Sweet Emotion

The science of emotion regulation

Getting Stuck in Ruminative Thought

Why do we get stuck in rumination and how can we stop? Read More

True. Your article misses a

True. Your article misses a huge factor about ruminating, which is stewing about things you cannot control - namely other people's behavior toward us. IMO, that is the most difficult thing to change in regard to negative ruminating. The pain and cruelty we feel from others can go on and on in our heads indefintely whereas when it's our own faults, we're more likely to move on quicker, especially when it's so easy to come up with something else to feel insecure about! Thanks for the article though. I can relate!

I just want to say that I

I just want to say that I agree with the article. I find I ruminate a lot because my parents taught me to. That is, when you do something wrong or bad you must face it and remember it so you don't do it again. I was a child who got into a lot of trouble because I was impulsive and curious, so I got punished a lot. Over the years this has caused me many problems such as depression, anxiety, anger and low self confidence. On the other hand my husband does not engage in this. He was a quiet child who rarely got punished and whose parents did not keep harping on the wrong things he had done. So I think it is, partly, something your parents teach you. I am trying very hard to overcome this.

Some disagreement

After reading this and a couple of your other articles on anxiety and worrying, I would just like to put in my two cents. As a person who used to have pretty miserable levels of anxiety, I found introspection (sounds better to me than rumination) to be a useful tool in understanding my issues and exploring them. I have come to understand my problem to be that my self-worth was low enough that my brain was always trying to find ways to protect me from the tremendous fear that I felt in any social situation. This fear was very real and very miserable. I have an analytical brain, and it constantly attempted to understand what was happening and why.

If you ask me, rumination is a natural, logical process of attempting to understand an problem. We solve problems in our daily lives by observation and analysis in order to fully understand the cause of a problem, which then allows us to develop and apply a solution. Why is it so strange that our minds attempt to use this same strategy when dealing with problems of an emotional variety? Rumination is that process. The mind is attempting to analyze a situation that was distressing by using what little information it has in order to try and find the source of the problem. I will admit that rumination can lead to despair and hopelessness, but not because it is a flaw of our thought processes. Instead, it often leads people to fall into a trap of negativity because individuals do not have enough information or understanding of their own emotions to make any progress in the analysis of their problems, leading further attempts to appear as hopeless endeavors.

I only know what it feels like for me, but I used to worry a lot and faced a tremendous amount of anxiety. They are linked together. My worth was influenced significantly by what I felt others were thinking of me—something I would try to control when around other people. I was always afraid of people thinking ill of me. If people seemed to think well of me, I was worth something at that moment, but such transient worth was a constant struggle to maintain. Worry was a natural result, along with anxiety arising from anticipation, for the uncertainty of the social environment with its countless number of variables was something that was too much to control. An environment that I had a measure of control over would be something on the order of a few people, but a college class was certainly too much. I wanted to control the situation so that I could reduce my fear, but because that was rarely possible in my everyday life, I was forced to live in a state of terror until I could make it back to the safety of my house and retreat from the world.

It seems reasonable that my mind would worry and feel anxious about future events that had a high likelihood of generating significant levels of fear. Worry and anxiety arise from real fear. For me, that fear came from a lack of self-worth that caused me to challenge the value of myself on a fundamental level every time I encountered another person. I would think my mind stupid if it did not attempt to search for ways to preempt or avoid future such occurrences. Rumination was my brain’s attempt to find a solution to the problem, which I eventually did by doing more of it diligently. I began to understand what I was feeling and why. This process allowed me to change the way my mind saw the world and interpreted my existence in it. I do not agree with your suggestion that worry, anxiety, and rumination are problems that are best suppressed and avoided. Behavioral manipulation techniques that pursue greater control over a person’s messed up views of themselves and the world they live in are not solutions. You can put a bandaid over an infected wound, but that seems like it would be a constant effort to merely disguise a person’s problem from themselves. Please let me know what you think of my argument. I invite debate on this issue.

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Amelia Aldao, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University and the director of the Psychopathology and Affective Sciences Lab.


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