Are you a Co-ruminator?

By David Joel Miller

What is Co-rumination and how does it affect you?

Teens talking about problems

Teens Talking
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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 relationship

More posts on this topic are under the category Rumination.  Anxiety and Depression.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Can’t make up your mind? Indecision, rumination and depression.

By David Joel Miller.

Indecision, rumination, and depression.

Hard to choose

Can’t make a choice?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

If you can’t make up your mind it may be because you are depressed. Indecision is a common result of depression and certain types of rumination ramp this symptom up.

When you are depressed it becomes incredibly difficult to decide. Even a little depression can make decisions difficult and a significant level of depression can make decision-making impossible. How you are thinking about things, especially rumination, makes this indecision worse.

Depression impairs decision-making.

Depressed people tend to rely on others to make their decisions for them. If you find you don’t trust yourself to make a decision and you expect someone else to decide for you, it is time to take a look at this.

Depressed people tend to brood about things, turn them over and over in their head. The thinking part bogs down. The tendency is to look for global abstract reasons. What is wrong with me? Why does this keep happening to me? What you need to be asking yourself is, how you are going to get this done.

Depressed people stop trusting themselves. They do not use their intuition; that gut level information based on experience. When depressed do you stop trusting your judgment and start over-thinking everything?

Many of the symptoms of depression involve reduced ability to make decisions. When depressed there is less rational reasoning coupled with low activity levels. Can’t do and can’t decide defines depression. There is also less information gathering going on. The result of all this avoiding making decisions and self-doubt is an increase in negative emotions. Increasing negative emotions creates more severe depression and so the cycle goes.

Indecision and low self-esteem.

Indecisiveness has been linked to low self-esteem. Can’t decide you feel bad about yourself. Feel bad about yourself you will find it hard to decide. The result if indecision is more procrastination. One culprit in this indecision, low self-esteem connection is that ancient enemy perfectionism.

Perfectionists have trouble deciding.

If you are one of those people who are trying to be perfect, a largely neurotic trait, you will never make it. The search for the perfect prevents what can be.

This human fallacy, the search for abstract universal answers, leads to the wrong conclusions. It is not “why do bad things happen to me” or anyone else. The questions you should be asking is what are you going to do now and how will you do it.

We should note here that researchers have concluded that not having a good vocabulary to describe what and how you are feeling can result in an increased risk of depression. You need to have words for the feelings to begin to work on the consequences.

Rumination does more than result in an increased risk of depression and more difficulty making decisions. Depressed people who do decide are less committed and more likely to have difficulty following through on the course of action they have decided on.

The solution to all this indecision, rumination, depression, resulting in more indecision trap?

Gather all the information you can. Make the best decision you can and then stick with it until contrary information comes in. Stop looking for global reasons and look for the facts in this specific instance.

If indecision is plaguing you or you feel like simple decisions are beyond your ability consider getting some professional help.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Emotional Avalanches and Feelings Landslides

By David Joel Miller

Do your emotions sometimes just sweep you away?

Rumination

Rumination
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Everyone has ups and downs in life. There are times you are up and times you are down. Those ups and downs can come slowly or they can come quickly. For some people, those changes in their emotional landscape suddenly and unexpectedly sweep them away. There may be things you are doing that are triggering these emotional avalanches.

In your journey of life, there may be times when the trip is mostly uphill; things go as planned and in a positive direction. People who seem to be able to keep their emotional journeys on an even keel have that ability to regulate their emotions and keep them in bounds. Not everyone has that option.

If you travel in emotionally rough territory you may have a lot more ups and downs. The key in those times is to keep your eye on the distant goal, pace yourself and not let those trips downhill define your whole journey. The more the ups and downs in life, the steeper the emotional terrain, the faster those emotions may come at you. To surmount tough emotional terrain you need to have your climbing skills well perfected. Sometimes those emotional regulations skills just are not enough.

If your emotional life is mostly flat terrain, few ups and downs, a professional might think of you as having or experiencing good emotional regulation. Some people seem to be able to find the flattest path through life even in hilly terrain.

If you emotional journey has more than the expected ups and downs we professionals might think of this as you having high emotional liability. You emotions shift in repose to things that happen and the faster things happen in your life the faster your mood shifts.

Please do not jump to the conclusion that people who are emotionally very labile have Bipolar Disorder. While people with Bipolar disorder do experience times of mood shifts, I think of their mood shifts as less related to the life events, the emotionally hilly terrain, and more related to an internal journey.

Lots of people have emotional ups and downs; some of them out of control, and these people do not all have Bipolar disorder.

Some people are just walking along and out of nowhere, so it appears, the emotional ground falls out from under them.

