By David Joel Miller
What is Co-rumination and how does it affect you?
Having friends, positive ones, can be very helpful for your mental health, wellness and recovery. Talking about your problems can be beneficial. This talking through your life problems is a major part of what counselors and therapist do when they use the “talking cure.’ Unfortunately not all talking over your problems is helpful.
We know that rumination, that constant reviewing, and hanging on to your problems, can make things worse. Focus on past difficulties over and over and you are likely to perpetuate your depression. Review repeatedly those things that might happen in the future and you can crank up the levels of anxiety you feel.
One especially problematic form of rumination is when one person enlists another to help them ruminate over their problems. So how can you tell if the time you spend with a friend or supporter is helping you work through and understand your problems or is this repeated discussion making things worse?
One definition of co-rumination is the excessive sharing of problems with peers. It has been seen and studied in those with poor relationships with caregivers and attachment disorders. Those who have been abused or traumatized are more likely to co-ruminate but anyone can become a co-ruminator.
Those who co-ruminate develop more not less mental health issues.
Sharing your problems with someone else should help you feel better, not worse. Co-rumination is not just a matter of talking about your problems with someone else. It also is about how frequently, intensely and how much time you spend on sharing those problems.
If the time you spend talking with someone about your life problems does not seem to make you feel better than you may be engaged in a process called co-ruminations.
Here are some ways you can tell if the time spent discussing problems is co-rumination.
You and a friend frequently talk about your problems.
If the bulk of the time you and this friend spend together is talking about the problems of one or both of you then you are drifting into a co-rumination mode. Ask yourself do you ever talk about happy things? Do you have anything in common other than your discussion of problems? Do you talk about the same problems over and over?
Good friends can help each other through things. But if all you have in common is the problems then this is not much of a relationship.
What happens if you run out of problems to talk about? Do you share your day or do you revisit some past problem saturated conversation?
Co-rumination is talking about the same problems over and over.
If you find you are stuck on one problem and every conversation returns to that problem then this is co-rumination. Some co-ruminators take turns discussing their problems. You know before the conversation starts that when your turn comes you will be expected to revisit the problem you two always talk about.
Should you ever try to move the conversation forward to some new topic you can count on your partner in co-rumination to remind you of the time your problem occurred.
You encourage each other to talk about problems.
Do you frequently ask your friend questions about their problems? If every conversation turns into revisiting problems you are engaged in co-rumination. Certainly, it is good to have a friend you know will listen when you have a problem but be cautious if all they ever want to hear about are your problems. Good friends also share happy times.
You focus on negative feelings and what is wrong with you.
If the only topics of conversation becomes what is wrong, you are not supporting each other in being well. You and your friend should be able to switch to a dissuasion of what is going well in your life. Too much focus on the negative will make you increasingly depressed or anxious and you will find it harder to have any positive thoughts.
Talk about what something meant not what happened.
Co-ruminating talk is heavy on why and how-come questions. It is not about revisiting the story and what happened but involves trying to figure out what is wrong with you that these things keep happening. Co-rumination is heavy on blame talk and whose fault things are and short on ways to cope and move forward.
Co-rumination can be a group activity.
While co-rumination most often happens when two best friends begin to spend all their time together going over and over their respective problems it can become a group activity. Especially among teen or preteen girls. In that life stage, we see groups whose primary activity together and on social media is endlessly rehashing each other’s problems.
If all the posts on your social media page are about your problems and your friend’s problems, you have a problem sustaining relationships.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.