One thing we find important to reduce rumination
is to be concrete and specific. Rumination has a tendency to involve abstract thinking about the meanings and implications of what has happened , including asking ‘Why me?’ This abstract thinking tends to move away from the specifics of an particular situation, leading to over generalizing : all situations get tarred with the same brush.
For example, a thought may have started because you overheard your name in a conversation and thought that people were talking about you. Pretty soon your thoughts may turn to many more negative ideas: what these people must have said, negative things people have said about you before, all the people who don’t like you , all things you don’t like about yourself.
Sadie would start to think ‘Why me? If she felt that she was being passed over in favour of someone else.
It can be hard to stop this flow of negative thoughts
once it has started , but getting specific and concrete is an important step, because it help to ground you in the detail of the here – and – now. This helps to keep difficulties in perspective, improves problem-solving and moves you towards actions.
To do this, you have to focus on the specific details of what is going on now – to notice the circumstances and what led up the situation.
Let’s try a quick experiment to compare the effects of two different ways of responding to the same situation.
- As vividly as you can, imagine that you are in a hurry to get to an important meeting. Make the meeting important for whatever reason works best for you, whether it is professional, family – related, or romantic. Imagine getting into your cart and turning the key in the ignition. … but the car does not start! Imagine this situation as vividly as you can, as if you are there right now. Notice how you feel and what thoughts you have as this happens. Continue to imagine this situation, and ask yourself the following questions:
*Why did this happen?
*What will the others think of me?
*What does this mean about me?
*What will the implications of this me?
*WHY did this happen to me today?
*Why does this keep happening to me?
Notice what you are experiencing
after spending a few minutes imagining this event whilst asking these questions. Briefly note down your thoughts, feelings and other experiences.
- Now imagine the same situation again, as if you are there right now looking out from your eyes. You are in hurry to get to an important meeting. You go to your car, get in and turn the key in the ignition. But the car doesn’t start. Imagine as vividly as you can. Notice how you feel and what thoughts you have as this happens. Continue to imagine this situation, and ask yourself the following questions:
- How did this happen?
- What did I notice when the car did not start?
- What was the sequence of events loading up to the car not starting?
- What happened next?
- How can I start to move forward from this situation?
- How can I resolve this problem?
- What is the first step I can take?
- How can I decide what to do next?
- What is the next step?
Notice what you are experiencing after spending a few minutes imagining this event whilst asking these questions .
Briefly note down your thoughts feelings and other experiences.
Now compare your two experiences of imagining the same situation. Many people find that the first way of responding doesn’t help with finding a solution. Instead it makes you feel worse- sadder more anxious and frustrated – leading to more negative thinking, a loss of energy and motivation – This is a good example of the abstract style typical of depressive rumination- by which we mean thinking focused on the meanings and implications of events : asking ‘Why did this happen? Why me? What does this mean about me ?’
In contrast, most people report that they handled the situation much better the second time.
It is easier to make plans to solve the problem.
People usually report feeling more positive , calmer and more empowered the second time.
Questions focused on asking ‘How? and What? ‘ move you to concrete thinking that takes into account the specific details, circumstances and context. Being specific gives more options to fix a problem because , it gives you clues as to what you could do differently in the future . It focuses you on the environment and your behaviour, which you can change , rather than on more abstract concepts like your personality and characteristics , which are harder to change.
So being concrete and asking ‘How ?
‘ is another alternative response to consider in your ‘If ….then ‘ plans:
If I notice my warning sign of asking ‘Why?’questions…
Then I will ask myself helpful’How?’ questions about what happened and what I can do next , e.g.’How can I start to tackle this?’and’How did it happen?’
In the example above , for instance , asking ‘Why’ question will only lead to rather unhelpful answers , such as ‘ because I am useless’ , or ‘ because the fates are against me ‘,On the other hand , asking ‘How ?’ and ‘What?’ questions can lead to more specific answers such as ‘because it is very cold and the engine is old ‘, and plans what to do next , such as ‘I could call for a taxi . I could call the AA.’
Here is a prompt to the main steps of concrete thinking:
1- Focus on sensory experience and notice what is specific and distinctive.
Ask yourself: What is happening?How? Where? When? With whom? How is it unique , and different from other events?
2- Notice the process by which events and behaviours unfold.
Be aware of sequence of events , what comes before , and what follows each action and event.
Ask yourself ‘ How did this come about? What are the warning signs ? What might change the outcome? ‘
I will complete in article 5 soon.
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