One cause of these emotional avalanches is a human habit called rumination. All humans think about the things that they have done and the things that have happened in the past. The way in which you think about these things is what determines the result of this rethinking. In other posts, I have and will talk more about the ways in which rumination can destroy your emotional health, create or increase depression or anxiety.

In an emotional avalanche, the person begins to think about something and that though begins to grow the more they think about it. There may have been a trigger that brought the thought into their mind or a random memory may have been the trigger.

We suspect that those who do non-suicidal self-injury, cutting for short, are particularly prone to these emotional landslides. Once the thought occurs, any negative self-evaluative thought will do here, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop that emotional mountain from falling on you.

These emotional landslides are the cause of lots of sudden impulsive behaviors. Can’t get that thought out of your head? You might choose to drink over it. Someone else might cut on an arm or leg to distract themselves from that thought. This inability to stop the thought avalanche once it starts explains a lot of impulsive behavior better than either long-term anxiety or depression.

Being sad and then beginning to brood (ruminate) over that sadness is a strong predictor of emotional avalanches. Productive thought about past events is about how can I change that, what will I do next. Unproductive rumination is about why me and how could this happen to me.

Believing that a past stress or trauma means there is something wrong with you leads to global beliefs about yourself. That you will never be better and things can’t change. Asking how you will get past this results and create a desire to learn the skills you will need to be successful in life.

If you find that sometimes out of nowhere your emotions carry you away in a bad way, take another look at your thinking process and see if you have developed the habit of ruminating, thinking about something bad in your life over and over. Make sure you do not spend time with friends in group rumination. Having a support system can be helpful, hanging out with a group of co-ruminators can really bring you down.

You might want to check out the other posts on counselorssoapbox about rumination. There are more posts on this topic to come.

If you experience emotional avalanches that are causing you problems consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist for help. It is not “just you” and you can learn ways to have a happy productive life.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

9 Ways to stop unhelpful rumination.

By David Joel Miller.

Do you find your brain full of negative unhelpful thoughts?

Rumination

Rumination
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sometimes it feels like our own brain is out to get us. Sometimes it is. If you have unhelpful thoughts and then you sit and chew on those thoughts, thinking them over and over, those thoughts are likely to try to get you.

That pattern of not being able to get a thought out of your head is referred to as rumination and it can trigger all kinds of negative behavior. Rumination is a trigger for cutting (non-suicidal self-injury) drinking and drug use, depression and anxiety and I suspect a lot of other mental health issues. How do you stop unhelpful rumination before it creates some serious issues?

Here are some ways to stop those unwanted, unhelpful thoughts.

Tell unhelpful thoughts to stop.

If you have kids that are doing something they shouldn’t, many parents would tell those kids to “knock that off.” Learn to tell your unhelpful thoughts to stop also. It takes time and it takes practice but repeated enough you can train your brain to stop thinking about something that is not helpful.

This soft mental yelling at unhelpful thoughts is one form of thought stopping. There are other methods. Use the thought stopping technique that works best for you.

Recognize that thoughts, like many people’s “voices” sometimes lie.

Ruminations like to tell you that the problem is you. The will try to convince you that you are no good, the world is no good and things can never get better. This is not true.

No one is totally no good. You have some things about you that are good and you can learn to do better and practice positive skills. Do not give in to the negative thoughts.

Reduce unhelpful thoughts by using positive affirmations.

What you tell yourself comes to be. Tell yourself that you will keep trying and you will do better. Develop a list of things you will tell yourself when these ruminator-thoughts attack. Make sure you are telling yourself the truth.

Do not tell yourself that you are so smart you know all the answers. No one is that smart. Do tell yourself you know many things and are capable of learning many more.

Develop a gratitude list to increase helpful thoughts.

Are there any things in your life that you are grateful for? When you are really anxious or depressed it may be hard to think of any. Work on this gratitude list. Keep it handy like a fire extinguisher to put out the flames of these ruminations.

Have friends and supporters suggest things for this list. Write it down. The brain tends to believe the things you write down are important. When the unhelpful thoughts attack, whip out your gratitude list and beat them back by reading off all the things you really have to be thankful for.

Problem Solve so you don’t get stuck in the problem.

Think about how you will handle things better next time, not why you made the mistake this time. Not good at making friends? Avoid asking yourself why no one likes you and instead ask yourself how you can become better at making friends.

Ask others how they solved this problem. Do not think that because you are unskilled in an area that you will never be good at that skill. Talk with the experts, those who have been doing something well for a long time. Get a coach, seek out the “old timers” that everyone thinks are “naturals.” They will tell you that becoming a natural took years of effort.

Once you find out that others have had the very same problem you have and have learned to overcome anyway, you will discover that you can do this too.

Maintain a positive attitude to reduce unhelpful thoughts.

Look for the positive not the negative. What you look for you will find. Become an expert on positive thinking and you will discover that those who believe in themselves do better.

