a blocker of emotional regulation which is why we do not support it—we block the shame from taking root. We block it by staying neutral.
Every kind of evaluation, even naming, feeds and supports the feeling, making it stay longer.

4) NO INTERPRETATION. No inference, no long term expectation of the future or reminder of past events—only the present—making a story feeds the feeling and makes it last longer.

5) NO ACTION. Be still and stay with it. Keep describing how it changes over time. It won’t stay the same and it won’t last forever. There is no reaction needed. Just be there with yourself. It might be uncomfortable but it is harmless.
I wonder if this is based on Buddhist mindfulness? Kind of sounds like it. I Guess all the mindfulness stuff in therapy these days has its roots in or borrows from Buddhism?
Yeah it seems like all the mindfulness traces back to there. I have mixed results. I can use it to locate tension in my body, but it never relaxes me.
All that you have described above is called "Being present in the moment." You are not there to fix it, judge it, love it or hate it. You are just present in the moment, a witness to the "NOW" passing. Every second that passes, the past is being created and so is the future. Now is only now. You can neither fix or react to the past nor the future, Only NOW. Live in the "Now" for it is as fleeting as the seconds that just passed writing this. Don't waste Now.
@Coldplain thank you for sharing your perspective, I hear what you are saying. The funny thing about that is that I did make it my mantra to live in the now for decades prior to starting recovery from PTSD. So much so that I went to great lengths to avoid any and all feelings related to the past or the future. And unfortunately that made me someone who had a very hard time relating to others. And made it very very hard to parent my children. I was extremely impatient about anyone’s feelings—why couldn’t they just let go and move on?! It was very irritating to live that way and very lonely.

Now I see my feelings as a gateway to relationships and a way to understand my place in the world. To be a part of the world of people who have relationships.

Sometimes my feelings can get stuck in a rumination pattern, especially when shame is involved. And then I find these rules helpful. But I don’t find them helpful for every feeling and moment of my life—not anymore.

I see the allure of wanting to avoid feelings altogether and mediate them away or be so present that I just surf the moments, but I also feel the depth of relationships when I drop into my feelings and communicate or feel them within the presence of a caring friend. Sometimes it’s okay for me to travel into the past to grieve or into the future to hope.
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