To start with most people find it hard to see the positive possibilities. Do not beat yourself up if in the early stages you slip back into negative thinking from time to time. Not able to be positive as much as you should? See the next hint.

Increase you positive thoughts.

Being a positive person takes lots and lots of practice. Early in life, it is common for you to see others who succeed and think there is something wrong with you because you can’t be perfect.

Learn to be just a little bit more positive each and every day and eventually the things you could only dream of doing become the normal for you.

Try these hints. Practice them daily and you will be pleasantly surprised with how much less you will be ruminating about the negative and how often you will see that glimmer of hope shining in your direction.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books.

Is Rumination Chewing up your mental health?

By David Joel Miller

What is Rumination and why is rumination destroying your mental wellness?

Rumination

Rumination – Chewing your emotional cud
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Rumination, that habit of turning things over and over in your mind, has a lot of impact on your mental health. The more we learn about rumination the more seriously we find it is affecting people’s mental health.

Various authors have suggested alternative definitions for rumination as applied to mental health. Rumination means, to me, that something is bothering you and you keep turning that thing over and over in your mind. Reynolds (2014) describes rumination as a “maladaptive form of self-reflection.”

In rumination the focus is on yourself, judging yourself and how you reacted to the event, rather than in learning from those events. For the ruminator, if things went wrong this must mean that you are bad, people treated you badly or that this is the result of some personal weakness that will continue to hold you back.

Casey Truffo refers to this as “chewing on the thing that is eating you.” The result is that rather than finding a solution to your problem or moving forward, you stay stuck in your upset over these things.

Excess rumination has been linked to depression, anxiety, stress and other mental illnesses.

Thinking about the past and the future can be helpful. This review of life can aid us in recognizing errors and learning from experience. It can also be part of planning for the future. What goes wrong in ruminating is that the focus shifts from the facts, this is what did or may happen, to looking at the feelings. I could not stand it if this or that happened. Or you may be saying this is too painful to bear, is not fair and so on.

Rumination is about judging the rightness and wrongness of things. It involves beliefs that things will not be well and looking for who to blame. Most often this involves beliefs that the reason something bad happened is because you did something “wrong.” Ruminating about the future includes beliefs that you are powerless and helpless if things happen that you do not foresee and can’t control.

This pattern of ruminating on the past and certain negative possible futures seems to me to also be involved in maintaining and aggravating the adjustment and stress-related disorders. Intrusive thoughts become worse the more you focus on them. Looking for possible crises can result in being overwhelmed and living in a world full of crises.

There is a strong connection between ruminating and alcohol abuse. Ruminators are most likely to binge drink in response to their negative self-thoughts. Those who are frequent Ruminators are also more likely to have anger management problems.

Ruminating is also an aggravating factor in eating disorders and is hugely connected with non-suicidal self-injury. Rumination can damage relationships and is related to adult attachment style issues.

Dwelling on your negative thoughts, your reviewing of past failures keeps you stuck.

Rumination has been linked to negative automatic thoughts. Think negative thoughts often enough and those thoughts are practiced to the point of becoming automatic. Practice thinking that everything is wrong, awful and horrible, and will always be that way, and you have created a negative destiny.

Rumination is that annoying advertising jingle that keeps playing in your head. Think about those negative thoughts enough and they may be stuck in there forever.

Ruminating about the past cranks up the depression feelings.

The questions most often asked by ruminators are “Why?” and “What if?” Continuing to think about why did this happen, it should not have happened, it is horrible, awful, that this happened, results in ever-increasing feelings of sadness and depression.

Ruminating about the future is a major cause of Anxiety Disorders.

Repeated thoughts of what if? Rehearsing all the possible things that could go wrong, is a good way to anxious yourself up.

The belief that you “should” ruminate, that repeatedly turning over these past experiences or future possibilities are necessary, maintains the rumination and results in ever-increasing spirals of negative emotions. Your own belief that you need to figure this out keeps you stuck. Some things can’t be figured out or do not need to be analyzed. Dwelling on your negative thoughts, your reviewing of past failures keeps you trapped. Acceptance rather than rumination may be the best option.

Co-rumination.

Some ruminators bring others in on their rumination process. The term co-rumination has been coined to refer to times when a relationship between two people exists primarily so they can both ruminate together about each other’s problems. Spend all your time ruminating and others in your life either have to join in the negative thought game or find a way to escape the negativity. Ruminating may drive family and friends away. Those who are left will be as negative as you.

How this is like and how it is different from therapy will be a part of a future post on co-rumination.

Do you ruminate? Are you stuck on turning those thoughts of past mistakes over and over in your head? Now is the time to break the rumination cycle and start a new happy and mentally healthy life.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Avoid rumination for better mental health.